I would like to dedicate this parsha post l’ilui nishmas Rashi Minkowicz, Rashi bas Sara who was taken too soon; an Aishes Chayil and outstanding, devoted shlucha, who touched innumerable lives, ignited Jewish sparks, and left an inspirational and growing legacy.


Parshat Vayikra, the first of many complex portions in the Book of Leviticus which we begin anew…

This week, we open to G-d affectionately calling for Moshe Rabbeinu, to enumerate to him many laws of offerings and sacrifices, beginning with the korban-olah – also referred to as the “burnt-offering” or “elevation-offering.”

דַּבֵּ֞ר אֶל־בְּנֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ וְאָֽמַרְתָּ֣ אֲלֵהֶ֔ם אָדָ֗ם כִּי־יַקְרִ֥יב מִכֶּ֛ם קָרְבָּ֖ן לַֽיהֹוָ֑ה מִן־הַבְּהֵמָ֗ה מִן־הַבָּקָר֙ וּמִן־הַצֹּ֔אן תַּקְרִ֖יבוּ אֶת־קָרְבַּנְכֶֽם:

“Dabeir el-Bnei Yisrael v’amarta aleihem adad ki-yakriv mikem karban la’Hashem min-hab’heima min-habakar umin-hatzon takriv et-karban’chem.”

Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘A man who shall bring near of you an offering to G‑d, from the beast, from the cattle and from the sheep, you shall bring close your offering.'”

{Vayikra 1:2}

How intriguing are the observations of the Chassidic masters on the telling phraseology of the verse!  The Alter Rebbe of Chabad, R’ Schneur Zalman of Liadi zt”l, highlights that the verse does not say “a man of you who shall bring near an offering,” but “a man who shall bring near of you an offering.”  Can you perceive the fine shade of difference?  “Yakriv mikem – bring near of you…”  It expresses the deepest intent of sincere sacrifice.  Let’s delve a little deeper.

The word “korban” is rooted in the Hebrew word “karev,” ‘to draw near.’  Bringing a korban to the Mikdash was an active channel a person could engage in, to forge a deeper bond with G-d.  As in all relationships, we strengthen a bond by giving; and in order to give wholeheartedly, we may have to sacrifice some of our personal wills, fancies and agendas.

The Tanya teaches us that man is made with two souls, characterized by two vastly different inclinations.  The first is the Nefesh Elokis, the G-dly Soul; the second is known as the Nefesh haBahamis, the Animal Soul.  In addition to the  Nefesh haBahamis being the source from which all negative emotions and undesirable traits stem, it is also the relentless and cunning urge for material gratification.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Nefesh Elokis epitomizes the positive; it motivates the Divine attributes reflected within us of understanding, compassion,humility, generosity, harmony, etc.; and it is unwaveringly devoted to G-d and His will, yearning constantly to ascend, and be fully absorbed in its Source as it originally was.  We are taught “Moach shalit al halev – The mind (the G-dly Soul’s headquarters) rules over the heart (the Animal Soul’s control center), and it’s up to every individual human being to consciously choose which soul they wish to hold the reins of their minds, emotions and lives. 

Whenever a person brought a korban, it had to be carried out with the proper kavanah (focus), or the entire thing would otherwise be rendered invalid.  A primary concept of the animal-owner’s kavanah, was a resolve to internally apply and execute a reflection of the sacrifice physically conducted before him.  Along with either a member of his cattle, flock, or, as we’ll learn soon, a certain bird, he was compelled to offer up the animal within himself; he had to set a yoke on and redirect his inner beast with the sensitivity, intelligence and holiness of the G-dly Soul.  Destructive behaviors and single-minded physical cravings would be subdued by their G-d-oriented commander.  Just as a bull harnessed to the plowshare under a wise owner’s direction produces “much grain” to follow, so to the new harmony of the efficacious body clothing the vitalizing soul, under the Divine direction of the Nefesh Elokis, accomplishes a wealth of positive results, in both the worlds  above and below.  The animal sacrifice performed in the Mikdash was simply a corporeal expression of the spiritual transformation taking place within the one bringing the offering.

When Hashem, our dear Father in Heaven, sees how we are growing, and find the ability to sweep the “I,” the “me,” and our egos in general aside, dedicating all we are to the mission He sets down for us, offering up mind and heart, body and soul, for the sake of His Truth… our sacrifices to achieve this ascend as “reiyach nicho’ach la’Hashem – a pleasing aroma to G-d,” and nothing delights Him more.

We all have our personal struggles in life to overcome.  To conquer our worries, fears and negative inclinations, we know we must exert effort.  Every person was blessed with the hidden miracle of a challenge, customized just for them, to nudge them to redefine their limitations; and every person was also blessed with just the tools they need from G-d to succeed.  Following the descriptions of the necessary preparations for a turtledove or young dove as a korban-olah, Rashi points out that Hashem regards a bird-offering as “a satisfying aroma” (pasuk 17) just as He considers an animal-offering one (pasuk 9).  Whether the creature is small or large, it pleases Hashem.  Whether one’s offering is abundant or meager, as long as one carries out the mitzvah l’sheim Shamayim (directing his heart towards Heaven), they win equal favor in Hashem’s eyes.  Whether a person’s individual sacrifices in life appear major or insignificant to the human eye, they both capture a single capacity; they both took a single sort of battle to actualize; they both are identical at their essence.  They both fought their nature, unlocked their G-dly spark, and allowed it to reclaim the reins of their lowlier self.

We immediately transition into chapter two of Sefer Vayikra:

וְנֶ֗פֶשׁ כִּֽי־תַקְרִ֞יב קָרְבַּ֤ן מִנְחָה֙ לַֽיהֹוָ֔ה סֹ֖לֶת יִֽהְיֶ֣ה קָרְבָּנ֑וֹ וְיָצַ֤ק עָלֶ֨יהָ֙ שֶׁ֔מֶן וְנָתַ֥ן עָלֶ֖יהָ לְבֹנָֽה:

“V’nefesh ki-takriv karban mincha la’Hashem solet yihyeh karbani v’yatzak aleyha shemen v’natan aleyha l’vonah.”

“And if a person brings a meal offering to the Lord, his offering shall be of fine flour. He shall pour oil over it and place frankincense upon it.”

{Vayikra 2:1}

Rashi once again elaborates:  Although “nefesh” has been translated as “a person,” it literally means “a soul.”  Why this choice of terminology?  He continues, explaining that in all the cases of a voluntary offering, the only time the Torah uses the word “nefesh – soul” to describe the worshipper is in the instance of a mincha, or meal-offering.  Usually the givers of a mincha of flour, which was less costly than any animals, were impoverished individuals.  However, Hashem declares, “I account if for him as if he has sacrificed his very soul!”  Why?  It’s the effort, devotion and intent that weigh and are most glorified. 

After we cover the opening concept of korban-olah, we slide into the details of the korban-chatas (sin-offering) and korban-shaleim (peace-offering).  I would like to clearly state that I am continuing with the insights of the Chassidic masters from here until noted.

An olah, we are taught, is totally consumed by the fire and risen up in smoke upon the Mizbeyach.  This sacrifice then, represents the aspects of the materiality in our daily lives that we convert and elevate completely into holiness, such as the bodily energy invested in fulfilling mitzvos and mindful Torah study, the money given to tzedakah and the materials manufactured to create a Sefer Torah.  The examples are innumerable!  Also virtually countless are the examples of the ‘neutral’ in gashmiyus, such as fabric for our clothing, delicacies for a gathering, nice furnishings for the home, etc.  These as well can all be elevated as korbanos to G-d, when we utilize them to enhance our serving Him; for when we employ them as a vehicle to welcome G-d into our lower realm, we refinee it as a holy place where His Shechina will find belonging.  Such permissibilities with latent potential are embodied by the remaining meat of other offerings, which was divided between certain people who participated in the sacrifice’s enactment.

The “other offerings” I am presently referring to, are the chatat and shelamim.  Aside from no total-burning, another way the two differ from an olah, is the requirement to extract from the sacrifice specific ventricles of fat – “chalavim” in Hebrew – and their blood.  These were sent up in fire.  The blood is symbolic of our fervid earthly passions; the fat is symbolic of our epicurean pursuits.  Both must be eliminated, nullified before a Higher Power.

(I continue with a connection of my own now:  The wondrous results sparked by korbanos is similar to what the Tanya teaches is achieved by tzedakah.  We learned on Adar 27 (non-leap-year) that tzedakah, in regard to it’s own unique, primary significance, is equivalent to all the rest of the mitzvos, and even simply called “the mitzvah” in the Talmud Yerushalmi.  All the mitzvos are meant to elevate the vitalizing soul (aka Nefesh haChiyonis and Nefesh haBahamis) into a (re)union with G-d, since it is the half of the human soul through which the action of the mitzvah can be effectuated, lofty as the Nefesh Elokis is.  With the performance of most mitzvos, only the faculty of the Nefesh haChiyonis that is engaged in the moment can be elevated.  In contrast, the mitzvah of tzedakah is like no other:  When a person earns money for the labor of their hands, their entire body has been engaged.  When they strengthen themselves against their natural wills, and give away to those in need what they just strove so much to acquire – for that is what Hashem desires – they offer up their entire being, with their personal wills and wants.  “V’ahavta es-Hashem Elokecha b’chal levavcha uv’chal nafsh’cha uv’chal m’odecha – And you shall love Hashem, you G-d, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your resources. {Devarim 6:5}”  For many it’s a struggle, but it’s so very precious; and since it is such a tremendous measure of bittul (self-nullification), it is going to usher in Moshiach, our Sages say  And what if a person does not labor for their pay, but receives it, for example, as an inheritance?  Since he may have desired other worldly goods and used those funds to purchase them, but chose otherwise, Hashem considers it as if he has given the life of his (vitalizing/animal) soul!  This one commandment, connection and deed accomplishes what hundreds of other mitzvos can’t.)

When we recite in Tehillim…

זִֽבְחֵ֣י אֱלֹהִים֘ ר֪וּחַ נִשְׁבָּ֫רָ֥ה לֵב־נִשְׁבָּ֥ר וְנִדְכֶּ֑ה אֱ֜לֹהִ֗ים לֹ֣א תִבְזֶֽה:

“Zivchei Elokim ruach nishbara leiv-nishbar v’nidkeh Elokim lo tivzeh.”

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; O God, You will not despise a broken and crushed heart.”

{Tehillim 51:19}


…the broken spirit and heart King David is alluding to, is the Sitra Achra, our darker “other side,” and the animal that we’ve learned about that must be ‘broken in.’

A message of hope:

הֵיטִ֣יבָה בִֽ֖רְצֽוֹנְךָ אֶת־צִיּ֑וֹן תִּ֜בְנֶ֗ה חוֹמ֥וֹת יְרֽוּשָׁלִָֽם:

“Heitivu virtzoncha et-Tziyon tivneh chomot Yerushalayim”.

“With Your will, do good to Zion; build the walls of Jerusalem”.

{Tehillim 51:20}

And finally, what I’ve been building up to:

אָ֚ז תַּחְפֹּ֣ץ זִבְחֵי־צֶ֖דֶק עוֹלָ֣ה וְכָלִ֑יל אָ֚ז יַֽעֲל֖וּ עַל־מִזְבַּֽחֲךָ֣ פָרִֽים:

“Az tach’potz zivcehi-tzedek olah v’chalil az ya’alu al-mizb’chacha parim.”

“Then You will desire sacrifices of righteousness, a burnt offering and a whole offering; then they will offer up bulls on Your altar.”

{Tehillim 51:21}

I tremble slightly and laugh softly at the wondrous and ever-increasing swiftness of the passage of time, and I realize it was an entire year ago that I wrote my first Parshat Vayikra post, entitled Offer it Up.  I think a great deal about the message imparted there, actually.  We may all appear to be quite varying, externally; Hashem sends everyone unique challenges that mold us into individual characters.  Essentially though, we are all created with an ultimate, unified purpose, and we are all equipped with the same basic tools to fulfill it: a body, and a soul.  Sometimes they wage on a battle field, and sometimes they are unified in a perfect marriage.  That fluctuation is life, I suppose…  For sure, that is our service of Hashem.  Keep learning, dear friends; dream big, never give up on them, but be open to Divine changes in the plan; take time to talk to G-d and your soul; always love yourself, and don’t deny the opportunities that are sent your way to grow; sing and celebrate Torah, and also the little things in life; try your best, always – Hashem is by your side, and that is all you need to do.  Offer it up… you have so much to give!

אֲהַֽלְלָ֣ה שֵׁם־אֱלֹהִ֣ים בְּשִׁ֑יר וַֽאֲגַדְּלֶ֥נּוּ בְתוֹדָֽה:

“Ahal’la shaim-Elokim b’shir v’agadlenu b’todah.”

“I shall praise the name of God with song, and I shall magnify Him with a thanksgiving offering.”

וְתִיטַ֣ב לַֽ֖יהֹוָה מִשּׁ֥וֹר פָּ֗ר מַקְרִ֥ן מַפְרִֽיס:

“V’titav la’Hashem mishor par makrin mafris.”

“And it will appeal to the Lord more than a young bull that is mature, with horns and hooves.”

{Tehillim 69:31-2}


The Messenger Bird

(Footnote: A great deal of this parsha post is based on and inspired by the following article on, please see here.)