Leviticus - Vayikramain postsTzav

Parashat Tzav: Aliyah by Aliyah


Parashat Tzav 5784: Aliyah by Aliyah



אֵ֗שׁ תָּמִ֛יד תּוּקַ֥ד עַל־הַמִּזְבֵּ֖חַ לֹ֥א תִכְבֶֽה (צו ו, ו)

“A perpetual fire shall be kept burning on the altar, it shall not be extinguished” (Leviticus 6:6)

First Reading: Predictions About the Coming of Mashiach

Will Not Be Extinguished

In one of his addresses on our Torah portion,[1] the Lubavitcher Rebbe focuses on one special verse, which concludes the portion of the removal of ashes (תְּרוּמַת הַדֶּשֶׁן), which we also recite every morning before Shacharit. The verse reads, “A perpetual fire shall be kept burning on the altar, it shall not be extinguished.” He briefly mentions a teaching from the Maggid of Mezritch. This teaching is among those the Maggid conveyed in private to the Alter Rebbe. In it, the Maggid implies that he is designating the Alter Rebbe as his successor for the inner, spiritual leadership of the Chassidic movement.

The following is told[2] about how this teaching was taught to the Alter Rebbe.

The Alter Rebbe recounted: Among the teachings my teacher (the Maggid) shared with me in private was a teaching on the verse, “A perpetual fire shall be kept burning on the altar, it shall not be extinguished.”

Even though the fire descends from above because of Divine arousal, it is required that we contribute fire from the mundane. A human arousal from below leads to a Divine arousal from above, or [in the language of the Zohar,] “a spirit begets a spirit and draws down a spirit” (רוּחַ אַיְתֵי רוּחַ וְאַמְּשִׁיךְ רוּחַ), meaning that as the spirit awakens below in man, it causes two reciprocal measures of awakening in the Divine above.

It is a positive commandment to kindle a fire on the altar. The altar is intended for, “When any of you brings an offering,”[3] and the offering itself is not enough. We must kindle a fire, beyond the offering that comes from you, and this fire – “shall not be extinguished,” for it extinguishes the “not.”

My teacher said this teaching to me ten times to engrave it in the ten powers of my soul, and he said to me:

“You are my student, you are needed for the perpetual fire, because it is incumbent upon you to extinguish the “not” (the opposition of the opponents [of Chasidut]). You will extinguish the “not” and the Almighty will transform the “no” into a “yes.”

In the context in which the Maggid’s words were spoken, the intention was towards an external “no,” towards the power opposing the individual from without and the ways of dealing with them. However, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, in his talk, applies the same principle to the inner struggle and spiritual work happening within the individual. Everyone must struggle with the internal “no,” the internal negation.

The matter resembles the tradition passed down,[4] according to which, Elijah the Prophet appeared to Rabbi Moses Cordovero (the Ramak) and told him that reciting this verse from our portion is a remedy for dispelling extraneous thoughts.

As explained by our teacher, the Ba’al Shem Tov:[5]

Even when one goes about his business, he should fulfill the injunctions, “I set Havayah before me, always”[6] and “In all your ways know Him,”[7] and be attached to the blessed Creator with a minor thought… and then from that petty state, you will come to a munificent state. Just like with embers, if there is one spark remaining, it can be fanned into many until it becomes a great fire as at the beginning. Conversely, if there is no small spark, one cannot fan a fire. Thus, if one is not always attached to Him with a minor thought, his soul will be completely extinguished.

What the Ramak wrote about the verse, “A perpetual fire shall be kept burning on the altar, it shall not be extinguished,” means that the cleaving [to God], symbolized by fire, burning coals, etc., shall be kindled on the altar by the tzaddik who sacrifices his cravings within himself, “it shall not be extinguished,” for otherwise, he would need to bring new fire.

Petty-mindedness and high-mindedness alternate, tossing a person from below to above and back again. Certainly, every Jew desires to be always in a state of intellectual high-mindedness, to always recognize his Creator with intellectual comprehension, and to have a heart aflame with love and awe at every moment. This is the very essence of life, as written in the name of the Baal Shem Tov: “The true purpose of life is cleaving [to God]. When one cleaves to the blessed God, who is the Life of all lives—He is truly alive—and when he ceases from cleaving, he lives accidentally and without purpose.”[8]

But the world does not run this way, and often God assigns us encounters with states of small-mindedness. It is then that He desires from us faith and to properly stand before Him even from within darkness and constriction.

Therefore, the art of walking in the ways of God centers on an understanding of how to maintain a backbone[9]—how to maintain the very point that cleaves to God, which is not dependent on the greatness of attainment or on the emotional impact that comes in a tangible manner. How to be “soft as a reed” yet not break when the Divine light seems to be obscured for a while.

It should be well known to those who examine the words of the Baal Shem Tov carefully, that the difficult struggles occur when we find ourselves in a state of small-mindedness—a state of spiritual darkness—when we feel distant from God and find ourselves in a spiritual emptiness that invites all kinds of evil and impurity. But in fact, according to the words of the Lubavitcher Rebbe here, the work of maintaining a perpetual fire is a necessary spiritual lifejacket in both states of small-mindedness and high-mindedness, equally.

Small-mindedness has its dangers, and states of largesse have their own challenges. In truth, neither type of spiritual state can testify to the state of our essential connection with the Almighty, only to the “revelations” the person has merited. We tend to confuse the essential state of our relationship with God with the revelations we experience, and hence the danger that when in small-mindedness, we think we have no connection at all to God, consequently allowing ourselves to despair and fall completely into evil.

And when we experience high-mindedness, we think we are surely completely connected to God and forget that our connection does not depend on our excitement or in our spiritual or emotional experiences, but in the true point of the heart whose strength is tested specifically in times of small-mindedness.

Someone who is in a state of high-mindedness might become self-satisfied and credit himself with his state, risking shifting his point of connection to a kind of love that is conditional (on success). Later, when the spiritual revelations and the light he has merited decrease, there is a great danger that he will not find the strength within himself to endure it.

The Jerusalem Talmud comments on our verse: “’ Perpetual’—even on Shabbat. ‘Perpetual’—even in impurity.”[10] The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains this the following way: You are never too exalted (Shabbat) or too lowly (impure), to engage in this service.

Symbolically, the altar mentioned in the verse represents the individual who is always engaged in sacrificing his cravings. And just like in the Temple, there are also two altars in the individual: the interior and the exterior. The interior altar is the one from which the smoke of the incense rises—the Aramaic word for “incense” also means connection—thus, implying a connection, an inner, superior attachment of high-mindedness described by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai in the Zohar as, “with one burning connection, I have been connected to the Holy Blessed One; with Him I have united, with Him I am on fire.”[11] The exterior altar is the one on which the daily service is performed, and on it, we are commanded to maintain a perpetual fire.

It could be said that if one merits and engages in the work of the interior altar placed in the Sanctuary, if one is immersed in high-mindedness in one’s Divine service and in the illuminating clarity of the light of Shabbat, described as a state of “delighting in God”[12] (אָז תִּתְעַנַּג עַל הוי'), perhaps there is no need to leave from the Sanctuary to the courtyard and to engage in bringing fire from mundane actions. The mundane could very well be considered, “profane tasks,” that have no business mixing with the Shabbat! However, the words of the sages teach otherwise. Even from within a high-minded state, we are commanded to go out and ensure the kindling of the external ember, the one that sustains and stands us on our feet during more challenging times. One who does not do so, drops the foundation of his Divine service from under his feet.

In passing, let us note that this was the way of the Ba’al Shem Tov, who placed at the center of the stage the virtue of the simple Jew who connects at the core of his being with the Holy Blessed One, precisely because he does not fully comprehend the Torah and Divine service and lacks an emotional heartfelt experience.

The Ba’al Shem Tov was not merely defending simple Jews, but also believed that we should take a true lesson from them, a lesson that the Baal Shem Tov saw fit to teach to the Torah scholars, who are distinguished by many virtues and enjoy great revelations of Godliness in their lives. According to him, all virtues and levels a person attains must stem from the core of one’s being and not be something superimposed on the direct connection with God. It makes no difference whether one’s consciousness is distracted from God because of petty-mindedness or because of high-mindedness.

At the other extreme lies the Jerusalem Talmud’s statement that the mundane fire should be brought to the altar even in a state of impurity. Here it is simpler to understand that when a person feels that all the light that shone in him has been retracted as if it was never there, he comes to feel that he has no part or inheritance in the service of God at all. What does he have to do with a perpetual fire? After all, the fire within him has long been extinguished!

Indeed, this is exactly what the verse came to warn us of: do not let the fire be completely extinguished within yourself, for then it will be difficult for you to ignite it again. One should know that no matter where one has fallen to, even if it is very distant and low, it is always possible to maintain something of the original fire. A whispering ember or a flickering spark is all it takes to rekindle the flame, provided that the fire has not gone out completely.

Because a foreign, destructive thought enters a person only if his heart is empty, as stated in the Mishnah, “He who vacates his heart towards idleness, may pay with his soul.”[13] This is also expounded upon regarding Joseph in the pit: “’The pit was empty, there was no water in it’—indeed there was no water, but there were snakes and scorpions in it.”[14] Once the waters of the Torah have left a person's heart, immediately the emptiness within him invites all the foreign and evil thoughts in the world. But as long as even something very small remains, impurity cannot enter.

A similar idea can be found in Maimonides’ commentary on the Mishnah, where he explains in a “Chasidic” manner the words of the mishnah “’With all your heart’—with both your inclinations, the good inclination and the evil inclination”[15]: Meaning to say that he should fill his heart with the love of God and faith in Him even in moments when he feels rebellious, angry, and irritated, for these are all the work of the evil inclination, as stated by the sages, ‘Know Him [God] in all your ways—even in matters of sin.”[16]

It is not only when everything is good that one can recognize and cleave to God, but also when things are at their worst. Even when the soul is full of bad traits and is currently burning with anger (and “once a person is angry, even the Divine Presence is unimportant in his eyes”[17]). Still, one should know that all this is just superficial and external, and in truth, something of our connection to God always remains within us. By the power of this knowledge, the angry person will eventually be saved from his inclination, overcome it, and turn it to good, as stated: the “not,” [the opposition]—shall be extinguished.”

(from Lichyot Im HaZman, Vayikra, pp. 63-69.)


וְהַכֹּהֵ֨ן הַמָּשִׁ֧יחַ תַּחְתָּ֛יו מִבָּנָ֖יו יַעֲשֶׂ֣ה אֹתָ֑הּ (ויקרא ו, טו)

“And the Anointed Priest who succeeds him, from among his sons, will [also] prepare it” (Leviticus 6:15)

Second Reading: The Cohen the Mashiach


The Boundary Between the Anointed Priest and the Mashiach, Son of David

When Aaron’s priesthood was contested by Korach, the final sign that testified that the priesthood indeed belongs to Aaron and his descendants after him was, “the man whom I shall choose, his staff will blossom.”[18] The words, “his staff will blossom” (מַטֵּהוּ יִפְרַח) has the same numerical value, the same gematria, as Mashiach (מָּשִׁיחַ). There are two similar sounding titles, “the anointed priest” (הַכֹּהֵן הַמָּשִׁיחַ), which in Hebrew literally means, “the Mashiach, the priest” and the actual Mashiach, the Mashiach son of David, who is not a priest since he must be from the tribe of Judah.

Indeed, it is forbidden to cross the boundary between priest and king—the Mashiach is a king—and between king and priest. One who tried to cross this boundary was King Uzziah, who thought since he was king, he also deserved to be the high priest, until leprosy broke out on his forehead.[19] The priests also tried once to be kings: the brave Hasmoneans. At first, it seemed to be going well, but later, it deteriorated, and their rule became corrupt. In any case, there is a definitive connection between the anointed priest and the actual Mashiach, Mashiach son of David. They also have common traits.

Aaron’s Ability to Elevate Souls

Why indeed did God choose Aaron over anyone else, even over Korach who was wise, wealthy, and of the choicest pedigree? It is written that Aaron is the “bridal escort” (שׁוֹשְׁבִינָא דְּמַטְרוֹנִיתָא). Regarding the lighting of the Menorah in the Tabernacle, we read that, “when you light the lamps”[20] (בְּהַעֲלֹתְךָ אֶת הַנֵּרוֹת) and Rashi brings in the name of the sages that you should light them, “until the flame rises up on its own.” Aaron, as the bridal escort, the chaperone of the Jewish people—God’s bride—is tasked with lighting “God’s lamp—the soul of man”; he is tasked with igniting the souls of the Jewish people. In all, there are seven categories of souls that must “give light, toward the face of the Menorah.” To be ignited with a flame means to be brought to a state of loving God “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might”[21] (בְּכָל לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל נַפְשְׁךָ וּבְכָל מְאֹדֶךָ), which has the same value as “flame” (שַׁלְהֶבֶת).[22] The one capable of elevating the candles with the flame of God’s love—and “there is no service like the service of love”[23]— is Aaron and he is “the man whom I shall choose.” It appears that Korach, with all his wisdom and all his money, does not help to elevate the souls of Israel to a state where their love for God, “rises up on its own.”

Many things can be done with Korach’s wealth; even the Mashiach needs Korach’s wealth, and being wise is very important, one needs to be very smart, wise. But being able to arouse souls to love God is independent of wealth and wisdom.

The Power to Awaken in the Mashiach

The Mashiach, son of David, though not a priest, requires this same ability. He is the one who reveals “a new Torah will come forth from Me”[24] (תּוֹדָה חֲדָשָׁה מֵאִתִּי תֵּצֵא). But he needs to do more than that. He needs to use the power of the new Torah of Mashiach to stir the people of Israel, “until the flame rises up on its own.”

What does this mean? The flame, i.e., the soul, rising on its own signifies that each person acts on their own strength, on their own abilities, to the point where “no longer will one individual teach another, or a brother say to his brother, ‘Know God,’ for all will know Me, from the least of them to the greatest.”[25]

This is the special power of the new Torah of the Mashiach, that will cause every person to know God on their own, the meaning of “Until the flame rises up on its own,” alluding to both the flame of the heart and the flame of the intellect. This is the secret of “the flame of Kah” (שַׁלְהֶבֶתְיָ-ה).

God commanded Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply.”[26] There are several interpretations as to how to apply this verse in practice. First, there is the plain meaning, which is to have children. But the Alter Rebbe explains that this also means that a Jew must make another Jew, meaning, he should make ba’alei teshuvah. A third interpretation is offered by the Rebbe of Komarna, who says that this implies the innovation of new Torah insights by every individual.

It is the Mashiach who will encourage us all to make innovations in Torah, thereby exercising our love of God in a state of “the flame rises up on its own.” That man who can elevate the flame of every soul is “the man whom I shall choose”—both to be a priest and to be a king – and his staff “will blossom.”



זֹ֣את הַתּוֹרָ֗ה לָֽעֹלָה֙ לַמִּנְחָ֔ה וְלַֽחַטָּ֖את וְלָאָשָׁ֑ם וְלַ֨מִּלּוּאִ֔ים וּלְזֶ֖בַח הַשְּׁלָמִֽים (צו ז, לז)

“Such is the Torah of the burnt offering, the meal offering, the sin offering, the guilt offering, the offering of ordination, and the sacrifice of well-being.” (Leviticus 7:37)

Third Reading: Meditations on a Verse

Three verses

Many times, we find that a particular phenomenon has three singular examples in the Torah. One of these, found first in our parashah, is a verse that begins with the words, “This is the Torah…” (זֹאת הַתּוֹרָה). The verse in our parashah reads,

“This is the Torah regarding the burnt offering, the meal offering, and the sin offering, and the guilt offering, and the offering of ordination, and the peace offering”[27] (זֹאת הַתּוֹרָה לָעֹלָה לַמִּנְחָה וְלַחַטָּאת וְלָאָשָׁם וְלַמִּלּוּאִים וּלְזֶבַח הַשְּׁלָמִים). The second such verse appears in parashat Metzora “This is the Torah regarding all lesions of leprosy, for scalls”[28] (זֹאת הַתּוֹרָה לְכָל נֶגַע הַצָּרַעַת וְלַנָּתֶק). The third verse can be found in parashat Chukat, “This is the Torah: When a person dies in a tent, whoever enters the tent and whoever is in the tent shall be unclean seven days”[29] (זֹאת הַתּוֹרָה אָדָם כִּי יָמוּת בְּאֹהֶל כָּל הַבָּא אֶל הָאֹהֶל וְכָל אֲשֶׁר בָּאֹהֶל יִטְמָא שִׁבְעַת יָמִים).

The verse from parashat Tzav contains 9 words and 47 letters. As an example of what is known as self-reference, the first and last letters are zayin (ז) and mem (ם), whose combined value is 47, the same as the number of letters in the verse. The value of the entire verse is 2764. The value of the opening phrase, “This is the Torah…” (זֹאת הַתּוֹרָה), which we said opens three verses in the Pentateuch, is 1024, or 210.

Six Types of Sacrifices

The verse describes six different types of sacrifice: 1) the burnt offering (עֹלָה), 2) the meal offering (מִנְחָה), 3) the sin offering (חַטָּאת), 4) the guilt offering (אָשָׁם), 5) the offering of ordination (מִלּוּאִים), and 6) the peace offering (זֶבַח הַשְּׁלָמִים). The combined value of these six types as written in the verse is 1536, or 6 times 256, the value of Aharon [the High Priest] (אַהֲרֹן), or 6 times 28.

We saw that the opening phrase equals 1024, which is 4 times 256. Thus, the opening phrase plus the six types of sacrifices equal 10 times “Aharon” (אַהֲרֹן), or 2560. This number is also the value of the 7 inner powers of the soul along the middle axis of the sefirot, “faith, pleasure, will, unification, compassion, truth, and lowliness” (אֱמוּנָה תַּעֲנוּג רָצוֹן יִחוּד רַחֲמִים אֱמֶת שִׁפְלוּת).[30]

The six types of sacrifice can also be corresponded to the six emotive sefirot, from loving-kindness to foundation, like so:



sin offering



burnt offering


offering of ordination



guilt offering


meal offering



peace offering


Meditating on this correspondence, we discover an interesting phenomenon: that the sums of almost all combinations of sacrifices are multiples of God’s essential Name, His Name of compassion, Havayah (י-הוה), or 26. The one exception is the sin offering (for there are guilt offerings, אָשָׁם, that do not come because of a definite sin), which will be made irrelevant when the Almighty irradicates the spirit of impurity from the face of the earth, thereby cleansing reality of sin.

The sum of “burnt offering” (עֹלָה) with the “meal offering” (מִנְחָה) is 208, or 8 times Havayah. 208 is also the value of “Isaac” (יִצְחָק) and of a “special nation” (עַם סְגֻלָּה).[31]

The sum of “guilt offering” (אָשָׁם) and “offering of ordination” (מִלּוּאִים) is 468, or the product of 18 and 26, which are “alive” (חַי) times Havayah.

Finally, the sum of “an offering of peace” (זֶבַח הַשְּׁלָמִים) is 442, or 17 times Havayah, which is the value of “good” (טוֹב) times Havayah. Together, 468 and 442 equal 910, half of 1820—one of the most special numbers in Torah, since it is the number of times that God’s essential Name, Havayah appears in the Pentateuch.

When we add all three multiples of Havayah, 26, which are 208, 442, and 468, the sum is 1118, which is the value of the foundational statement of Jewish faith in God’s oneness, “Hear O’ Israel, Havayah is our God, Havayah is one” (שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל הוי' אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ הוי' אֶחָד), which is also the smallest common denominator (the first number that is a multiple) of both Havayah, 26, and Elokim, 86.

Figuring the Verses

As we saw, there are three verses in the Pentateuch that begin with the phrase, “This is the Torah.” The Targum Yonatan (one of the three traditional translations of the Torah into Aramaic) writes that the first two verses correspond to the concepts of, “atonement” and “healing.” The third verse obviously corresponds to the concept of “purification.” The value of these three concepts (כַּפָּרָה רְפוּאָה טָהֲרָה) combined is 816, or twice the value of “this” (זֹאת), the first word in each of these verses. 816 is also the value of “an auspicious time” (עֵת רָצוֹן) and of lowliness (שִׁפְלוּת), suggesting that whenever a person can exercise a sense of lowliness—the foundation of a rectified psyche—it is an auspicious time for him to attain these three concepts: atonement, healing, and purification. 816 is also the product of “this” in the masculine form (זֶה), which equals 12, and “life” (חַיִּים).

Between them, the three verses contain 125 letters, or 53. One way to draw them in geometric form would therefore be as a cube of 5. However, this is not practical or possible on a two-dimensional surface. How can we then draw 125 as a symmetrical shape? The key to answering this is to look at one of the most beautiful relationships between series of numbers: the sum of the cube numbers is the square of the triangular numbers. Let’s see how this plays out.

The cube numbers are 13, 23, 33, etc. In the table we see their sums and underneath we see the square of the triangular numbers:

n 1 2 3 4 5
cube (n3) 1 8 27 64 125
sum of cubes 1 9 36 100 225
Triangle (rn) 1 3 6 10 15
square of triangle (rn)2 1 9 36 100 225

What this shows is that 125 is the square of 15 minus the square of 100. Thus, if we were to draw the verses in the shape of the square of 15 minus the four corners of 25 letters each, they would fit perfectly. We thus get the following shape:

Now, the fact that we have left the four corners empty begs us to complete the shape back into a square form. One question we might ask, is first, what is the most well-known Torah verse that has 47 letters? This is known to be the Torah’s final verse, “And for all the great might and awesome power that Moses displayed before the eyes of all of Israel”[32] (וּלְכֹל הַיָּד הַחֲזָקָה וּלְכֹל הַמּוֹרָא הַגָּדוֹל אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה מֹשֶׁה לְעֵינֵי כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל).

Since the end of the Torah is enwedged in its beginning, it would be fitting to add to this the Torah’s first verse, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱ-לֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ), which has 28 letters. If we add to the Torah’s beginning and end the foundational statement of faith, the Shema (שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל הוי' אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ הוי' אֶחָד), which has 25 letters and that we saw above is intimately related to the, “This is the Torah…” verse, in our parashah, we have found the 100 letters needed to complete the previous shape.

Our newly completed square of 225 letters is then:

The letters in the corners sum to 73, the value of “wisdom” (חכמה). Apart from the corner letters, the sum of the first and last lines is 2236, which is 2 times 1118, the value of the Shema!

When we add the central letter, which is a yud (י), the sum of the corners and the center comes to “sickness” (מחלה), indicating that this square serves as a remedy (as noted above) for sickness.

Given that this new complete square has so many of the secrets related to health and atonement, it would certainly be fitting to share it with anyone who needs to be strengthened at this time.


וְאֵ֥ת כָּל־הָעֵדָ֖ה הַקְהֵ֑ל אֶל־פֶּ֖תַח אֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵֽד (צו ח, ג)

“And the community, assemble them at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting” (Leviticus 8:3)

Fourth Reading: The Lesser Containing the Greater

Rashi writes that to assemble the entire community at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, i.e., into the Tabernacle’s courtyard, there had to be a miracle. Thus, this is one of the events in which the lesser space accommodated the many—the entire people of Israel “crowded” together in one small space.

The area of the Tabernacle courtyard was 50 by 100 cubits; each cubit is about 50 centimeters or 1.66 feet. For 600,000 people to stand in such an area would require about 120 people standing on every square cubit, the equivalent of about a quarter of a square meter or 2 and ¾ of a square foot.

When looking at the concept of “the lesser that contains the greater” from the Chasidic perspective, we identify its core with the mystery of the love of Israel. When Jews love one another, they are capable of congregating in a very small space. The Talmud relates a similar idea regarding a man and woman who truly love one another and can therefore sleep on a bed the width of the blade of a sword.[33]

The mathematical allusion here is truly beautiful. The value of the words, “the entire community, assemble them at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting” (כָּל הָעֵדָה הַקְהֵל אֶל פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד) is identical to “the lesser that contains the greater” (מוּעָט הַמַּחֲזִיק אֶת הַמְּרֻבֶּה), as well as to the well-known, “love of Israel” (אַהֲבַת יִשְׂרָאֵל).

We can now look at Rabbi Akiva’s well-known words, “’Love your fellow as you love yourself’—this is a great principle of Torah,”[34] and see that they too demonstrate the principle of “the small that accommodates the large.” For, a very short commandment—the commandment to love our fellow Jew—totaling only three words in Hebrew[35] (וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ), this short commandment becomes a great principle that in a sense includes the entire Torah.

Delving deeper, we find that there is “Love of Israel” and “Love of God.” Our love of God is limitless. It is meant to be, “with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might.”[36] Yet, love of Israel seems to be something with limits, since we are meant to love our fellow as we love ourselves, and both we and our fellow are limited. However, in truth, there is something limitless in our fellow—that something is His Divine soul, the Divine within him which is revealed when we love him honestly. When we love in this way, our love reveals the limitless in others and allows for the “smaller to accommodate the larger.”

This meaning is captured in the full phrase that commands us to love our fellows, “Love your fellow as you love yourself; I am Havayah.”[37] God is present within every Jew and when you love him, you love Me, says the Almighty.

Once again, this is beautifully captured in the straightforward numerical equality: “Love your fellow as you love yourself; I am Havayah” (וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ אֲנִי י-הוה) is equal to “You shall love Havayah your God”[38] (וְאָהַבְתָּ אֵת י-הוה אֱ-לֹהֶיךָ).


(from Mivchar Shiurei Hitbonenut, vol. 9, pp. 139ff.)


וַיַּקְרֵב֙ אֶת־הָאַ֣יִל הַשֵּׁנִ֔י אֵ֖יל הַמִּלֻּאִ֑ים…. וַיִּשְׁחָ֓ט ׀ וַיִּקַּ֤ח מֹשֶׁה֙ מִדָּמ֔וֹ (צו ח, כב־כג)

“He brought forth the second ram, the ram of ordination…. And he slaughtered it; and Moses took some of its blood…” (Leviticus 8:22-23)

Sixth Reading: Consummate Self-Wholeness

The ram of ordination was a unique sacrifice offered only during the seven days of the inauguration of the Tabernacle and the priests. Rashi explains that the ram of ordination is synonymous with the word “peace” [as in a peace offering (שְׁלָמִים)]. This term is used to describe the ram because by means of it, the priest was made whole; it made the priests consummately whole in their priesthood.

In Chasidic thought we find the concept of “consummate self-wholeness” (שְׁלֵמוּת עַצְמִית), which is associated with the guarding of the covenant and the rectification of the sefirah of foundation. When we say that an individual guards his covenant—normally referring to safeguarding his intimate encounters—we mean to say that he is true to himself and to his essential being and knows when and how to best interact and communicate—and thus, his consummate wholeness is not blemished. However, if he blemishes his covenant, the consummate self-wholeness of his Divine soul withdraws and is concealed.

Guarding one’s covenant if related to the sefirah of foundation, the sixth emotive sefirah, which corresponds to the sixth reading and to Joseph the tzaddik, who is known as the “tzaddik, the pillar of the world.”[39] Thus, the ram of ordination expresses the state of consummate wholeness to which the priests were now being elevated by Moses, who himself was the tzaddik of the generation who was performing the rites for this sacrifice.

A beautiful allusion to the connection between the ordination offering and consummate wholeness, associated with Joseph the righteous because on the word, “He slaughtered it” (וַיִּשְׁחָט), we find the rare cantillation mark called a shalshelet. The most important instance of the shalshelet is the one appearing on the word, “And he refused”[40] (וַיְמָאֵן) describing Joseph’s brave refusal to commit adultery with Potiphar’s wife. By doing so, Joseph guarded his covenant and passed the test given him to ensure his consummate self-wholeness.

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[1]. Likkutei Sichot vol. 1, Tzav.

[2]. Hayom Yom for 20th of 2 Adar.

[3]. Leviticus 1:2.

[4]. Keter Shem Tov §84.

[5]. Ibid. §217.

[6]. Psalms 16:8.

[7]. Proverbs 3:6.

[8]. Keter Shem Tov §84.

[9]. See Likutei Moharan 6 and the concept of walking with God through proficiency in “run and return.”

[10]. Yoma 4:6.

[11]. Zohar 3:288a and 3:292a.

[12]. Isaiah 58:14.

[13]. Avot 3:4.

[14] Genesis 37:24 and Bereishit Rabbah 84:16.

[15]. Deuteronomy 6:5 and Mishnah Berachot 9:5.

[16]. Berachot 63a.

[17]. Nedarim 22b.

[18]. Numbers 17:20.

[19]. 2 Chronicles 26:18-19.

[20]. Numbers 8:2.

[21]. Deuteronomy 6:5.

[22]. Song of Songs 8:6.

[23]. Zohar 3:267a.

[24]. Vayikra Rabbah 13:3.

[25]. Jeremiah 31:34.

[26]. Genesis 1:28.

[27]. Leviticus 7:37.

[28]. Ibid. 14:54.

[29]. Numbers 19:14.

[30]. The values of the inner powers of the soul along the left and right axes together equal 1600, or 402.

[31]. In fact, the initials of “burnt offering” and “meal offering” spell the word “nation” (עַם) and the rest of the letters obviously equal “special” (סְגֻלָּה).

[32]. Deuteronomy 34:12.

[33]. Sanhedrin 7a: “There was a certain man who was saying about his marriage as he walked: When our love was strong, we could have slept on a bed that was the width of a sword. Now that our love is not strong, a bed of sixty cubits is not sufficient for us.”

[34]. Bereishit Rabbah 24:7. The value of these words (וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ רַבִּי עֲקִיבָא אוֹמֵר זֶה כְּלָל גָּדוֹל בַּתּוֹרָה) is 2210, or “love” (אַהֲבָה) times “pleasant” (נָּעִים), reminding us of the verse (Psalms 133:1), “How good and how pleasant it is that brothers dwell together” (הִנֵּה מַה טּוֹב וּמַה נָּעִים שֶׁבֶת אַחִים גַּם־יָחַד).

[35]. These three words have 13, i.e., “love” (אַהֲבָה) letters.

[36]. Deuteronomy 6:5.

[37]. Leviticus 19:18.

[38]. Deuteronomy ad. loc.

[39]. Proverbs 10:25.

[40]. Genesis 39:8.

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