Parshas Pinchas-Likkutei Torah-Teshuvah

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Parshas Pinchas


Tzav Es Bnei Yisrael Veamarta Aleihem…”

[Likkutei Torah p. 150]


This Mamar speaks about the verse in Parshas Pinchas that discusses the Karbanos offered in the Mishkan and Mikdash. Parshas Pinchas is the only Torah portion that discusses all of the sacrifices that were brought on each Holiday. On each Holiday, it is customary to read the relevant Holiday sacrifice as Maftir from this Parsha. Thus the Mamar of this Parsha focuses on understanding the meaning of Karbanos and their effect above. This leads to a very interesting and thought-provoking discussion over the essence of repentance, how it works, why it works, and when it works.


Explorations of the Mamar

1.      The three levels of each Mitzvah in general and of Karbanos in particular.

2.      Why does the verse state that Karbanos specifically appease G-d, as opposed to other Mitzvos, where this is not mentioned?

3.      What does a sinful soul experience in the afterlife?

4.      How does Teshuvah work? Why does G-d accept Teshuvah, and why is it not possible to do Teshuvah in the world to come?

5.      What is the internal difference between the composition of this world and the next world?

6.      What is the effect of a Karban on a person and the world?


The Question:

The verse states, Tzav Es Bnei Yisrael Veamarta Aleihem Es Karbani Lachmi…Veamarta Lahem Zeh Haishe. Why does the verse have to repeat the word Veamarta in the second verse? Isn’t it clearly understood that Moshe is being commanded by Hashem to tell this information to Bnei Yisrael? Why must he be instructed again in each sentence, “and tell them”? This question especially applies, being that the two verses are all one continuation and discussing the same command of the Karbanos!


Every Mitzvah has three parts:

The answer to this is as follows: Every Mitzvah contains three different levels of fulfillment, and every soul must fulfill each Mitzvah in each one of these aspects. The three aspects of fulfillment found in every Mitzvah are, “Thought, speech, and action” [Machshava/Dibbur/Maaseh]. The thought of the Karbanos is Avodas Hatefillah, and the speech of the Karbanos is the learning of the Karbanos in the Torah. The Maaseh of the Karbanos is the actual sacrifice of the Karbanos and their offering on the Altar. This answers the above query of the reason for repeating the word Veamarta: The two verses of Veamarta refer to two different levels of command of Karbanos. The first verse speaks of the Mitzvah of thought and speech within the Karbanos, while the second verse speaks of the Mitzvah of Maaseh of the Karbanos.


Karbanos give a special appeasement to Hashem:

The Torah states in various verses regarding Karbanos that they cause a Reiach Nichoach LaHashem [i.e. a pleasing scent before G-d]. The Sages explain this to mean that Hashem receives satisfaction from the fact that His will was performed [as certainly one cannot say that Hashem receives pleasure from the physical smell of the burning flesh]. Why is this satisfaction unique to Karbanos? Doesn’t Hashem receive satisfaction that His will is performed by all of the Mitzvos that one does? Why is this statement only made in the Torah regarding Karbanos? It likewise remains to be understood why Hashem made the Mitzvah of Karbanos dependent upon the building of the Temple, while the other Mitzvos can be performed even when the Temple is not established. The above can be understood through first introducing the following concepts:


Teshuvah can only be performed in this world:

It states that, Hayom Lasosam Ulemachar Lekabel Sechara, that today we are commanded to do the Mitzvos and tomorrow we will receive their reward. It is only in this world below that we have ability to perform the Mitzvos through our freedom of choice to perform good deeds. Furthermore, if one did a sin he can repent and return to serving G-d. However, in the world to come [in the afterlife] one no longer has freedom of choice, and rather the way he comes into the next world is the way he remains.


The experience of a sinful soul in the next world:

In the next world, man sees revelation of G-dliness and is surrounded by this G-dliness. This causes total subjugation and submission of all the souls towards G-d. Even the Kelipos exist there in a way of Bittul, as they too recognize G-dliness. Nevertheless, one who comes to the next world soiled with sin is unable to control himself to remove his soul from its investment within material matters and animalistic desires. It hence re-experiences all of its emotions and desires that it had when it was invested within the body and animal soul in this world. This is referred to as Kaf Hakele [the slingshot purgatory], as one experiences the lowly thoughts, speech, and action that he had in this world, while experiencing G-dliness at the same time. This is a most embarrassing and shameful moment for the soul above. The reason that this occurs is because the thought, speech, and action of this world garb the soul and become its soiled garments in the world to come, which cover the soul from head to toe. This is the meaning of the Sages that sin accompanies and sticks to the person in the next world.


A parable:

A man wins a leadership position in his country. But there are aspects of his character that are in need of much improvement. He loses his temper easily and can speak words of threat and show anger that even at times leads to physicality on his part. He is fully aware of this fault and knows that he must completely dismiss it from his public life if he desires to remain in a public position with dignity. However, he never properly worked on his character, so when his first challenge arrived when he was in public office against another minister he lashed out and lost his cool. In the midst of the moment, and out of loss of control, he hit the other minister. After calming down and watching the episode on the national news, he was filled with remorse and shame, although not knowing how to fix his actions. He ended up leaving office in shame and disgrace. This is a parable of the experience of the soul in the next world. The sin forces the soul to act in ways that are shameful and against its own will. It is now experiencing the greatest gift of being shown G-d’s light, of being in a revealed relationship with G-d but unable to control his character and forced to do things that shame and embarrass him in the relationship.


The reason why one can no longer repent for his sins in the next world -Understanding the anatomy of the two worlds:

The basic difference between the order of this world and of the world experienced in the afterlife is that in this world good and bad are entangled and mixed. There is no bad without good mixed in with it. This allows for the bad to be turned over into a good purpose. Thus the bad can actually be used for good. This is the power of Teshuvah – that one uses an act that was against G-d’s will for the betterment of serving Hashem. However, in the next world good and bad are distanced and separated. Every level is given its own distinct place, without having another aspect mixed into it. Therefore, where evil exists there is no good that can co-exist there. So if one entered the next world with sin, he remains within that sin and cannot free himself from it. He cannot use it to garner remorse and better his relationship with Hashem and must constantly experience the sin despite the shame involved, as explained in the parable above.

This is similar to the difference between a child during the days of conception and after birth. During conception, the potential child can receive any gender, whether male or female. The seed can be formed in different ways, as is seen from the ruling[1] that within 40 days of conception one can pray for the child to be a male. However, once the child is born its gender is set and unchangeable. Similarly, in this world it is possible to constantly change from bad to good, and one’s bad state is not permanent or set. However, in the next world, one is considered a final product and the way he enters cannot be changed or fixed.


A reflection from daily life:

In a marriage, if a person offended his spouse, it is possible that this offense will create the greatest animosity and distance between the couple. On the other hand, if the couple is mature and serious about their relationship, this offense will create dialogue between them and a plan for change and improvement, thus leading to a stronger and healthier bond between the two. Similarly, in this world, when a man sins he has offended Hashem. However, since in this world good is mixed into the bad, the offense can be used for a reckoning of the soul and repentance from the depths of the heart. This in turn leads the person to a greater bond with Hashem than he had even prior to the sin. The next world, however, is similar to the person that is so stuck to his faulty character that he is not ready or willing to make any improvement or admission of fault, and hence the matter causes great distance and suffering in his marriage. In the next world, one cannot change his sinful character.



Understanding the difference in G-dly revelations between this world and the next world:

The reason why in this world even evil and sin contain potential good through Teshuvah, while in the next world they do not is due to the difference in the spiritual programming of the two worlds. There exist two forms of Divine vitality and life-force behind the creations. One is  limited, contracted, and contains an internal G-dly revelation that is suited and fits exactly to that particular creation. This called Mimalei Kol Almin. The second is a boundless and powerful Divine revelation that is above and beyond the capacities of any creation and hence is not found internally within it, but merely in an encompassing mode. This is called Soveiv Kol Almin. Every creation and level receives from both the Soveiv and Mimalei aspects of Divine vitality. However, in general, only the level of Mimalei is revealed within them. This is the difference between the two worlds: In the world to come, in Gan Eden, they receive a revelation only from the level of Mimalei Kol Almin. In Gan Eden, there exists a revelation of G-dliness on behalf of the souls found there in order for them to receive their Divine reward and pleasure. Being that the souls are bound and limited, so too is the revelation in their world, as otherwise they could not internalize or appreciate it. However, in this world, through fulfilling the Torah and Mitzvos, there is a revelation of Soveiv Kol Almin. This infinite and boundless revelation on the one hand is above our capacities of comprehension, and it is hence not recognized or appreciated. Nevertheless, it gives us the ability to change our ways from bad to good and repent, as to the infinite light darkness is like light and even darkness can be turned into light.

How does one accomplish this? It is not enough to simply perform Torah and Mitzvos to rectify the sin, as this reveals only a general level of Soveiv that does not address the sinful act. To rectify the sin, a person must do Teshuvah. When a person performs Teshuvah, he sends a revelation of Soveiv Kol Almin to the particular sin that he performed. This revelation allows the good within the sin to be revealed, and elevates the evil to its root and source found within holiness. Thus, the above explanation is complementary to that which was explained previously regarding how in this world evil is also mixed with good. This means that due to the aspect of Soveiv Kol Almin, we have the ability to reveal the good source and root of the evil.


A parable:

A wife bought a beautiful 100% silver Kiddush cup for her husband. The cost of the cup was very high, as it was handmade with a special design and engravings. The husband was negligent and caused the cup to become dented and bent out of shape. It eventually became unusable. Needless to say, the couple was not very happy with the outcome of the expensive gift. They tried various methods and ways to try to bang the silver cup back into shape, but nothing would work to regain its original form. The couple saw an ad for a silversmith that did welding of silver, and they decided to bring him the cup. The silversmith used a very high temperature torch to melt the silver and then shape it back into the desired shape. He even offered the couple to handpick the exact shape and designs they desired on the refurbished cup, and in the end they came out with a nicer cup than they had started with. This is a parable of the difference between the two worlds. Metals will retain their specific shapes and cannot be molded until they reach a certain temperature. If one does not have the ability to bring the metal to this temperature, it will remain damaged forever. Once, however, it reaches a certain temperature, the metal will return to a liquid state and be able to be molded to whatever shape one desires. When one sins, he damages the soul. In this world, we have access to a torch, called Teshuvah, Torah, and Mitzvos, that express very “high temperature G-dliness” called Soveiv Kol Almin. This allows one to take a damaged soul, a soiled and sinful soul, and refurbish it to an even better state than it was to begin with. In the next world, however, such a spiritual torch does not exist and hence the soul retains its damaged state.



The significance of a sacrifice and how it causes the light of the Or Ein Sof and Soveiv Kol Almin to be drawn below to one’s soul:

In the previous paragraph, it was explained that this world receives from the infinite light of G-d called Soveiv Kol Almin, and this is what gives a Jew the ability to do Teshuvah and turn evil to good. It is the Torah and Mitzvos that draw this level of Soveiv G-dliness into the world. Nevertheless, this does not suffice. One is also required to draw the Soveiv level of G-dliness into his actual soul. How is this accomplished? Through the action of Karbanos. [The Karbanos draw the Or Ein Sof into one’s actual soul and bring him to an open and revealed experience of G-dliness and elevation. It was customary, when bringing a Karban, to make that day into a Holiday. This is the custom even today, in the month of Nissan, when all Jewry are accustomed to omit Tachanun during these days as a result of the sacrifices brought by our tribal leaders thousands of years ago. The revelation they brought about remains and can be imbued into our souls even today, as is evident from the prayer we recite after reading the Nassi.]

The reason why the Karban has the ability to draw the Or Ein Sof into the soul is because an animal derives from the Yesod of fire, as the four levels of creation, inanimate, vegetation, animal and human, correspond to the four foundations of earth, water, fire, and air, with the animal kingdom corresponding to fire. This is because the root of the animal kingdom in Heaven is the ox on the chariot. The level called “ox” contains a fiery appearance, and from it evolve the souls of all the animals. When the animal is sacrificed and offered on the altar, its soul is elevated above, back to its source in the face of the ox on the chariot, which is also the foundation of fire. This then causes a fire to descend from above to below and consume the sacrifice. Thus, the Karban represents an elevation of an animal soul above and a consequential descent of G-dliness below. This animal soul that is elevated is considered the spiritual food of the world. Just like when we eat meat, it gives us strength and energy and strengthens the attachment of our soul to our body, similarly “the eating of the Karban below” represents the “food” of the upper worlds, which causes an “attachment” [revelation] of G-dliness below. Although all Mitzvos cause G-dliness to be drawn below, as explained above, nevertheless this is only revealed in this world through the actual Karban, being that the Karban comes from the Yesod of fire. [In the next Mamar, the Alter Rebbe explains a different advantage of a Karban, saying that the entire purpose of Mitzvos is to subjugate the “Yeish”, the feeling of self-existence. This was primarily accomplished through the Karban, as there is no greater subjugation of existence then the sacrifice and elevation of the actual soul to G-d.]


Reiach Nichoach LaHashem”:

Through the above, it is understood why specifically the Karban is called “a pleasant scent before G-d”, as the soul of the animal that comes from the Yesod of fire is considered the “food” of the spiritual worlds. Likewise, it is understood why specifically with the Karban, Hashem states that it gives Him satisfaction that His will was performed, as it is specifically the Karban that draws G-dliness into the world in such a revealed fashion and hence fulfills His will of creating a Dirah Betachtonim.  


Q&A on the Mamar

Requires clarification: What exactly does the Karban achieve by drawing G-dliness over the other Mitzvos?

Certainly, all Mitzvos draw G-dliness to the soul, as explicitly mentioned in various places in Chassidus [see Tanya chapter 4-5], including this Mamar. This seemingly contradicts one of the earlier statements of the Alter Rebbe that it is the Karban that draws it actually onto the soul. Perhaps the explanation is as follows: Certainly, also Torah and Mitzvos draw G-dliness into the world and the soul. However it was only the Karbanos that reveal it to the person on a conscious level. Just like the Karban in the Mikdash caused an actual miraculous fire to descend, so too it caused an actual fervent arousal of the soul of the person bringing the Karban. This is unlike Torah and Mitzvos, in which one is not conscious of any G-dliness being drawn down.


It sounds unfair and even cruel that the way to bring the Or Ein Sof down into one’s soul is specifically by slaughtering another creature and sacrificing its blood. If a person wants to be closer to G-d, shouldn’t he do an act of self-sacrifice rather than sacrifice another creature?

The answer to this question deserves a full article in its own right. But the points towards this answer are as follows:

From the person’s perspective, there is self-sacrifice involved in bringing a Karban as: 1) When one brings an animal as a sacrifice he is “sacrificing” a great deal of money [the cost of the animal] for the sake of G-d, and it is no different than the Mitzvah of Tzedaka. 2) When bringing the Karban, one is required to feel as if he were sacrificing his own soul to G-d, which causes him to do a full accounting and betterment of his ways. 3) The Karban revealed a great revelation of G-dliness in his soul and enhanced his service of G-d. Thus the ritual of Karbanos is certainly not, “let us kill an animal to exonerate our sins and continue in our evil ways”. It caused a complete change in the person!

From the animal’s perspective: 1) G-d created everything with a purpose. This is the purpose of the animal. The entire point of its being in existence until the time of its slaughter was only for this purpose. Thus it is certainly justified to allow their slaughter for G-d. This is similar to any parent that decides to have children and give them life, despite the fact that he knows that these children will eventually suffer the pains of death at the end of their days. Life experience until death overweighs the suffering of death. Thinking that doing so is unfair is due to a lack of belief in the Creator of the animal and its purpose. 2) The animal itself receives benefit by being elevated above, back to its source, similar to a soul in Heaven.[2]



Lessons of the Mamar

1.      Understand the meaning of Karbanos and increase in concentration when reciting the Karbanos prior to prayer.

2.      Recognize the great gift of Teshuvah that G-d gives us in this world, and how a sinner may turn the sin into benefit. Don’t let sin hold you back from strengthening your relationship with Hashem.

3.      Understand that in this world, one’s character can and must change, as this is the character that will follow us to the next world. Devise a plan for self-improvement that will lead to a refined personality and clean thoughts.




[1] Michaber 230/1

[2] There are some later Gaonim who have learned that animals receive compensation for their suffering in the next world [and seemingly this should apply as well to the inanimate and vegetation in accordance to their opinion]. Nonetheless, this is not the approach of classic Judaism [as explained in Rambam, and places in Chassidus, that reward and punishment are only given to those which have freedom of choice.] However, the spark of holiness that is in every creation does receive reward and elevation for their service and suffering. [See Likkutei Torah Rei 56; Iggros Hakodesh 1 letter on Hashgacha Pratis.]

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