This is the offering of Aaron on the day that he was anointed (Lev. 6:3)

Then you will eat, yes eat, and be satiated…(Joel 2:26)

Two things are accomplished through eating: 1) the human being gains strength - body and soul are kept together, and 2) the food is spiritually elevated. The physical archetypes of Mineral, Vegetable or Animal are elevated by becoming the flesh and blood of Human. Furthermore, when a person then uses the strength gained from food to serve G‑d, as in the statement "I was created to serve my Master" (end of Kidushin), the food then ascends to a level that is beyond the world of the created [and enters the realm of the Creator. This elevation of the food is part of the "Avodat Habirurim", the task of elevating the sparks of holiness that are scattered through the physical world.]

In the Messianic era, a second elevation and refinement will take place. In Kabbalistic terms, the elevation and refinement that is accomplished in the pre-Messianic Era is that of Ban thorough Mah. In the future, Mah itself will undergo a refinement and elevation. The souls of today will be considered "animals" in comparison to the souls of the future…

Food is rooted in the celestial angels. Man's consumption of food causes an elevation for the celestial angels, which are called "beasts". Just as angels are considered "animals" in comparison to human souls, so too in the future, the souls of today will be considered "animals" in comparison to the souls of the future. They will therefore need a second elevation.

This will be achieved through the banquet of the wild Ox and the Leviathan, which will be eaten by the righteous. A spark of the each soul in need of elevation will be manifest in the Ox and Leviathan and will be elevated through their consumption by the righteous.

(The Ox and the Leviathan refer to the two different types of souls - Mah and Ban: those that are sourced in Alma D'itkasya, the World of Concealment (related to the Leviathan, a sea creature), and those that are sourced in Alma D'itgalya, the World of Revelation (related to the Ox, a land creature).

Now we can understand a mysterious Midrashic statement in parasha Tzav (Midrash Rabba 8:2), on the words "This is the offering of Aaron on the day that he was anointed": (Lev. 6:3)

And he said to them, "From the eater came food…" (Judges 14:14)

This is what the verse means: Samson wondered in his heart: The lion eats all other animals and now it is a source of food? Similarly, Aaron eats all the offerings and now an offering issues from him. Which one is that? "This is the offering of Aaron."

[The reference is to the riddle that Samson proposed to the people of Timnah during his wedding feast. The inspiration for the riddle came from the sight of a beehive and honey that Samson noticed in the carcass of the lion that he had slain a while earlier.]

It is known that the sacrifice was consumed by two parties: 1) the altar - known as "the lion of fire" (as mentioned in the Zohar on parashat Tzav p. 32b, and 1:6b) and 2) the priest. It is impossible for an unrefined being to refine or elevate…

In other words, the lion of the altar and Aaron (the priest) elevate and refine the offering.

Now, we have explained elsewhere (Tanya 1:28) that one who achieves elevation and refinement must himself be a refined being. It is impossible for an unrefined being to refine or elevate.

[The Alter Rebbe makes this point in Tanya, where he emphasizes that one should not attempt to "elevate" extraneous thoughts. Although the Baal Shem Tov (Keter Shem Tov sec. 171) advocates such efforts, the Alter Rebbe clearly stated that such efforts were appropriate only for the completely righteous: (Tanya 1:28)

"He should not be a fool as to engage in elevating the drives of the extraneous thought for such things apply only to the righteous who do not experience self-generated extraneous thoughts but rather receive those of others. But he who experiences extraneous thoughts that stem from his own darkness in his heart, how can he elevate it above when he himself is tied below"?] Eating is for the purpose of elevating the sparks that are in the food…

As the Sifri says (end of parashat Ekev):

"You have failed to conquer what is near your palace - and you are going to conquer outside your land?! It is therefore forbidden to eat before praying in the morning. Because eating is for the purpose of elevating the sparks that are in the food; and before prayer, one is not in a position to do so. For how can he elevate the food when he himself is still tied below. It is only through prayer - which is called a time of war in the Zohar - that divinity is drawn upon the soul through the eighteen blessings of the Standing Prayer, in which one says, "blessed are You G‑d…" [the Hebrew word for "blessing" meaning "draw down" as well] - only then is one able to eat and thereby elevate the food. As the Talmud says:

"The verse begins with the Altar and ends with the Table." One brings atonement through the table…

[This quote is from Berachot 55a, citing Ezekiel: (41:22) "The altar was three cubits tall…And he said to me: 'This is the table that is before G‑d.'" The Talmud cites the verse to indicate that as long as the Temple stood, the altar brought atonement. Once the Temple was destroyed, one brings atonement through the table - inviting and serving the poor at one's table. The Alter Rebbe is using the expression to mean that the altar - prayer - must precede the table - eating.]

How then can it be said that Aaron, who is the one who eats - and thereby elevates - the offering, and thus must be fully refined himself - needs himself to bring an offering, implying that he is need of elevation?

This is what the Midrash means in comparing this verse to Samson's riddle: How is it that the eater (relating to the "lion", "Aaron") becomes the food (relating to "honey", i.e. needs refinement through an offering)? The answer can be found in the final words of the phrase: "on the day that he was anointed". In order to draw the spiritual energy of this anointment - sacred oil (in Hebrew, "shemen mishchat kodesh"), a double expression of transcendence - Aaron had to reach a new level of refinement (similar to the second refinement that the souls will undergo in the future).

[Adapted from Likutei Torah of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi and a Maamar from the Lubavitcher Rebbe called "V'achaltem" 5747]

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