The divine service in the Mishkan and in the Beis HaMikdash centered around the task of beirurim, the refining of materiality — through the subduing of man's physical nature, which brings one to the yet loftier goal of transforming darkness into light.

For this reason, one of the modes of divine service in the Sanctuary was the offering of sacrifices.

This was not merely a physical act; the participation of the Kohanim and Levi'im, who accompanied the offerings with their hymns and musical instruments, demonstrates that these sacrifices were a spiritual mode of divine service taking place in a man's soul.

In the personal sphere of a man's service of G‑d, the theme of a sacrificial offering is alluded to in the verse, [Vayikra 1:2.] "A man who shall bring from you an offering to G‑d, — of the cattle, of the herd and of the flock, shall you bring your offering."

The order of the opening words here is problematic.

If the intention of the verse was simply to describe the laws of offering a sacrifice, it would have said, "A man of you who shall bring," and so on. As is well known, however, the transposition ("A man who shall bring from you...") shows that the verse intended to teach a fundamental principle of the sacrifices, insofar as they are carried over into every man's personal service of G‑d.

The opening phrase should thus be understood as follows.

The verb used here for "bringing an offering" is Yakriv, which shares a common root with the verb meaning Karev "to draw near."

And indeed, the function of the sacrifices was to bring one's spiritual faculties and sensibilities closer to G‑d.

The opening Hebrew phrase can thus be understood to speak of a man who seeks to draw near to G‑d.

And the irregular order of the words in the verse now allows it to be interpreted as follows: "If a man wants to bring an offering, i.e., if he wants to draw near to G‑d, then this is from you, dependent on you."

[The possibility and responsibility for the closeness of a man's connection with G‑d lies within himself.]

Let no man say, "How shall I approach G‑d?" He may well know his essential lowliness; he may well realize to what degree he has tainted his soul through improper conduct; he may well grasp the prodigious distance that he has thereby imposed between himself and G‑d. But in answer to his question, the Torah assures him: "Your nearness to G‑d is all from you; it depends only on yourself."

For it is within the reach of every Jew to say, "When will my deeds approach the deeds of my forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov?"

No bounds, blocks or obstacles whatever can prevent a Jew from elevating himself and attaining a closeness to G‑d.

Moreover, "G‑d does not confront His creatures with unfair demands," but bestows His revelation and His light upon each individual according to his capacity.

In the words of Midrash Rabbah, "When I make demands upon them, I do not demand according to My capacity, but according to theirs" — according to each individual's personal potential.

Hence no hindrances can prevent one from rising to attain a closeness to G‑d.

The first lesson, then, that the verse about sacrifices teaches a man who seeks to draw near to G‑d is that the capacity to do so is m-kem "from you," dependent upon himself alone.

The sacrificial object to be offered is not only an actual animal; rather, as three words of our verse teach: mikem korban L'Hashem - "From you shall there be a sacrifice to G‑d."

The object that needs to be sacrificed is the animal within a man's heart, viz., his animal soul.

After stating in general terms that the offering to G‑d is to be brought "of the cattle," the verse proceeds to enumerate the detailed categories of animal that need to be sacrificed: "of the herd and of the flock shall you bring your offering." For every man has his own distinctive task of self-refinement.

One man has to sacrifice an animal nature that is as gross as a goring ox; another has to cope with an animal nature that resembles a sheep — albeit an animal, but at least more docile1.

The verse closes on the same lines: Takrivu Es Korbanchem — "you (plural) shall bring your offering." For each individual has his unique challenge of self-refinement.

When the offering of an actual animal was brought in the Beis HaMikdash, it was sacrificed on the altar.

The Talmud (Yoma 21b) relates that it was consumed by a divine fire that crouched there like a lion.

(Rashi explains that a fiery coal fell from heaven during the time of Solomon.)

So too the Zohar speaks of "a lion that would consume the sacrifices."

This heavenly fire has its counterpart in the divine service that takes place within each man; this is the flame that flares in his divine soul.

This is alluded to in Shir HaShirim: — "Its coals are coals of fire, the flame of G‑d."

Midrash Rabbah (cited in Yalkut) likens this fire to fire from heaven: it does not consume water, nor is it quenched by water.

Similarly, the fiery love of G‑d in the divine soul of a Jew cannot be quenched. This is alluded to in the next verse in Shir HaShirim: "Great waters cannot quench the love, nor can rivers drown it."

The turbulent waters are the worries of making a living and the other confusing disturbances that distract a person from his divine service, from the study of Torah and the observance of the mitzvos.

Despite all these disturbances, rivers cannot drown this fiery love of G‑d, for it resembles heavenly fire that nothing can extinguish.

[Just as a physical offering was consumed by the divine fire on the altar, similarly, in the personal sphere], the offering, which is each individual's animal soul, has to be consumed by his personal divine fire.

In this way the animal soul too will be taught to develop a love for G‑d.

This is hinted at in the wording of a phrase from Shema: "You shall love the L-rd your G‑d with all your heart."

[The word used for "your heart" is not libcha, but Levavcha.]

The doubling of the middle letter [suggests a plural form, and] is thus interpreted by the Talmud to mean [that a man is commanded to love G‑d] "with the whole of your dual heart; i.e., with both your desires," so that the animal soul too will love Divinity.

This comes about through the enclothement of the divine soul within the animal soul.

For initially, the animal soul has no knowledge of Divinity nor any sensitivity for it whatever.

Nevertheless, when the G‑dly soul — which is enclothed in it — meditates on spiritual concepts in a manner in which the animal soul can also comprehend, the animal soul also draws nearer to them.

(As is explained elsewhere, a pervasive impression is thereby made upon it that Divinity is comprehensible.)

This continues to the point that the animal soul is transformed from its bestiality; it is elevated and consumed by the fiery coals of the divine soul's yearning for G‑d [just as an animal offered in the Beis HaMikdash was consumed by the fire of the altar].

[This is the sublimation spoken of in the verse:] "There are many harvests in the strength of an ox."

[I.e., a man can harness the power of his animal soul to the service of G‑d.]

[In the Beis HaMikdash, one of the purposes of the offerings was the refinement of the world.]

The offering of a physical sacrifice caused the G‑dly sparks invested within the mineral, vegetable and animal components of the world to be refined and elevated.

Similarly, the offering of a spiritual sacrifice [within oneself] refines and elevates the animal soul and transforms its darkness into light.

In this manner, "They shall make Me a sanctuary, and I shall dwell within them" — within each individual.

This is accomplished through his divine service of subordinating his animal nature, particularly in a manner that leads to its transformation.

For then, as the Zohar states, "When the sitra achra is subdued, the glory of G‑d rises thereby [and is diffused] throughout all the worlds."

This refers to the revelation of the transcendent light which is called sovev kol almin.


This chapter explains the parallels between the offering of a sacrifice in the Beis HaMikdash and an individual's divine service of self-refinement.

It emphasizes that drawing near to G‑d depends on one's sacrificing something from within himself.

It discusses the fire from above; i.e., the way in which the G‑dly soul, enclothed as it is within the animal soul, teaches it to share in its love of G‑d.