"A person, when he will bring from you an offering to G‑d" (Lev. 1:2)

The Alsheich writes that when we sin we distance ourselves from G‑d, but an offering in the Temple atones for this, bringing us close to G‑d again. Today, this atonement is accomplished by reading about the offerings in our daily prayer and by doing teshuva (returning to G‑d). Still, it would be fitting that when we sin, we should offer our own lives as atonement, as the verse reads: "from you an offering". In His kindness, G‑d allows us to offer an animal instead. The actions in preparing the sacrifices described in the portion's first verses are actually processes of spiritually cleansing ourselves from the sin. This is completed with "He should skin the burnt offering" (Lev. 1:6), meaning that the sin-defiled spiritual garments we wore are removed. Then the sacrifice is "cut it into pieces" - all negative thoughts that originally caused us to sin are eradicated. They are burnt up by the supernal fire, and thereby the hold of the Heavenly accuser is weakened, and he will not be able again drag us to sin. Every Jewish person has the inner strengths that will allow success in the spiritual journey to come closer to G‑d…

The Rebbe Rayatz commented that the Hebrew word "to offer" can be literally interpreted "will come close". Then the verse is read "A person when he wishes to come closer to G‑d…". When doing so, it is incumbent on us to check our spiritual status to know exactly what steps are necessary in this spiritual ascent. Nevertheless, such an inspection will most certainly reveal at how truly low a level one actually is. This could lead us to think, "How can such a lowly creature like me come closer to G‑d?" and deter us from any attempt. Therefore, the answer is given immediately, "from you is the offering" - a spiritual ascent is dependent completely upon ourselves. Every Jewish person has the inner strengths that will allow success in the spiritual journey to come closer to G‑d, even against the most difficult of obstacles. This potential is not only for advancing to higher levels than before, but even to reach the level of "G‑d" - i.e. the name Havayah, the last word in this section of the verse - and signifies a supernatural level.

"He should skin the burnt offering, and cut it into pieces." (Lev. 1:6)

Rebbe Michel of Zlotchov demands of us to be on guard against self-delusions. It is easy to judge ourselves favorably, or sometimes just ignore our faults in the face of even minor positive traits. ("I know I am not perfect, but at least I am a good person....") In connection with the above verse, he says that when we become conscious of any positive trait, we often relax our guard and forget about our faults. Even worse than this, a person can then be led to false pride, which may blind him or her from attaining any spiritual growth. The solution is to examine every part of our body, in its fulfillment of commandments associated with it: Leg - do I walk fast enough when on my way to do a mitzvah? Heart - do I pray with proper devotion? Mouth - etc.... If we are honest with ourselves, we will see that the negative traits we have yet to perfect in ourselves, far outweigh any of our positive traits. ...we overlook the...requirement to increase both the quantity and especially the quality of our mitzvot!

This is the inner meaning of the verse to "…skin the burnt offering". In Hebrew, the word for burnt offering is "olah", which technically means "that rises", alluding to arrogance. Read the verse as follows: "to skin [i.e. remove] the burnt offering [i.e. the false pride] from yourselves [so it will not interfere with your true self assessment], and cut it into pieces [check every body part for flaws, our faults].

Once, two students of the Maggid of Mezritch discussed their spiritual status. One said, "Where will all of our sins get us?" His colleague answered "Don't worry about sins, for them you can do teshuva. What we really have to worry about are mitzvot the likes of ours!" Sometimes in our haste repairing past mistakes, we overlook the even more important requirement to increase both the quantity and especially the quality of our mitzvot!

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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