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Torah Attitude: Pesach: Elevating the four levels of creation with offerings

Summary

The Ramban's disciple and colleague, Rabbeinu Yitzchok of Acco elaborates at length to explain the words of the Ramban. G'd considers a person's offering as if he offered himself on the altar. Abel brought his offering in an effort to elevate everything in the world and to connect them all. Adam brought his offering to show the animals that they were all created by G'd, and that they owe everything to Him. The thanksgiving offering will be brought even when the time comes when Tikkun Ha'Olam will be complete and man will no longer have an evil inclination, and there will be no need to bring sin offerings to achieve atonement. Cain followed in the footsteps of Eve, causing disunity and separation in every part of creation. By not bringing a Pesach offering and eating it at the Seder, we lack the ability to elevate the four levels of the creation to complete the Seder service.

Explaining the Ramban

We finished last week with Ramban's explanation that the Hebrew word for offering "korban" is from the root word "karev" which means to bring close and unify. The Ramban's disciple and colleague, Rabbeinu Yitzchok of Acco elaborates at length to explain the words of the Ramban.

As if he offered himself

He quotes what it says in Parashas Vayikra (2:1): "And a person who brings an offer." On this verse the Talmud (Menachos 104b) comments that G'd considers a person's offering as if he offered himself on the altar. Last week we mentioned a similar thought in connection with a person who needs atonement, and that this person should realize that whatever happens to the offering should have happened to himself to atone for his sin. But here the Talmud teaches that G'd actually considers it as if the person offered himself on the altar. Rabbeinu Yitzchok of Acco explains that by bringing the offering he subjugates and brings his mind closer to the will of the Almighty. On a deeper level he quotes from the great disciple of the Arizal, Rabbi Chaim Vital (Eitz Chaim 39:1) that the offering has a cosmic effect and elevates the upper worlds and brings them closer together.

Offerings of Cain and Abel

He further discusses the difference between the offerings of Cain and Abel. Abel brought his offering in an effort to elevate everything in the world and to connect them all. He did so to express his recognition that every detail of the world was created and emanates from G'd. In other kabbalistic works (Bnei Yisoschar Rosh Chodesh essays 2:3, Tiferes Shlomo Parashas Yisro and others) it is described how the four levels of creation are all represented in the bringing of an offering. These four levels are hinted at in Tehillim (148:7-12) where it says, "Praise G'd from earth ... the mountains and the hills [representing the inanimate parts of creation] ... fruit trees and all cedars [representing the vegetative parts of creation] ... beast and all cattle, crawling things and winged fowl [representing the animals], kings of the earth and all nations ... elders with youngsters [representing man]." Every offering is sprinkled with salt (see Vayikra 2:13) which represents the inanimate. The wood on the altar represents the plants. The offering itself is an animal and the kohein represents man. This was Abel's intent when he brought his offering, and therefore G'd accepted it and was pleased with him, as it says (Bereishis 4:4): "And G'd turned to Abel and to his offering."

Adam's offering

Cain's offering was very different. He just brought from the fruit of the earth and did his own thing. He did not have in mind to elevate his offering to a higher level like his brother. Rabbeinu Yitzchok of Acco quotes the Zohar (Bereishis 54a) that explains that Abel continued in the ways of his father Adam. The Talmud (Avodah Zorah 8a) relates that Adam got nervous when he saw the first sunset and the world went dark. He was scared that G'd was going to destroy the world, and everything would go back to the way it was before creation, because of his sin. All night he and Eve sat and cried. When the sun rose the next morning he got up and brought a bull as a thanksgiving offering. Rabbeinu Yitzchok explains that besides thanking G'd for creating and maintaining such a beautiful world, Adam had another reason to bring an offering to G'd in front of all creatures. For when all the animals saw how Adam was superior to them, they thought that he was their creator. He therefore decided to bring a bull, the "king" of the domestic cattle, as an offering to G'd, to show that they were all created by G'd, and that they owe everything to Him.

Thanksgiving offering forever

Even at the time when man was not yet permitted to consume the meat of animals, they understood that it was appropriate to bring an animal as a thanksgiving offering to unite the whole creation in acknowledgment of G'd as the Creator and Master of the world. In the same way, the thanksgiving offering will be brought even when the time comes when Tikkun Ha'Olam will be complete and man will no longer have an evil inclination, and there will be no need to bring sin offerings to achieve atonement. As the Midrash Rabbah (Vayikra 9:7) says: "Some time in the future all offerings will be discontinued but the thanksgiving offering." When that time comes we will see the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy (11:6-7): "And the wolf will live together with the sheep and the lion will eat straw like cattle." Life will be like it was in the Garden of Eden, when all animals lived in peace together and received their sustenance from the plants. Who knows if man at that time will again become a vegetarian like Adam and Eve and their descendants till after the Flood (see Malbim Bereishis 1:29).

Cain and Eve

But, says the Zohar, Cain followed in the footsteps of Eve who let herself be enticed by the snake and got Adam to join her in her sin. When they ate of the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil they caused disunity and separation in every part of creation. Instead of unifying everything to please G'd they did their own thing, disobeying G'd's command.

Pesach offering

As we sit down at our seder table on Pesach night, we all try to commemorate the exodus from Egypt to the best of our ability. We eat matzah, the bread of affliction, and maror, the bitter herbs, to remember the slavery and hardships. We drink the four cups of wine in appreciation of our freedom to serve G'd. But despite all the beautiful mitzvos we are able to observe, we must keep in mind that we do not yet have the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of our ancestors to bring a pesach offering and eat it at the seder. Thus we lack the ability to elevate the four levels of the creation to complete the seder service. We express our longing to do so as we say, "now we are here, next year in Jerusalem." May we all merit to do as much as we can now and in the near future be granted to gather in the Temple with the coming of Mashiach.

These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.

These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.

Shalom. Michael Deverett

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