The Selfless Fuel of Sacrifice

March 14, 2018 at 3:09 AM , ,

“…And if one offers an offering of a Mincha…” – Vayikra 2:1

וְנֶפֶשׁ כִּי תַקְרִיב קָרְבַּן מִנְחָה – ויקרא ב, א

The word mincha alone means “a grain-offering,” rendering superfluous the word קרבן, offering, which precedes it in this verse. The Midrash explains that this additional word comes to teach us of another group of offerings that may be donated and offered upon the Altar. Namely, included by the word קרבן are stand-alone offerings of oil, wine, incense or wood, which are normally components of a larger קרבן, but may also be offered individually. (Toras Kohanim)

The Midrash’s inclusion of wood among the components of a sacrifice is somewhat surprising. The wood was placed on the Altar merely as fuel for the fire that consumed the sacrifices. How can it be reckoned as an actual part of the offering? Truthfully, however, the wood that accompanies the sacrifices represents the underlying theme of all the sacrifices, and in a certain sense, even more so than their other components.

The Selfless Fuel of Sacrifice

According to the Ramban (Vayikra 1:9), the purpose of the sacrifices is to stir within the individual a readiness to offer himself to G-d, and the offering he burns on the Altar substitutes for him only physically. Now, each particular sacrifice “concentrates” on affecting a specific aspect of the person’s character, drawing it near to G-d. Behind all the sacrifices, however, lies the general readiness to offer your entire being to G-d.

This common feature of self-sacrifice is symbolized in all the sacrifices by their common component: the wood used to fuel the Altar fire. Indeed, the firewood represents the epitome of selflessness and sacrifice. It does not serve a significant role in arousing “a pleasing fragrance for G-d” (Vayikra 1:9), as do the other components of the sacrifice, yet it is totally consumed in facilitating that Divine favor, though the success of the sacrifice will be attributed to “someone else.”

Thus, the firewood alone truly defines the word קרבן.

—Likkutei Sichos vol. 22, pp. 7-13


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