Likkutei Sichos-Parshas Tzav: The night Jew versus the Day Jew-Battling your inner demons & Giving up your lusts and pleasures to G-d

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Parshas Tzav

Battling your inner demons & Giving up your lusts and pleasures to G-d-The night Jew versus the Day Jew

(Likkutei Sichos Vol. 3)

This week’s Parsha, Parshas Tzav, discusses many of the laws and details relating to the offerings, incorporating a total of 18 commands. In this talk, the Rebbe delves into the law regarding the times that the limbs and fats of the offering may be brought onto the altar once they are slaughtered, and until what time the meat of the offering may be eaten by the priests. According to biblical law, the fats and limbs of the offering may be brought to the altar up until daybreak. The question is raised regarding whether there is a rabbinical injunction which initially requires the limbs to be offered prior to midnight. The Rebbe records a dispute between Rashi and the Rambam in this matter, and goes into the reasonings and defenses of each approach. In the suggested defense of the Rambam’s position, the Rebbe novelizes that there exist two aspects in the command of bringing the fats and limbs of the offering onto the altar, with one only relevant during daytime and the second relevant during nighttime. The Rebbe then deduces a lesson in a Jew’s divine service which corresponds to the above mitzvah that was fulfilled with the temple sacrifice. The fats which were offered onto the altar represent the pleasures that a Jew has in his involvement in worldly matters as well as his involvement in all matters which can bring personal gain, whether they be physical or spiritual. A Jew is then commanded to offer all of these pleasures to G-d, so that all of his pleasures involve only his attachment to G-d alone. However, not every Jew is able to be successful to reach this level. The Rebbe explains that some Jews are defined as night Jews, or Jews who need to battle the evils of the night, and offer the night fats to the altar. This creates the concept of a night Jew versus that of a day Jew, in reference to the different divine purposes and missions that each Jew has in this world. What is the advantage of this divine service of the night Jew, and how does it motivate a Jew to battle his personal demons, is what will be discovered at the end of this talk.


Explorations of the Sicha:

  1. Until when may the fats and limbs of the offerings be brought to the altar? Must they be brought during the daytime? May they be brought past midnight, until daybreak?
  2. What two aspects of the command are fulfilled when one offers the fats and limbs onto the altar, and how do they correspond to daytime versus nighttime?
  3. What is demanded of a Jew in his offering of his personal fats to G-d?
  4. What is the difference between a Jew who has day battles versus a Jew who has night battles?

1. When are the limbs of the offering to be offered upon the altar-during day or during night?

On the opening verse of the Parsha, “And this is the teaching of the Olah which is placed on the altar throughout the night until the morning,” Rashi explains that it is coming to teach us that it is valid to offer onto the altar the fats and limbs of the offering throughout the entire night. This explanation of Rashi is true only in the event that the day has already passed, and for whatever reason one has not brought the limbs of the offering onto the altar. However, initially one is required to bring the limbs and fats of the offering onto the altar while it is still daytime.[1] If for whatever reason this was not done, then the verse teaches us that it is permitted to bring the fats and limbs to the altar during nighttime, so long as the sacrifice was slaughtered already during the day. We will now discuss whether during nighttime there is a preference to offer the fats and limbs prior to midnight, or if even initially it may be offered until daybreak.

2. Must one offer the limbs and fats prior to midnight?

From a biblical perspective, it is clear that one may offer the fats and limbs of the offering onto the altar throughout the entire night, until daybreak. However, the question is raised as to whether rabbinically there is an initial requirement to make sure that it is offered prior to midnight. We find in the first Mishneh in Tractate Brachos that in certain cases the sages made a decree that although a particular mitzvah can be fulfilled throughout the night, one is required to fulfill it prior to midnight, lest one come to forget and not fulfill it at all. Now, the question is raised as to whether this decree likewise applies towards the offering of the fats and limbs of the sacrifice onto the altar. Although the verse explicitly states that it is valid to offer it throughout the night, perhaps the sages decreed that it must initially be done prior to midnight. So, this matter is debated amongst the Rishonim.

The debate in the Rishonim:

According to Rashi[2], the sages never extended this decree to the offerings on the altar, and hence if the fats and limbs of the offering were not offered during daytime then they may even initially be offered any time during nightfall, even after midnight. However, according to the Rambam[3], the sages extended their decree to this case as well, and hence in his opinion one is rabbinically required to bring the fats and limbs of the sacrifice onto the altar prior to midnight.

The reason of Rashi:

As for the reason why Rashi learns that by the bringing of the fats and limbs to the altar the sages did not extend their decree to do so before midnight, one can explain that this is due to the fact that the verse explicitly states that it is permitted to offer them throughout the night, as the verse states “throughout the night until morning.” In other words, the sages can only make a decree to limit a given mitzvah to be done prior to midnight even though biblically it may be done until daybreak, if Scripture does not explicitly state otherwise. If, however, Scripture explicitly states that it is permitted to perform the mitzvah until daybreak, then the sages do not have the power to make a decree on it and limit the ability until midnight.[4] Hence, since by the offering of the fats and limbs to the altar, Scripture explicitly states that it may be done until daybreak, therefore says Rashi, the sages did not apply their decree in this command.

The defense of the opinion of the Rambam:

In defense of the Rambam’s position against the above argument of Rashi, one can explain that he holds the while the Torah permits one to offer the limbs of the sacrifice until the morning, since it does not command one to do so and simply gives the option of allowance, therefore the sages have the power to make a decree in such a case. According to the Rambam, it is only in a case where Scripture explicitly commands something that the sages cannot make a decree which contradicts it. However, to make a decree in a case that the Torah simply allowed the matter but did not obligate it, is within their jurisdiction. However, what remains to be understood is why the bringing of the limbs and fats to the altar until daybreak is not viewed as an actual command and is a mere matter of “allowance”, as indeed if for whatever reason one did not do so during the daytime he is commanded to do so until daybreak, and it thus retains the status of a command and not just one of mere allowance. Thus, here too the rule should apply even according to the Rambam that the sages do not have authority to make a decree in such a case.

To understand this matter in defense of the Rambam we must first introduce the law regarding the eating of the meat of the sacrifices by the priests.

3. The mitzvah for the priests to eat from the offerings:

Just as there is a command and mitzvah to offer the limbs and fats of the animal to the altar, so too there is a command and mitzvah for the priests to eat from the offering [such as by a peace offering in which the priest received portions of the meat to eat]. These two “eating’s” are in fact learned from the same verse in Scripture which states[5], “and if Haochel Yochal.” The Talmud[6] states that the double wording of “Haochel Yochal” refers to two types of eating’s; one the eating of the altar, and the second the eating of the priests. The Talmud then compares their laws to each other, stating that laws which are written regarding the offering on the altar likewise apply regarding the eating of the priests. Hence, also regarding the eating of the priests we find that they are required to eat it during daytime. They are required to eat it on the day that the offering is sacrificed, and may not leave leftovers until the next day, similar to the ruling of the offering of the fats and limbs on the altar. Now, this eating of the priests would fulfill to two precepts: 1) A positive command to eat the meat on time, and just like one recites a blessing over every positive command so too the priest would recite a blessing prior to eating the meat. 2) avoiding transgressing the command against leaving leftovers. There are various ramifications between the two aspects, such as while the positive command of eating the meat contains details of how it is to be eaten, the command to not leave leftovers is fulfilled even if one did not eat the meat with the necessary conditions fulfilled. Now, just as we find two aspects regarding the eating of the sacrifice by the priests, so too we can deduce that there are two aspects in the command to offer the fats and limbs onto the altar, one being the positive command to offer the limbs onto the altar, and the second being the command to not leave leftovers.

4. At night, there is no command to offer the limbs but simply a command to not leave leftovers:

Based on the above, we can now explain the position of the Rambam, and as to why he holds that the sages have the power to decree that the limbs must initially be offered onto the altar before midnight, despite the fact that the verse explicitly allows it to be done until daybreak. According to the Rambam, the positive mitzvah of offering the fats and limbs onto the altar can only be fulfilled until nighttime, and if one does not do so he does not fulfill this mitzvah. However, the command which prohibits leaving leftovers of the sacrifice can be fulfilled until morning, and it is this command that the verse speaks of when it says that the limbs may be offered throughout the night until morning. Accordingly, it ends up that there is no actual positive command to offer the limbs during the night but simply a command to avoid a prohibition. Therefore, the Rambam is justified in learning that the sages applied their decree in this case as well and stated that the limbs must be offered prior to midnight, as the Torah does not refer at all to a positive command in the above statement, and simply gives the parameters of until when the prohibition of leftovers can be avoided.

5. The lesson that we must learn from the offering of the fats to the altar:

The Ramban[7] states that when a person brings a sacrifice as an atonement, it only works as an atonement if he contemplates the fact that this offering should have been him, and he thinks of all the different things that were done to the sacrifices as if it was done to him. It is only due to G-d’s infinite kindness, that he allowed one to switch his own body for that of the animal. Accordingly, we must derive a personal lesson in divine service from the fact that the fats of the animal were brought to the altar.

6. Fat corresponds to pleasure, which one must give up to G-d:

From the fact that G-d commanded us to offer the fat of the animal onto the altar, we learn that also a person must dedicate his “fat” and pleasures to G-d. There are two ways in which this can be fulfilled, one being with the removal of pleasures from worldly matters, and the second being with the experience of pleasure in service of G-d. When one performs worldly matters that naturally contain pleasure in them in a way that he does not focus on the pleasure but rather on the service of G-d that is involved in it, and hence he does not perform the action of pleasure if it does not involve a G-dly purpose, then it is considered that he is offered his pleasures to G-d. The second form of fulfilling the above command of handing one’s pleasures to G-d is that when one serves G-d he does so with joy and pleasure, hence handing his pleasures to G-d. Nonetheless, we can learn the following lesson regarding this pleasure that one has in his G-dly service, that it contains a prerequisite in order to be assured that it is truly a G-dly pleasure and not one of his own animal soul.

7. Handing even one’s spiritual pleasures to G-d:

The law states that a priest is not allowed to eat from the meat of the sacrifices until the fats and limbs of the sacrifices were offered onto the altar. This same law can be applied as well to the pleasure that one experiences in his service of G-d. When one experiences pleasure in his service of G-d it is possible that this is truly the pleasure of his animal soul, which is being experienced under the guise of service of G-d. [For example, one who embellishes in eating a delicious Shabbos meal can fool himself to believe that he’s doing so for the sake of G-d in order to hand over his pleasures to G-d, when in truth his main motivation is the pleasure of his abdomen and animal soul.] How then does one truly ascertain his motivations and intents? That is through first handing over all of one’s pleasures to G-d, as stated in the first method above. When one removes himself from worldly pleasures in order to save all of his pleasures for G-d, then he can be assured that the pleasure he receives in his service of G-d is truly from the G-dly soul. However, it does not suffice that one simply removes himself from the worldly pleasures involving worldly matters, but he must also remove himself from the pleasures involving spiritual matters.

For example, the study of Torah naturally carries with it a certain element of intellectual pleasure. This pleasure can be found in one’s unique in-depth understanding of any given Torah subject, and the novelties that he comes up with as a result. The prerequisite that needs to be fulfilled in order to ascertain that this pleasure that he feels in his Torah novelties is truly a G-dly pleasure, is to hand over his personal intellectual pleasure to G-d. Meaning, that if he sees that his conclusions run contrary to the accepted rulings and teachings of the previous rabbis and Poskim, Rishonim and Achronim, then he gives up these pleasures and buries these novelties, and tries to come up with Torah novelties that are symmetric and complimentary with the teachings of the previous authorities and the final rulings of Halacha. In other words, in one’s Torah learning he gives up his personal ambitions and pleasures that they may contain, and structures himself to abide by the final conclusions of the previous authorities and only novelize ideas that do not contradict their final conclusions, and on the contrary, complement them. The reason for this is because the rulings of the previous authorities that have been accepted amongst the Jewish people, Rishonim and Achronim, are considered the final will of G-d, and any Torah novelty that is contrary to these conclusions is to be given up for the sake of G-d.

8. Offering one’s pleasures to G-d during daytime versus during nighttime:

The two different aspects of offering one’s pleasures to G-d, one being that one abstains from worldly pleasures, and the second being that one ascertains that even his pleasures in mitzvah’s are for the sake of G-d, correspond to the two different aspects in the command of offering the fats and limbs onto the altar. Earlier, we explained that the offering of the fats to the altar during daytime contains an intrinsic positive command to do so, while their offering at night is in order to fulfill the command to avoiding leftovers. These two aspects correspond to the two aspects in divine service of handing one’s fats and pleasures to G-d. The offering of fats at night to avoid leftovers corresponds to one’s handing over his worldly pleasures to G-d which is done in order so he does not give leftover energy to the evil side, which is metaphorically referred to as darkness and nighttime. The intrinsic positive command of offering the fats during the day corresponds to handing over to G-d even one’s pleasure in the fulfillment of mitzvah’s, which is metaphorically referred to as light and day.

Now, the goal of handing over one’s physical and spiritual pleasures to G-d is so one can reach a state of true pleasure of his G-dly soul when it connects and bonds with the divine. So long as one retains some level of pleasure and desire for the physical pleasures involved in worldly matters and in his spiritual service, he cannot properly feel and appreciate the true pleasures of his G-dly soul in his divine service. [However, once he offers all of his pleasures to G-d involving both his worldly and spiritual matters, then the pleasures that he feels in his divine service is a true pleasure that is considered a mitzvah, and by him experiencing these pleasures it is similar in sanctity to the pleasure found in the eating of the sacrifices by the priests which fulfilled an intrinsic mitzvah.]

We will now discuss whether it is truly possible for all Jews to reach this very high level of G-dly pleasure, of pleasure of the G-dly soul.

9. The night Jew versus the day Jew:

G-d created many different types of Jews with different souls and missions. While every Jew must offer his fats to G-d, not all Jews merit to fulfill both divine services of offering their fats to G-d, the night fats and day fats, and some Jews have to focus mainly on their night fats. Some Jews have a greater battle in restraining their pleasures that deal with the physical world, which metaphorically refers to the night fats. By such Jews, their entire mission is to battle these pleasures and offer the fats and pleasures of worldly matters to G-d, which is spiritually metaphoric to nighttime, and corresponds to the offering of the fats during the night. Such Jews are not able to properly reach a level of spiritual pleasure in their divine service being that they are too busy fighting during the night. [We can refer to these Jews, as night Jews.] Other Jews have a much easier time suppressing their worldly pleasures, and their main mission and focus is to achieve true spiritual pleasure in their divine service. [These Jews can be referred to as day Jews.]

On a deeper level, even a Jew who does not face much challenge in pleasures of the physical world, may still be considered a night Jew, if his divine service is tainted with self-pride and personal gain, which is also a personal fat and pleasure that has nothing to do with G-d. The main mission of this Jew may be to battle and eradicate his ulterior motives that stain his divine service, and as a result of this battle he too may not be able to properly experience true divine pleasure in his service of G-d. From this perspective, he too is defined as a night Jew, as he is involved in battling his “personal demons” that appear during his divine service. A true “day Jew” is one who does not face strong battle of personal pleasures in either his physical or spiritual activities, and who has the emotional freedom to focus on the quality of his divine pleasure in G-d.

The above may seem quite dissuading and make one feel despondent about his divine service, causing most Jews to believe themselves to be night Jews. Hence, the Rebbe now offers a perspective of advantage of a night Jew over a day Jew.

10. The advantage of the night Jew over the day Jew:

Although the night Jew seems to be at a disadvantage being that he needs to battle the pleasures and evils of the world and of his own animal soul, in truth, he contains an advantage over the day Jew, as the entire purpose of the descent of the soul below to this world is to fulfill this mission. In heaven, prior to the descent of the soul into the physical body, the soul experienced great pleasure in his attachment to G-d, and was already in the state of a day Jew. The whole purpose of the dissent below is so we receive the new mission of becoming a night Jew, and battling the physical pleasures of the world and of his animal soul. Through doing so and being successful in this battle he actually reaches a level of revelation of G-dliness that is much higher than that which his soul experienced prior to its descent below. This advantage of the night you is hinted in the verse discussing the night offering of the fats. The verse states that it may be offered throughout the night, until morning. Morning represents daylight and hence Scripture is telling us that when a person does his night service of offering the night fats, then eventually he will reach morning and divine revelation which cannot be reached even by the day offerings of the day Jew.


Lessons of the Sicha-Don’t be despondent over your personal demons and struggles:

Some people may face unique personal struggles in matters relating to their character, or lusts for pleasures of the physical world. Often, these struggles, and especially one’s failures in controlling them, leads one to believe that he is a terrible person and terrible Jew, whom G-d looks upon with disdain and disappointment. In truth, the fact that you have these personal struggles, battles, and failures, is itself a sign that this is precisely why G-d put you here, to battle these challenges and offer your pleasures and emotions to G-d. All it means is that G-d chose for your soul to be a night Jew, to fulfill the mission of battling the darkness of the physical world, and as in all battles sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. It doesn’t matter if you fail a single battle within the war, so long as you get back up to continue fighting until the finish line. This night mission of the night Jew contains an advantage over the day Jews who don’t have these struggles, as specifically this battle and mission is able to bring the ultimate revelation of G-dliness that we will all enjoy in the times the redemption.


[1] Menachos 72a; Rambam Maaseh Hakarbanos 4:3

[2] Rashi Brachos 2a

[3] Rambam Maaseh Hakarbanos 4:2; Temidim Umusafim 1:6

[4] See Taz end of 588 and Y.D. beginning of 117

[5] Vayikra 7:18

[6] Zevachim 13a

[7] Ramban Vayikra 1:9

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