This week's Torah portion begins with the word "tzav", meaning "command". It is Chassidic tradition that we "live with the times" by looking for inspiration in our activities from the teachings of the weekly portion. We even take inspiration from the name of the portion which contains in it the essence of the portion. What do we learn from the word for "command"? According to Rashi, "tzav" tells us that Aaron the priest and his descendants were commanded (in regards to the sacrifices) to act with alacrity, now and for all generations.

….what do sacrificial offerings have to do with us today?

The teaching for us about offering sacrifices with alacrity would seem to pose a problem since we do not currently have a Temple altar for sacrifices. These offerings on the altar were to atone for sins, give thanks, and allow us to come closer to G‑d. If we can not bring physical offerings, what do sacrificial offerings have to do with us today? Unquestionably, since the Torah is from G‑d, all of its teachings are eternal, and we can always draw lessons from them. The Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches us that it is a mistake to conclude that since we do not have the Temple, offerings are no longer possible. The offerings that are required of us now, have to come from within us. The entire concept of offerings is that we must continuously attempt to come closer to G‑d….

The Hebrew word for "offering" is "korban", which means coming closer, referring to the drawing closer of man to his Creator. The entire concept of offerings is that we must continuously attempt to come closer to G‑d. How does one perform an offering? You take an animal, check that it has no defects, ritually slaughter it, remove its blood, and burn it or parts of it on the altar's fire. Each of these actions exists in a person's spiritual service.

Every Jewish person has two souls, a divine soul that leads him to spirituality and an animal soul that leads him to fulfill his physical needs. Without the animal soul, we could not live in this physical world. Nevertheless, "Taking the animal" implies taking our physical desires and strengths and bringing them closer to G‑d. For example, we should eat because we need strength to keep His commandments. We have to find a way to harness our physical needs for holiness.

Misjudging who we are and what we are capable of is one of the greatest dangers to fulfilling our life mission. The second stage of bringing an offering, "checking for defects", tells us to carefully check every aspect of our personality, not leaving any part unaccounted for preventing our coming closer to and serving G‑d.

The burning of the animal on the altar is the consuming of the negative animal desires….

The final stage, "slaughtering the animal", is the most intense part of the offering. It is crucial that the animal not be damaged in any way. Through the ritual slaughtering, the blood can be removed and collected in a vessel. Torah tells us that the blood of a living creature is its life force. All the organs remain untouched, but after the slaughtering they have no life force. This is the same way that a person must approach G‑dliness. We are not supposed to stop eating, drinking, working or having families. Everything is supposed to continue as "usual", just that we are supposed to "take out the blood", take out the animal enthusiasm that ties us to the world and its illusions. Both the body of the animal and the blood are taken to the altar. We should live our lives for a spiritual purpose, to serve our Creator.

Finally, the altar is a person's heart. The "fire" is our natural love for G‑d. Even so, we do not always acknowledge this inner hidden love. The burning of the animal on the altar is the consuming of the negative animal desires to allow the love for G‑d to express itself.

This is the eternal teaching of what an offering is: to offer our "animal" soul to G‑dly service and to so with alacrity. Certainly, when we continue to bring "offerings" even when we do not have the Temple, G‑d will reciprocate and quickly bring Mashiach, and the building of the third Temple now.

Shabbat Shalom and a Kosher and Happy Pesach, Shaul

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