This week’s portion begins by describing the various sacrifices and their functions. The first offering that is mentioned is called the“Korban Olah—Whole Burnt Offering/ Ascending Offering.” This sacrifice represents the idea of a person giving their entire being to the service of God. In past emails I have related the idea that the person offering the sacrifice was doing a physical act in order to show an inward, spiritual transformation. Sacrifices without heart change are regarded by God as worthless; in fact, He rebuked King Saul, speaking through the Prophet Samuel in 1Samuel 15:22 saying, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD?” Sacrifices are good, but a heart of obedience is better. The verse in 1 Samuel continues by saying, “Hineh, Shomea M’Zevach Tov—Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.” 

However, Xus Casal points out that the words Hineh, Shomea M’Zevach” could be read as “Behold, obedience [comes] from sacrifice.” Obedience demands sacrifice. Not necessarily animal sacrifice. But obedience to God means rejection of oneself. What is obedience only for the sake of convenience? True obedience equals sacrifice; for what is something worth apart from sacrifice? Now some people have the misconception that sacrifices were necessary for God to draw near to His people. However, it is in fact the complete reverse; the sacrifices were never for God to draw near to people, they were for people to draw near to Him. These boring, dry and seemingly obsolete chapters in Leviticus concerning the sacrifices actually have much to offer in terms of how to come before the King of the Universe.

So let us now return to the “Korban Olah—Whole Burnt Offering/Ascending Offering.” We begin this portion with the words, “Then the Lord spoke to Moses…‘This is the law of the burnt offering: The burnt offering shall be on the hearth upon the altar all night until morning, and the fire of the altar shall be kept burning on it.’” From this we ascertain that this whole burnt offering was to be on the altar “all night” until it was entirely consumed.
The “Whole Burnt Offering” represented the complete surrender of an individual’s life to God. Within Judaism, a person is viewed as having the capability to be a “Temple” or a “Mishkan—Dwelling Place” for God. Each different sense and organ of the human body is found paralleled by a vessel and/or function found in the service of the Tabernacle. The bronze sacrificial altar is equated with, in the words of Chabad Rabbi Shraga Sherman, “the essence of the soul in each and every [Godly person].” The bronze altar can be also related to “the digestive system and other ‘functional’ organs” (Based on the teaching of the Lubavitcher Rebbe). The bronze altar is the “innermost being of a person.” The depths of an individual are found in the “kishke—guts” of that person. What a person puts into the depths of their body is what is important to them, whether that be immoral pleasures, alcohol, victuals or any of the other various addictive vises. The “gut” of a person is also known as the “natural instinct” of an individual. The gut, or, altar within a person’s life wants sacrifices. This is why it says in the Psalms, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise.” 

God wants us to offer up our innermost being to His service. The very “essence” of our soul should be given over to God as a Whole Burnt Offering with nothing left over.Because the Temple remains desolate the ability to do the physical offerings are currently impossible. However, the offering of the heart (Psalm 51), the sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13) and the fruit of our lips (Hosea 14) are what we can give to God today. In the Midrash it comments “that if a person repents, it is regarded as if he had gone up to Jerusalem, rebuilt the Temple and the Altar, and brought on it all the offerings of the Torah” (Chumash Stone Edition). The power of repentance is the oft forgotten key in this day and age; it unlocks the potential of those who will receive it. In today’s world, the modern “cancel culture” plaguing the United States is because of an inability to forgive people for past mistakes (real or imagined). It was only after I saw these horrid on goings that I truly understood the verse from the Psalms, “But there is forgiveness with You (God), that You may be feared.” 

The modern culture is feared because of a lack of forgiveness, God is feared because of His forgiveness. Both are feared, one from a place of dread, the other from a place of awe. We should be those in awe of the Awesome One.Returning to the subject of the Whole Burnt Offering. We read in this portion, “the fire of the altar shall be kept burning,” it was meant to be an “esh tamid—eternal flame.” It stresses this point, stating it 3 times in only 5 verses. What significance does an eternal flame upon the altar have for us? This is the question we must ask ourselves: When we make a spiritual sacrifice to God, do we keep the fire of that sacrifice alive? Do we allow, as it says in the Midrash, “mitzvah goreret mitzvah—one good deed [to] bring another good deed?” Such is the meaning of the eternal flame. It adds that the sacrifice should be “upon the altar all night until morning.” Our past sacrifices should keep the flame of our hearts burning throughout the cold and dark times we all face. Every morning in fact, the first morning ritual done in the Holy Temple was the removal of the ashes and stoking of the coals on the altar. How do you start your day? Does your first morning ritual involve fanning the flame of God in your life? It says in Leviticus 6:12, “V’HaEsh Al-HaMizbe’ach Tukad Bo Lo Tichbeh— And the fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not be put out.” This phrase Tukad Bo” could be translated as “shall be kept burning inside of him.” 

This wouldn’t make sense in any English translation, until we consider the spiritual altar of sacrifice within each of us. The fire of God in our life should be “Tukad Bo—always burning” inside of each individual’s innermost parts.I heard a good illustration regarding keeping the fire alive in our life (Live Kabbalah Podcast). Imagine your life as an Industrial Kitchen with all the latest and greatest equipment. It’s the type of kitchen that could serve a King. What if you did everything right except for one thing, you failed to take out the trash, what would happen? Over time trash would collect in your kitchen; the quality of service and taste of the food would plummet dramatically. What once had started as a beautiful kitchen has now become nothing better than a garbage heap. The moral of this story is if you don’t burn your trash, you will never discover the amazing high-tech kitchen underneath. Most people look at their life and just see the garbage; they never look deeper to find their true selves. By daily igniting the fire of God in one’s own personal life, it will keep the clutter, garbage and trash of the world from piling up.  Now I know I brought up the idea of Chametz—Leaven last week.

But since we are entering into the Passover Week I wanted to expound just a bit more on this topic. Regarding the festival of Passover God tells the Israelites, “For seven days you must eat unleavened bread. On the first day you are to remove the leaven from your houses. Whoever eats anything leavened from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel” (Exodus 12). Last week I wrote that leaven represented Laziness or Pride. Generally speaking, leaven represents “Sin.” I did some quick research and here was a fun fact about leavened bread. According to Howard Miller, a food historian and professor at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, “The first-known leavened bread made with semi-domesticated yeast dates back to around 1000 B.C. in Egypt.” (Live Science) There is also a type of bread going back in history called Al-Shamsi bread. [It] is considered an inheritance from [the] times [of the Pharaohs] when the ancient Egyptians were among the first to produce bread.” Ancient Egypt was the Bread Basket of the Middle East (Think about Joseph’s story). Leavened Bread could have very likely been an Egyptian invention! When God brings the Children of Israel out from Egypt, He makes a clear distinction. The bread of Egyptian slavery is not the bread of freedom!
But not only should the Israelites not eat leaven during Passover; God also continually and explicitly states in the Torah, “You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leavened bread” (Exodus 23) “No grain offering which you bring to the LORD shall be made with leaven” (Leviticus 2) and “[The Grain Offering] shall not be baked with leaven” (Leviticus 6). While unleavened bread is water/oil and flour baked in less than 18 minutes; Leavened bread takes more ingredients and effort. Leavened Bread is a process; it takes work, time and dedication. Here’s an idea I got from Aleph Beta. Nothing is wrong with leavened bread, however, it is easy to look at something we have dedicated a lot of time and energy into and say to our-self and others “look at what I have accomplished!” It is good when people put energy into new ideas and inventions. However, the further away one gets from the original ingredient, the further away one can get and the easier it can become to forget the Creator of that ingredient.

This is a dangerous pitfall for all of humanity. God gave the entire world to humanity to explore, improve and build upon. But man wanted to “be like God.” There is nothing wrong with improving and creating; but when your creation leads you to think of yourself as the source of that creation, you forget the God above who gave us everything necessary for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness! Matzah for Passover and unleavened Bread at the altar are reminders of God’s goodness from the very beginning of time. When we eat unleavened bread we remember the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the One who at one time brought the entire Israelite nation out from the land of Egypt and has today “kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season!”

Chag Samaech/Happy Holiday,
Grace and Peace from God’s Bondservant,
Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel

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