The Celestial Fire

by Yannai

English version by T. Carmi
Original Language Hebrew

Now an angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in a blazing fire --

a fire that devours fire;
a fire that burns in things dry and moist;
a fire that glows amid snow and ice;
a fire that is like a crouching lion;
a fire that reveals itself in many forms;
a fire that is, and never expires;
a fire that shines and roars;
a fire that blazes and sparkles;
a fire that flies in a storm wind;
a fire that burns without wood;
a fire that renews itself every day;
a fire that is not fanned by fire;
a fire that billows like palm branches;
a fire whose sparks are flashes of lightning;
a fire black as a raven;
a fire, curled, like the colours of the rainbow!

-- from The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse, Edited by T. Carmi

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

a fire that is, and never expires...

Isn't this chant-like selection wonderful? It brings us all into the sacred reality described in the Torah when Moses witnesses the burning bush -- the fire that burns the tree without consuming it.

Fire is, of course, an important theme in the poetry of sacred experience. In deep communion, mystics often experience a sense of heat -- filled with immense love -- that permeates the body. As this fire moves through the body, it also moves through the awareness, consuming all thoughts (or, more accurately, the tremors from which thoughts emerge). This fire burns away even the thought of "I" -- only the sense of this living flame remains. You could say it burns away what is non-essential, but yet you in your essence remain. Even more than remaining, your sense of self has radically opened up into something too spacious and vast to describe. When we witness this fire, we know we have come upon holy ground; we must remove our 'sandals' -- the outer protection of the ego which prevents us from being in direct contact with the ground of being.

a fire, curled, like the colours of the rainbow!

Recommended Books: Yannai

The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse

The Celestial Fire