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An Offering From You

The concept of animal sacrifice seems strange and primitive to our modern-day sensibilities. Despite the fact that most people consume meat and think little about the process by which it reaches our plate, we are uncomfortable with the thought of sacrificing an animal in a ritualistic way, sprinkling its blood upon the altar, and carving up its limbs for offering.

This week's Torah portion, Vayikra, describes in detail the various sacrifices that were offered in the Tabernacle. Ever since the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, these sacrifices are no longer brought, and daily prayer has taken the place of the sacrifices. However, with the coming of Moshiach, the Holy Temple will be rebuilt, and the practice of animal sacrifice will once again be reinstated. Many people, even those who are otherwise eagerly anticipating the redemption, have ambivalent feelings about the resumption of this ritual.

In order to understand the spiritual significance of animal sacrifice, we must first analyze the Biblical verse that introduces this commandment: “Speak to the children of Israel and say to them: When a person will offer from [among] you an offering to G-d: from the animals - from the cattle and from the flocks you shall bring your offering” (Vayikra 1:2). The words
“a person will offer from [among] you” appear to be transposed. It would seem more syntactically correct to say, “When a person from among you will offer...” Yet the structure of this verse is deliberate. The verse communicates that the true purpose of an animal offering is to offer from you - to actually offer ourselves before G-d.

The Hebrew word for offering, korban, derives from the root of karev, to bring close. If we wish to become close to G-d, we must be prepared to offer ourselves to Him.

Each of us has two souls, a G-dly soul and an animal soul. The G-dly soul craves spirituality and closeness to the Divine. The animal soul, which vivifies the body, is drawn to earthly desires. When offering an animal sacrifice, the intention is to sanctify our inner “animal” – our desire for worldly pleasures and comfort – on an altar before G-d.

The offerings brought in the Temple included all basic categories of creation: The animal; the vegetable kingdom, represented by bread and wine; and the mineral, as salt was offered with every sacrifice. Thus, the offerings did not serve only to elevate our character. They also brought an elevation to the entire universe.

Now, in the time of exile, we can fulfill the mitzvah of offerings only in a figurative sense. However, when Moshiach comes, the Holy Temple will be rebuilt and we will once again bring the animal offerings.  Now, in the final moments before redemption, we can complete the preparations by perfecting our character and sanctifying our physical body and all its desires. This will surely hasten the imminent revelation of Moshiach, when the Holy Temple will be restored to us in all its glory.

(Based on addresses of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Likutei Sichos vol. 1, pp. 205-208, and vol. 3, pp. 939-947)


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