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Parashat Vayikra: "If Any Man of You Bring an Offering to the Lord"

  • Rav Itamar Eldar
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

by Rav Itamar Eldar

Yeshivat Har Etzion


ParAshat vayikra


"If any man of you bring an offering to the Lord"



            The book of Vayikra, the reading of which we begin this week, is the book of sacrifices, whose opening lines are instructive as to its entire direction:


And the Lord called to Moshe, and spoke to him out of the Tent of Meeting, saying. Speak to the children of Israel and say to them, If any man [adam] of you [mikem] bring an offering to the Lord, of the cattle shall you bring your offering, of the herd, and of the flock. (Vayikra 1:1-2)


            A penetrating analysis of the key expression regarding the sacrificial service, "If any man of you bring an offering to the Lord," may enlighten us as to the essence and objective of the sacrifices.


            Two questions arise from this verse:


1)    Why does the verse use the term adam, rather than the more common word ish, in reference to the "man" bringing the offering?


2)    The word "mikem," translated here as "of you," raises a number of questions. First, it would have been possible to dispense with the term entirely, and simply write: "If any man bring an offering" ("adam ki yakriv"). And second, if Scripture already decided to use the term, it would seem that it should have been placed after the word "adam""adam mikem ki yakriv," and not as it actually appears, following the expression, "ki yakriv" – "adam ki yakriv mikem," literally, "If any man bring an offering of you."


The biblical commentators, following Chazal, related to both difficulties. Thus, writes Rashi with respect to the first question:


Adam – Why is this term for "man" employed here? Since Adam also means Adam, its use suggests the following comparison: What was the characteristic of the first man? He did not offer sacrifice of anything acquired by way of robbery, since everything was his! So you, too, shall not offer anything acquired by way of robbery. (Rashi, Vayikra 1:2)


            Rashi, in the wake of Chazal,[1] draws a connection between the term adam and Adam, the first man in the Garden of Eden. The connection made by Rashi relates to a fundamental law regarding sacrifices, that a person may not bring an offering from stolen property, this being akin to "immersing with an unclean reptile in one's hand."


            The Ramban relates to the second question, stating as follows:


"If any man bring an offering of you to the Lord, of the cattle." This verse means: "If any man of you bring an offering to the Lord, of the cattle." (Ramban, Vayikra 1:2)


            The Ramban points out the correct manner in which the verse should be understood, but he fails to explain why the verse was formulated in the way that it appears before us.[2]


            Other exegetes wished to infer from the placement of the word "mikem" additional meanings in addition to the simple reading of the Ramban. Thus, for example, writes the Seforno:


"If any man bring an offering of you." If he makes an offering of you, with verbal confession and submission, in the sense of: "So we will offer the words of our lips instead of calves" (Hoshe'a 14:3); and as it is said: "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit" (Tehilim 51:19). For God has no desire for fools who offer sacrifices without previous submission. (Seforno, Vayikra 1:2)


            The Seforno reads the verse as it is written: "bring an offering of you." That is to say, the offering must come of you. The Seforno, in the wake of God's prophets, asserts that it does not suffice for a person to bring an animal sacrifice. He must bring an offering of himself, this referring to the verbal confession and submission that must accompany the sacrificial act, and thus he offers not only his animal but himself as well.


            For the Chassidic masters, these two questions served as a window through which to enter into the world of sacrifices and the consciousness that is supposed to accompany the sacrificial act. We shall examine some of the Chassidic teachings on this issue.


Sacrifice (korban) – drawing near (Hitkarvut)


            It is important to note from the outset that when we come to examine the meaning of the sacrifices in Chassidic thought, we must be prepared for the "jump" made in these teachings from the actual sacrifice to the metaphor, according to which the sacrifices give expression to a psychological state demanded of man, irrespective of the question whether the Temple is standing or whether the sacrificial order is in place. It is through this jump that the sacrificial order becomes relevant for every generation, every hour, and every person. This does not contradict the aspiration once again to realize the sacrificial order in the concrete, physical sense, but it allows us to experience the world of sacrifices even in a world where, on account of our many sins, there is no longer a Temple or sacrifices. Let us examine the words of R. Efrayim of Sudylkow, grandson of the Besht:


"If any man of you bring an offering to the Lord, of the cattle shall you bring your offering, of the herd, and of the flock." In my humble opinion, there is an allusion here to the gradations in the human process of drawing near to the Creator, blessed be He. There are three levels, in the manner of: "O Lord, you preserve man and beast" (Tehilim 36:7), about which Chazal have expounded (Chullin 5b): "Those people who are clever as humans, but make themselves as beasts" (see there). That is to say, that he is not deemed as anything in his eyes, like the beast that knows nothing and merely distances itself from that which is harmful to it. He too always looks out to preserve himself from things that may be harmful to him, from falsehood, and from other follies that harm the service of the Creator, blessed be He. "Of the cattle" – that is, at first a person must distance himself from bestial desires that he not be like a beast that also desires its desires. And afterwards, "of the herd," that is, that he should study Torah and have the aspect of Torah scholars who gore each other like [members of] the herd (see Sanhedrin 24a, and Tikkunei Zohar 76a). We can also explain it in the sense of bikkur – seeking and examining, that he should start to seek and examine how to draw himself near to the Creator, blessed be He. And afterwards, "of the flock," for I have heard that tzon ("flock," tzadik, alef, nun) is the union of tzadik, alef and nun, that is, the union of the Holy One, blessed be He, and His Shekhina, which is the great level to which he merits afterwards, to unite the Holy One, blessed be He, and His Shekhina in his prayer and Torah study. He first included all three levels in these three words, "cattle," "herd" and "flock," and afterwards He explained more: "And if the burnt sacrifice for his offering to the Lord be of birds." "Birds" is nothing else but Torah. That is, when a person wishes to draw himself near so that his Torah should be a burnt offering to God, "He shall rend it by its wings," that is, he should make it wings to fly from one world to the next. That is, by studying with fear and love, and thus he makes wings for his Torah so that it should fly upwards, as mentioned in the holy Zohar. "But he shall not divide it asunder," that is, he should not separate himself from it whatsoever, even for a moment. We can also explain this in accordance with what I heard from my grandfather, of blessed memory: "There is no comparison between one who studies his passage a hundred times and one who studies it a hundred and one times" (Chagiga 9b). That is, when he has with it the One, the Holy One, blessed be He. This is what it says: "But he shall not divide it asunder" – that is, that he should not separate the Holy One, blessed be He, from the Torah that he studies. Rather, it should be with intention of the heart and the will for the sake of God. And afterwards a meal-offering of fine flour, which is an allusion to the mystery of union. (Degel Machane Efrayim, Vayikra)


            The author of the Degel Machane Efrayim hears in the word korban ("sacrifice") echoes of another word - hitkarvut ("drawing near"). According to R. Efrayim, the offering of a sacrifice is an attempt to draw near to God; and the aforementioned biblical passage describes a graded and systematic process of ascending a spiritual ladder.


            "Of the cattle" – the first example that Scripture gives of sacrifices – gives expression to the need to sever ourselves from the bestial aspect within us. The first stage in the korban-hitkarvut process is "veering from evil." We are dealing here with passive guarding against that which may harm and cause injury to a person who wishes to draw close to his Creator.


            "Of the herd" – the second example brought by Scripture - brings us to the next stage in the process of hitkarvut, the stage during which we move from a passive stance to an active one. Here begins a process demanding effort, study, and examination: "The aspect of Torah scholars who gore each other like [members of] the herd." The herd ("bakar"), expounds R. Efrayim, is also associated with bikkur, that is to say, study and examination. This is the stage during which a person visits (mevaker) the sanctuary of God and tries to understand how to draw close – how to offer a sacrifice.


            "Of the flock," the next example, already involves the aspect of comprehension. The union of the Holy One, blessed be He, and His Shekhina, through prayer and study, is the ability to join the world in which we live to the Divine idea hovering over it.[3]


            And finally, "of birds," which appears next in Scripture, gives expression to man's flight, and the spiritual stance that accompanies him during study and prayer. The flight, the climb to the celestial worlds, the absolute conjunction, are all alluded to, according to the author of the Degel Machane Efrayim, in the laws governing a burnt-offering that is of birds.


            The idea of a korban as an expression of hitkarvut – drawing near - is also evident in the following passage:


About him was it said: "If any man of you bring an offering, etc." This means: This is what is called a man bringing an offering to God, namely, that he draws near and conjoins his heart and thought to Him, blessed be He, with closeness and intense conjunction, with desire and yearning of his heart, without any admixture or disqualified thought, God forbid. And he unites his heart, thought, speech, actions, and all his movements, those that are revealed and those that are concealed, with Him, blessed be He, in truth and perfection, without any separating curtain. And then he is called "adam," similar to the heavenly beings, having no disqualifying thoughts. (Be'er Mayyim Chayyim, Ki Tetze 21) 


            R. Chayyim of Czernowitz also wishes to translate the terminology of the world of sacrificial offerings into a different language – the language of drawing close and yearning.


            One of the key concepts in the world of sacrifices is that of "disqualifying thoughts," both those that result in pesul and those that lead to piggul. When a sacrifice is offered, the thoughts of the person who brings it[4] must be totally directed toward the offering of that particular sacrifice, its goal and its purpose. Any deviation in thought, with respect to the time of the sacrifice, its eating, or its purpose, detracts from the offering, and sometimes even disqualifies it.


The consecrated animals were offered during the time of the Temple by the priests who served as our agents and as the agents of God. They would pray and beseech for Israel and bring heavenly bounty down upon Israel, and thus act as the agents of the two of them. So too in our time, the [God]-fearing people serve as the priests and the Levites. They join themselves to God with the communion of full-hearted prayer. They embrace all the prayers of Israel, and they bring bounty down upon all of Israel. And like consecrated animals that are disqualified by disqualifying thoughts, so too in prayer, one must have pure thoughts… (Hanhagot Tzadikim)[5]


            "The [God]-fearing people" in our time are the nation's agents and priests; they bring their offering to God, and thus they must refine themselves, as did the priests in their time, of all disqualifying thoughts. An impure thought, a disqualifying thought regarding time, and a disqualifying thought regarding place, are all symbolic expressions of "alien thoughts" that interfere with and detract from the spiritual offering under discussion.


            "If any man of you bring an offering to the Lord" is an expression of absolute conjunction, absolute refinement and absolute direction of one's thoughts to God. Korban-hitkarvut can only be achieved when a person reaches total purity in his standing before God.


            Both R. Chayyim of Czernowitz and R. Efrayim of Sudylkow expand the idea of an offering from a concrete, material action performed during the time of the Temple, to a spiritual stance that accompanies a person at all times in his day-to-day life. The obligation of korban-hitkarvut, and its various conditions, relate not only to the cattle, herd, and flock offered on the altar, but to the cattle-like, herd-like and flock-like state that accompanies man in his routine life at all times and in all places.




            The emphasis in the words of R. Efrayim and R. Chayyim of Czernowitz is on a sacrifice being an expression of drawing close and conjoining with God.


            A slightly different emphasis is found in the following passage:


In the Midrash: "'If a man of you bring an offering.' This is what it says: 'One man among a thousand I have found' (Kohelet 7:28) – this is Avraham, etc. Moshe, etc." For "adam" embraces all created beings, and it is therefore within his power to draw everything to the source. And so it was with the first man prior to the sin, that he would draw all of creation near to Him, blessed be His name. But following the sin, this was removed from him. About this it is written: "And have dominion (redu) over the fish of the sea" (Bereishit 1:28). And in the Midrash: "To have dominion (rode) over them if he merits, and if not he becomes lowered (yarud) before them." For in truth, man is ruler over everything, as it is written: "I have made the earth, and created man upon it" (Yeshaya 45:12). But if he is drawn after his evil impulse, he becomes even further lowered. Therefore, when Avraham came and repaired the sin, the term "adam" was applied to him, as it is written: "The biggest man (adam) among the Anakim" (Yehoshua 14:15). And similarly the people of Israel as a whole, for it is said about them: "'Adam' – you are called adam." For they became free men at the time of the exodus from Egypt, and the form of adam became applicable to them. Therefore, "If any man of you (mikem) bring." And it is written there: "For it is not a vain thing for you (mikem)" (Devarim 32:47). The allusion is that there is nothing in which a man of Israel has no part, since he is "adam," as explained above. Therefore, it is written: "If any man of you bring an offering." (Sefat Emet, Vayikra, 5658) 


            The Sefat Emet relates here to Scripture's use of the term "adam" rather than "ish." According to the Sefat Emet, and relying on the words of the Midrash, "adam" alludes to Adam, the first man, who was singular in the world. Prior to the first man's sin, not only was he singular in the world, but by virtue of this singleness, he bore the yoke of repairing the entire world, or in the words of the Sefat Emet, "for adam embraces all created beings." Man is a microcosm of the entire universe, and his repair constitutes repair of the world. "If any man bring an offering," explains the Sefat Emet, is an expression of man's ability to draw not only himself near, but also the entire world. The "man who brings an offering," according to the Sefat Emet, refers not to the person who brings a goat to the altar, but rather to the person who succeeds in turning the entire world into an offering to God, at which point he turns from "ish" to "adam."


            At the end of this teaching, the Sefat Emet also draws an inference from the second problematic expression: mikem. He cites another verse: "For it is not a vain thing for you (mikem)" (Devarim 32:47), which he understands as implying that there is nothing in the world in which a man of Israel has no part. In other words, there is nothing in this world that is not a part "of you." A Jew's connection to the world is complete. The Torah directs its observers to be involved in the world at all levels. Agriculture, economy, culture, nutrition, army, and everything related to human existence – "it is not a vain thing for you." For this reason, the responsibility falls upon every Jew to become "adam," and offer/draw near the entire world to God.


            In the following passage, the Sefat Emet proposes two ways to accomplish this:


"If any man of you bring an offering." The simple meaning is to give of his inner strength and will to God, blessed be He. "Nullify your will, etc." This is the aspect of sacrifice, to draw all actions near to God, blessed be He. And it is written: "Of you"… This is what he said that while each individual should give, it should be by inserting himself among the community of Israel. (Sefat Emet, Vayikra, 5631)


            In this teaching as well, the sacrifice involves the drawing near of all one's actions, but this time, the word "mikem" is expounded in a slightly different manner. A person must offer his strength and his will to God, in the sense of "Nullify your will before His will." Sacrifice means readiness to surrender. If in all your actions you waive your personal will, asserts the Sefat Emet, you will bring those actions close to God.


            When a person acts out of his personal will, out of his ego, without the feeling of sacrifice and waiver, the world which he relates to remains in its place and is not redeemed. On the contrary! When a person is immersed in his personal will, he constitutes a barrier between God and the world, for the person is the world, and the world is part of him, and when a person is immersed in his personal inclinations, he does not become a connecting link. When a person surrenders his personal will, and becomes a conduit, all actions are gathered within him, and everything that a person does, relates to or even thinks about, becomes connected through him to its source and is elevated.


            Another condition for this accomplishment, asserts the Sefat Emet at the end of this passage, is that the person must insert himself within the community of Israel. He must efface himself not only to God, but also to the people of Israel. And once again, when a person waives his particularity,[6] and effaces himself to the community, he becomes part of a grand vessel, which is entirely an offering to God.


            The experience of surrendering one's particularity is a psychological state that the passages dealing with sacrifices wish to establish. Giving up on one's particularity for the sake of God, in the sense of "Nullify your will before His will," giving up on one's particularity by including oneself in the community of Israel.


A more radical expression of this surrender may be found in the following passage:


"And Hevel, he also brought" (literally, "And Hevel brought also himself") (Bereishit 4:4). This is similar to the verse: "If any man bring an offering of you." That is to say, when a person brings an offering, he must also devotedly offer his soul to God, as if he were being slaughtered, as if he were being burned. This is what it says: "And Hevel brought also himself," namely, that he brought himself as well as an offering to God with devotion, with the secret of "Into your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth" (Tehilim 31:6). (Igra de-Kalla, 58b)


In these words, R. Tzvi Elemelekh Shapira of Dynov describes the self-sacrifice that is supposed to accompany a person when he offers a sacrifice. Again, it seems that his words go beyond animal sacrifices during the time that the Temple stood.[7] A person's feeling that he is being slaughtered and that he is being burnt upon the altar reflects his total readiness to sacrifice himself for God. In this sense, the sacrifice of the animal substitutes for the person's sacrificing of himself.[8] A person is constantly being asked to sacrifice himself to God, and thus to give expression to his absolute devotion and loyalty to God, and  to his total effacement before Him. The Torah, however, has stated: "'That he may live in them' – that he may live in them and not that he should die in them" (Sifra, Acharei Mot 13). The sacrifice substitutes for the person himself, but the experience of sacrifice remains in place. According to this, a person experiences the total readiness to surrender not only his will, but also his life, all for the sake of God. This is the meaning of "If any man bring an offering of you" – a person must offer himself, his will, his desires, and in essence his life to God.




            The idea that a sacrifice demands of man that he surrender also finds expression in the following passage, though in a less total manner:


For this is the choicest service of man to conquer his lusts for the sake of God, that this should fall and this should rise, that his bestial spirit should descend to earth and his human spirit should rise upwards (see Kohelet 3:21). Regarding this, Scripture states: "If any man bring an offering of you." This means: If a man wishes to bring an offering of you to God, that is, of you yourselves as an offering to God, this should be his offering – of the cattle. Namely, he should offer to God of the cattle in him, to reduce the bestial lusts in him every day, regarding eating, drinking, honor, jealousy, hatred, or lust for women. This is the offering that is superior to all the sacrifices, that he should offer his soul to God. And therefore, "of the herd and of the flock shall you bring your offering." That is, more than all the sacrifices of the herd and of the flock, it is better that you should offer an offering of yourselves, for that is superior to all of them. (Be'er Mayim Chayyim, Vayikra 1)


            R. Chayyim of Czernowitz, in his usual manner, learns from the Torah sections dealing with the sacrifices a way of life. He argues that a cattle offering involves the offering of man's bestiality in that he is ready to give it up altogether or at least to restrict it: "to reduce the bestial lusts in him every day, regarding eating, drinking, honor, jealousy, hatred, or lust for women." According to R. Chayyim of Czernowitz, the abstention from the realization of our desires, even if only partial, involves sacrifice, or to be more precise, a waiver of the bestiality within us.


While the Sefat Emet and R. Tzvi Elimelekh of Dynov describe the act of sacrifice as an absolute waiver, and in great measure, an abolition of the self, or at least an abolition of the individual will, R. Chayyim of Czernowitz is not interested in man sacrificing himself, but rather in his sacrificing his bestial desires and feelings.


This understanding of the sacrifices finds expression in the writings of R. Yosef Dov Soloveitchik:


The Torah identifies religious service with the Temple service. As we mentioned earlier, service is synonymous with sacrifice. One who serves God offers a sacrifice. On the concrete level, Judaism recognizes only animal sacrifices. Our Torah forbids the human sacrifices that were customary among the near-eastern nations in the ancient period. As we have emphasized, this prohibition relates to the physical sacrifice. Regarding the experiential sacrifice, God demands human sacrifice. An animal sacrifice is merely a symbolic act. The primary correlative of the external act is the spiritual act of bringing a sacrifice of the soul. The blood that is sprinkled on the altar, and the fats and limbs that are burned on the fire, represent the blood and fat of the owner of the sacrifice. The inner act of the sacrifice is the binding of the self on the altar. Yitzchak is the burnt-offering designated for God. The binding of Yitzchak is still inscribed upon the national consciousness as a human sacrifice. His ashes are heaped on the altar. We have no interest in the ashes of the ram…. The command regarding the binding was not nullified by God. When He sent His angel to admonish Avraham not to lay his hand upon the lad, Avraham had already finished his sacrificial act. It had ended with its fulfillment when he held the knife. The external drama changed, but the internal drama remained in place. Yitzchak who was bound upon the altar became a ram, Yitzhak/the ram was slaughtered, his blood was sprinkled, his body was burned, his ashes were heaped on Mount Moriah for all generations… The laws of sacrifices demand a human sacrifice that is clothed in the form of an animal. The spirit of man dressed in the body of an animal is offered to God.

After the Temple was destroyed and the daily offering was abolished, the service did not move from its place. The symbol is missing, but the idea remains. Animal sacrifices are not practiced in our day, but human sacrifices continue…. Build an altar, arrange the wood, light the fire, take the knife to slaughter your existence for My sake – thus commands the awesome God who suddenly appears out of absolute concealment. This approach is the foundation of prayer. Man surrenders himself to God. He approaches the awesome God, and this approach finds expression in self-sacrifice and self-binding. (Ish ha-Halakha Galui ve-Nistar, Ra'ayonot al ha-Tefila, pp. 254-255).


R. Soloveitchik develops the experience of sacrifice as a foundational experience with respect to our religious standing before God. According to R. Soloveitchik, as was also the case with the Chassidic masters whose teachings we saw earlier in this lecture, this experience is founded upon the readiness to surrender. For R. Soloveitchik, the world of Halakha in its entirety demands of man that he retreat and give up on total conquest, on achieving his goal in perfect manner. On all the plains of a person's life – the aesthetic, the cultural, the scientific, and even the religious – a person is asked to sacrifice and surrender. He cannot satisfy his desires in any of the aforementioned realms. Not everything may be eaten, not everything may be fashioned, and not even every religious sentiment may be satisfied.[9]


R. Soloveitchik, like R. Chayyim of Czernowitz, and in contrast to the Sefat Emet and R. Tzvi Elimelekh of Dynov, does not demand of man to sweepingly waive his particularity and personality. He does not demand of man that he destroy his individual will. On the contrary! The awareness of this will, its development, and the intense race to realize it, constitute the foundation for the experience of sacrifice demanded of man, a moment before its full realization. To stop one step before the goal out of loyalty to God and His mitzvot – this is the imminent experience of sacrifice that R. Soloveitchik is talking about.


The experience of sacrifice referred to by the Sefat Emet and R. Tzvi Elimelekh of Dynov brings a person to full harmony and identification with God, His Torah and His mitzvot. When a person waives his own will before that of God, or alternatively when he inserts himself among the community of Israel, and certainly when he experiences actual self-sacrifice and feels as if he himself is being slaughtered and burned, he does not feel any inner contradiction. There is no conflict of interest, no clash of wills. When a person arrives at this point, the sacrifice has already been made, and now he stands like the ashes of Yitzchak on the altar. The person who nullifies his will is the perfect whole-burnt offering that is wholly elevated to heaven. The sacrifice is the readiness to waive one's self, and from the moment that the self has been sacrificed, the person becomes "adam," adam in the natural sense of full inclusion within Keneset Yisrael in particular and within the entire universe in general. This is a total experience where the sacrifice involves drawing near to God and the conjunction with Him leads to eternal perfection.


The experience of sacrifice that R. Soloveitchik and R. Chayyim of Czernowitz describe is entirely different. It brings man to an inner and built-in dialectic, between the desire to realize one's desires and the readiness to waive them for the sake of God. The sacrifice is a result of polar movements that clash with each other. The movement that wishes to conquer, to rule, to achieve, and to discover is a movement of will that R. Soloveitchik promotes and demands that we develop and enrich. In contrast stands the movement of retreat, the demand of man that he stop, stand in his place, retreat, and give up on the pinnacle. The clash between these two movements is the experience of sacrifice, that leaves man in suffering, pain and restraint, these being the lofty fruit of sacrifice.


R. Soloveitchik has no desire for a man who lives in harmony and serenity. He seeks a person whose soul is rent, who is thrown from one movement to another, who every day anew climbs his own Mount Moriah out of pain and suffering. All of these feelings constitute the constant sacrifice that a person is demanded to pay in his personal standing before God.


For R. Soloveitchik, the drawing near to God lies not in the nullification of the distance between man and the Master of the Universe, but rather in the constant tension that a person maintains between his personal existence and his readiness to waive the full realization thereof while standing before God.


R. Avraham Kook also relates to the loss and surrender demanded by the psychological movement fashioned by the sacrifices:


The sacrifices say that for the sake of Divine aspiration, a person must gird himself with strength, and be prepared to fight against himself and the world. It is necessary to lose in order to find. However, that which is lost for the sake of Divine aspiration is not a loss, but rather a find and an elevation. That which is lost for the sake of the desire for conjunction with God is elevated, and the only thing fit to be elevated is that in which elevation is already rooted. Only of the clean animal, the clean bird, the special plant, should one offer a sacrifice to God. Only the glass that shines with its clear light knows what already contains the clarified root so that it is fit for elevation through loss, for the sake of Divine aspiration. (Shemona Kevatzim III, 206)


R. Kook's novel idea lies in his turning "loss" into a "find." He comes to teach us that loss and finding are subjective concepts, and that they follow from the value for which we lose and find. Waiver for the sake of Divine aspiration, asserts R. Kook, is not a loss, but a finding and an elevation. Just as the sacrifice of a ritually clean animal elevates it, so too when a person sacrifices his feelings, needs, and desires, he elevates and lifts them up to heaven.




[1] For example: "Why does it say "adam," rather than "ish"? It means to say: When a person sins like the first man [Adam] who began to sin, he should bring an offering…" (Tanchuma, Vayikra 8).


[2] Ibn Ezra points out that we are dealing with a common phenomenon, and he even brings another example of this phenomenon.


[3] The union of tzadik, alef with nun referred to by R. Efrayim, is a kabbalistic expression, that describes the union of all the sefirot in the center of which stands the sefira of Tif'eret together with the sefira of Malkhut.


[4] Sometimes the priest, sometimes the owner, and sometimes both of them.


[5] Here are additional examples: "First a person must repair his thought and straighten his mind so that he not think any disqualifying thoughts at all, except for thoughts of Divine service. He must hate falsehood in his thinking, and only think true thoughts" (Ohev Yisra'el, Re'e). "When he has already repaired the seven midot, he can then come to this level that his thoughts are always pure, without any disqualifying thoughts, whether regarding Torah, or prayer, or good deeds (Me'or ve-Shemesh, Tazri'a).


[6] Even though the Sefat Emet does not discount the importance of the individual, as he says: "that while each individual should give."


[7] Even though he is talking about "when a person brings a sacrifice," since he is dealing with a psychological consciousness, this experience can be extended beyond the physical reality of an animal offering.


[8] The Ramban in his commentary to the Torah discusses this idea at length.


[9] Nadav and Avihu were burned in a Divine fire when they tried to draw near/sacrifice. R. Soloveitchik would say that in their case the sacrifice should have consisted of the readiness to retreat from the desire to draw near.


(Translated by David Strauss)