The chapter explains the parallels between bringing a
sacrifice in the Temple and a person's individual service of refinement. It
emphasized that coming close to G‑d is dependent on the individual himself. It
describes the fire from above, i.e. the love of the G‑dly soul and how it should
be employed to teach the animal soul as well to come to a feeling of love for
The service in the Temple and the Sanctuary centered
around the principle of refinement – subduing one's physical nature, which leads
to and brings about the transformation of darkness into light. Therefore, one of
the services conducted in the Temple was sacrificial offerings.
Bringing an offering was not merely a physical act.
Bringing an offering was not merely a physical act. On
the contrary, the participation of the Priests and the Levites with their songs
and music demonstrated that the central importance of a sacrifice was spiritual.
In the personal sphere of a man's service of G‑d, the
idea of an offering is expressed by the verse (Levit. 1:2) "A man who shall
bring from you an offering to G‑d of the cattle, of the herds, etc." The
proper order of transposition of the phraseology shows the verse's intention is
not only to describe the details of bringing an offering, but to explain a
fundamental principle necessary to understand the spiritual service required
when bringing an offering.
The Hebrew word for offering is "korban," which
is etymologically related to the root meaning 'to come close.' Bringing an
offering was a spiritual service of drawing the soul's powers closer to G‑d. The
irregular order of the words in the above verse allows it to be interpreted as
follows: "If a person wants to bring an offering, i.e. if he wants to come close
to G‑d, then it is from you, dependent on you." (The responsibility and
possibility for every individual's connection and closeness to G‑dliness lies
Even though a person knows himself well and realizes
his essential humility; understands to what degree he has tainted his soul
through improper acts, and comprehends how these acts cause a genuine separation
between himself and G‑dliness, nevertheless, a person cannot despair and
question, "How can I approach G‑d?" Rather, he has to know that to come close to
G‑d is 'from you,' dependent upon himself.
Every Jew has the potential to say, "When will my
deeds approach the deeds of my forefathers Avraham, Yitzchok, and Ya'akov?" (Tana
d'vei Eliyahu Rabba 25) There are no limitations or boundaries, blocks or
obstacles. Every Jew had the power to elevate himself, to attain spiritual
levels, to draw close to G‑d.
Every Jew had the power to elevate himself...to draw close to G‑d.
"G‑d does not come to His creations with excessive
demands", (Avoda Zora 3a) and is revealed to each one according to his
potential; as the Midrash declares: "When G‑d approaches a man, he does not
demand of him (Infinite) Divine Power, rather, for man to serve G‑d with his own
power" (Bamidbar Rabba 12:3) to fully utilize and actualize his own
personal potential. Since G‑d asks only according to the potential we possess,
there are no obstacles preventing us from reaching the highest level of service.
(The above mentioned concept) is the meaning of the
verse, "A person will bring an offering from you," that a person's closeness and
connection to G‑d is 'from you,' dependent upon himself.
(Furthermore, the words "from you" hold another
implication.)The offering of an animal is 'from you,' from the animal inside of
you, our animal souls. The verse continues, "From the herd and the sheep"
different levels, because each individual has a different task of personal
refinement. Some have to bring an offering of an ox, i.e. their animal nature
can be compared to a goring ox, l others only a sheep, i.e. their animal nature
is more docile, still animal, but more docile. (All these various levels and
their counterparts in personal service are discussed in the Discourse on Prayer
by Rav Sholom Dov Ber, the Fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe.) The closing words of the
verse conclude on the same line, "They should bring their offerings;" that each
particular individual had to bring his own offering, has his own unique task of
When an offering was brought in the Temple, it was
sacrificed on the altar. The Talmud (Yoma 21b) relates that the fire of
the altar which consumed the offerings (was not ordinary fire, but rather a
divine fire that) crouched like a lion, as the Zohar (I, 6b) declares "A lion
would consume the sacrifices," (This fire fell from heaven itself during the
time of Solomon.)
This heavenly fire also has its counterpart in an
individual's personal service. Each individual has within his (heart) divine
fire, the flames of his G‑dly soul, (as explained in the verse – "Its coals
are coals of fire, the flame of G‑d." (Songs 8:6))
The Midrash states this fire is like divine fire. It
cannot evaporate water or be quenched by water. Similarly, the fire in the heart
of the Jew cannot be quenched. (As Songs (8:7) proclaims) "Great waters
cannot quench the love nor rivers wash it away." The term "great waters" (is
interpreted in Chassidic thought to mean) the worries of making a living and
other bothers that can disturb one's service of Torah and mitzvos.
Nevertheless, "Rivers won't drive it out"; just as divine fire cannot be
extinguished, similarly, no force, no difficulties or problems can quench the
fire of a Jew's G‑dly soul.
(Just as the physical offering was consumed by the
divine fire of the altar, similarly, in the personal sphere,) the offering, each
individual's animal soul has to be consumed by his personal divine fire. The
animal soul has to be taught to develop a love for G‑dliness.
(The Shema says,) "Love G‑d with all
levavcha (your heart)". (Deut. 6:5)
(Normally the word used for 'your heart' would be libcha; instead, the
Torah uses 'levavcha.' The doubling of the letter 'veit' is
interpreted by the Talmud (Berachot 54a) as: "with all your hearts, with both
your desires," that not only the G‑dly soul, but also the animal soul comes to
The animal soul by nature has no knowledge of or
feelings for G‑dliness.
The animal soul by nature has no knowledge of or
feelings for G‑dliness. Nevertheless, through the G‑dly soul's involvement with
the animal soul, i.e. through meditation on spiritual concepts in a manner in
which the animal soul can also comprehend, a general impression is made to the
point where the animal soul can appreciate that G‑dliness also has value and
importance. (The process continues to the point) where the animal soul becomes
an offering; it, too, draws close to G‑d. Its animal nature is transformed and
becomes consumed by the fire of the G‑dly soul (just as the offering in the
Temple was consumed by the fire of the altar). After this service, "many
harvests can be made through the power of an ox" (i.e., the animal soul
contributes its power and strength to the service of G‑d (Proverbs 14:4)).
(In the Temple, one of the purposes of the offerings
was the refinement of the world.) The sacrifices caused the G‑dly sparks
contained within the mineral, vegetable, and animal elements to be refined and
elevated. Similarly, the spiritual service connected with the sacrifices refines
the animal soul and transform its darkness into light.
(And through this service) "You shall make Me a
Sanctuary and I will dwell within," within each individual. This is accomplished
through his service of subduing his nature, which brings its transformation.
Then, the Zohar states, "when the Sitra Achra will be subdued, then the
glory of G‑d, the light of Sovev Kol Almin will be revealed in all the
[From the 'Sichos in English' translation—first
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