Thursday, March 6, 2014
אָדָם כִּי יַקְרִיב מִכֶּם קָרְבָּן לַה' (ויקרא א, ב)
A man who shall bring from you an offering to G-d (Vayikra 1:2)
One of the three pillars upon which the world stands (Mishna, Avos 1:2) is Avodah – service of G-d, which refers to the offering of sacrifices (Talmud Yerushalmi, Taanis 4:1).
This prominence accorded to the sacrifices seems bizarre. Why would the primary form of Divine service be as unsophisticated as the physical slaughter and burning of an animal, and not an obviously spiritual and cognitive form of worship, such as prayer (which is merely a substitute in the absence of actual animal sacrifice)?
This is even more troubling considering that the offering of sacrifices affects atonement for a Jew who compromised his relationship with G-d by transgressing the commands of the Torah. Would not a service in which one consciously awakens and experiences his closeness to G-d be more appropriate?
These two questions, however, actually answer each other, particularly in light of the fact that animal sacrifice is mentioned in the Torah’s narrative even prior to the Giving of the Torah. This indicates that the “closeness” achieved through animal sacrifice, even as commanded by the Torah, preceded the giving of the Torah’s commandments. The Torah’s record of this chronological precedence teaches us about the effects of the sacrifice as well: when a Jew offers an animal sacrifice, this reveals the essential love and bond between the Jew and G-d that precedes, transcends and therefore has the capacity to repair the bond which is otherwise created through the observance of the Torah.
The method of awakening this bond is therefore a service in which the spiritual heights of the Jew are specifically not outwardly evident, for this essential bond between G-d and the Jewish people is purely G-d’s superrational choice, and transcends a relationship that can be earnedthrough spiritual efforts. And it is the revelation of this bond between G-d and the Jewish people that makes animal sacrifice a pillar of the world’s existence.
- Likutei Sichos vol. 22, pp. 3-5
אֲשֶׁר נָשִׂיא יֶחֱטָא . . בִּשְׁגָגָה (ויקרא ד, כב)
If a leader [of Israel] sins unintentionally… (Vayikra )
אַשֶׁרis an expression reminiscent of the expression אַשְׁרֵי, “fortunate is…,” as if to say: “Fortunate is the generation whose leader takes to heart to bring an atonement offering for his unintentional sins, and surely is remorseful of sins committed willfully! – Rashi
“The human being is a microcosm”, says the Midrash (Tanchuma, Pikudei 3), and the realities of the world at large are applicable within the workings of man himself. Accordingly, the above Rashi can be interpreted homiletically as a reference to one of the cornerstones of Chassidic teaching: “By it’s very nature, the mind rules over the heart” (Tanya, Chapter 12).
“Fortunate is the generation whose leader takes to heart to bring an atonement”:
“The leader of the generation” in the microcosm is the mind, which controls all the behaviors of the body. When is the lifestyle of the micro-generation “fortunate”? When the leader “takes to heart”; when the mind rules over the heart, restraining his impulses from being carried out in deed, speech or action. Furthermore, “the leader takes to heart” means that if he does stumble and transgress the commands of the Torah, even inadvertently, his repentance is not limited to merely changing his ways. Rather, he mindfully takes responsibility even for his accidental transgressions, recognizing and taking to heart the severity of the transgression of G-d’s will, bringing him to true remorse and contriteness of heart. A Teshuva of this nature not only atones for his sin, but diminishes his heart’s impulsive challenges of the future, thus making his life truly fortunate.