Friday, July 06, 2007

Pinchas 5631 Second Ma'amar

... אֶת-קָרְבָּנִי לַחְמִי ... תִּשְׁמְרוּ לְהַקְרִיב לִי .../… Take care to offer me my offering of my food …” What is the significance of sacrifice?

Everything in the physical Creation has a spiritual source. The ultimate source, of course, is God Himself. This spiritual source is the channel through which God bestows blessing on the physical creation. The structure of the Creation, physical and spiritual, though, is such that there are blockages which prevent this.

How can these blockages be overcome? One of the ways is through sacrifice[1]. The Hebrew word for sacrifice is korban. The root of this word means to draw near. The korban is a means of drawing everything to its source. By offering a sacrifice to God we clarify that He is the ultimate Source. The realization and belief removes the blockages, elevates and draws us close to Him.

For this reason Chazal established our daily prayers based on the times of the daily sacrifices. They wanted to teach us that just as the sacrifices draw the physical close to its spiritual source, so too, prayer draws us closer to God. By asking God for everything, big or small, we recognize that He is the Source of everything. The very act of prayer with this intent removes the blockages that separate the physical from its spiritual source.

On Shabbos there is an additional prayer corresponding to the additional korban that is brought. The significance of the additional korban is tied to the relationship between Shabbos and the preceding weekdays. When we work to serve God during the week, we experience the results on Shabbos. The reward for our labors during the week is a spiritual experience of closeness to God on Shabbos. It is easy and natural to think that we deserve this experience, that it is payment for our weekday work. This is a mistaken line of thought, though. God owes us nothing. Just as the weekday korban and, by extension, the weekday prayers teach us that everything comes from God and we make that clear by asking Him for everything, large or small, the additional korban, and by extension, the additional prayer teach us that even that which we merit through our hard work in serving God, we receive only because this is His desire.

[1] “Sacrifice,” the English translation for the Hebrew korban misses the underlying meaning of the concept. Sacrifice implies that in order to receive, something must be given up. While this may be the case, it is also possible to sacrifice without receiving anything. Korban, though, teaches us what actually happens every time a korban is brought.

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