Thursday, January 9, 2014

(Updated) Sacrifices, Prayer, and Creating a Dwelling Place for G-d in the Lowly Realms: Explaining Chassidic/Kabbalistic Concepts Based on the Writings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

In the Rebbe's first Ma'amar as rebbe for the Torah Portion of Pinchas, for Shabat Mevarchim Menachem Av (the Shabat that blesses the Jewish month of Av), 5711, the Rebbe delves deeply into the meaning behind the Temple sacrifices and how they relate to prayer.

The Rebbe first points to an apparent contradiction: the Torah makes clear that sacrifices are the key aspect of Divine service, yet the Torah also states that listening to/obeying Hashem is more important than sacrifices. The Rebbe also states that we must better understand the nature of sacrifices themselves. As our sages ask, "If a person sinned, what sin did the animal commit?" 

The explanation of the latter question is that atonement comes when a person meditates on the fact that everything that is now happening to the animal was meant to be happening to him. This is also the concept of prayer being done in the place of sacrifices. 

The Alter Rebbe explains in Likutei Torah that the Olah sacrifices (the burnt elevation offering) involved the sacrificing of flesh, sinews, and bones. Bones are connected to the brain, while the flesh is connected to blood and to the heart. Prayer replaces sacrifices in the sense that concentrating on the nullification of the worlds before G-d is connected to the service of the mind, while arousing the emotional attributes (middot) linked to love and fear is connected to the service of the heart. The Rebbe then states that to some extent there is an advantage of prayer over sacrifices, but sacrifices are just "as if" what happens to the animal happens to the person, while through prayer affects the person's soul directly.

Still, we see that sacrifices are higher than prayer, in that we ask that our prayers be accepted [as sacrifices] and that the Temple be speedily rebuilt and that we may bring actual sacrifices soon. The reason sacrifices are higher is because the holy spark found in the animal comes from a higher source. As we've mentioned before, the lower something is found in Creation, the higher its spiritual source. 

The Rebbe then asks, that if this is the case, then the sacrifices brought in the First and Second Temple should be higher than those brought in the Third Temple, when "the spirit of unholiness will have been removed from the land." At the same time, on a purely spiritual level, prayer should remain higher than Third Temple sacrifices as well. Yet, we see that the Third Temple sacrifices are in fact the highest in all respects. This also requires further explanation.

To understand all of this, it is important to begin by explaining that the purpose of the Creation of all the worlds was that Hashem desired a home in the lowest realms. (Midrash Tanchuma) A home means a place, just like it is for people, when a person's complete essence and substance can be found. The essence of the Ein Sof was to be found there, like our sages' explanation [expounded in the last Ma'amar of the Previous Rebbe] of the verse in the Song of Songs, Bati LeGani, "I've come to My Garden." Gani should be read Gnuni, My wedding canopy. Hashem's essence could be found in this lowly world.

The main service that makes for a dwelling for Hashem in this world is that of sacrifices. In the Garden of Eden, Adam is told to work it and to keep it. The same terminology for "to keep" (LeShamrah) is used regarding sacrifices, "Tishmeru Lehakriv." Sacrifices remove the masks and hiddeness of Hashem, to the extent that G-dliness becomes completely revealed. The animal sacrifices would be consumed by a Heavenly fire. The sacrifices would reach to the "Razah d'Ein Sof," the secret of "the Infinite," higher even to how Hashem is usually referred to in Kabbalah, Ohr Ein Sof (the "Light of the Infinite").

Sacrifices in in Gan Eden also had a higher aspect than those of the times of the Temple, because in Gan Eden there was no evil in the world. The sacrifice's soul purpose was to bring Hashem in the world, and not for the purposes of elevating the fallen sparks after Adam and Eve at from the Tree of Knowledge, which introduced evil into the world and forced them out of the Gan Eden.

Nevertheless, spiritual service after the giving of the Torah contained a higher aspect than the one in Gan Eden. Before the giving of the Torah, the higher worlds and this world were completely separate. The physical could not become spiritual. Once the Torah was given, this barrier disappeared. The giving of the Torah was the bringing down of Hashem's essence, within the Torah itself.

We now see how the sacrifices of the Third Temple will be the ideal. They will have the advantage of the times of the Garden of Eden when there was no evil in the world and their entire purpose was to bring Hashem closer, while at the same time being able to fully bring down Hashem's essence because the barrier that separated the higher worlds from this one was removed at the time of the giving of the Torah.

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