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The Wood Offering

In the commentary of Toras Kohanim on the Torah portion of Vayikra , our Sages note that a gift of wood for use upon the altar may constitute a valid sacrificial offering.1 How can a mere adjunct to the actual offerings constitute a valid offering in itself?

The Ramban explains the significance of offerings in the following manner:2 The person who brings an animal sacrifice must realize that all those things being done to the animal should by right have been done to him. It is only because of G-d’s mercy that an animal is substituted.

Thus, the intent of one bringing an animal sacrifice should be to offer himself to G-d. This also serves to explain why every sacrifice had to be consumed together with the wood of the altar:

There are various types of sacrifices, each possessing its own laws as to the manner in which it is to be offered. According to the Ramban , we may understand the differences in the laws according to the effect the particular offering has upon the individual who brings it. This depends, of course, on the reason the offering is brought — whether it is an expiation offering, a free-will offering, etc.

On the other hand, the essence of every sacrifice is the offering of the person himself ; the person must be prepared to dedicate himself entirely to G-d. It is only then that each form of offering fulfills its purpose.

That all offerings share this attribute is symbolized by the wood that is consumed together with every sacrifice: the wood provides the constant subtext of every offering — that the person offers himself to G-d.

The Torah tells us that “Man is a tree of the field.”3 Man’s offering of himself to G-d is thus expressed by means of wood. One of the differences between man’s “general offering” that finds expression in the consumption of wood upon the altar, and the “particular offering” of man’s individual powers (symbolized by the various sacrifices) is the following:

When a person offers a particular part of himself, he cannot free himself entirely of his ego, for his self-abnegation and devotion to G-d refer only to this particular part of himself. The remaining components in every personality conceal and hinder a person’s selfless devotion to G-d.

When a person realizes that, regardless of the particular nature of his sacrifice, he is offering himself totally to G-d, there is nothing left within him to act as a barrier. The person then can dedicate himself in a manner that transcends intellect or emotion — even holy intellect and emotion.4

Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XXII pp. 7-12.


The Additional Fifth

At the conclusion of the Torah portion Vayikra we learn5 that if a person commits a robbery, withholds funds, etc., and denies it by swearing falsely, he must — when seeking to atone for his crime — make restitution of the principal plus an additional 20percent

Our Rabbis explain6 that the reason for the additional fifth is “because the money went for naught while in his possession”: Money is used to earn money. In seeking to make restitution, the thief must therefore return not only the principal but a sum sufficient to make up for this loss of potential profit.

We find, however, in Tanya7 that when an individual acts badly toward another, the individual who was wronged should not be angered at the person who wronged him, for the damage that he suffered had been foreordained; the harm would have been done in any case, even if not committed by that particular agent.

Although the perpetrator is subject to punishment for his crime, for he could have chosen not to harm the other,8 (and the Heavenly decree would have come about in another manner, since “G-d has many messengers,”) this reckoning applies only to the person who caused the damage, and does not involve the injured party.

Indeed, if this damage had not been preordained, then the person would not have suffered at all, even if a wrongdoer wanted to harm him: Man’s free choice applies only to those acts that relate to himself; no individual can damage another without Divine consent.

Accordingly, the following question arises: The very fact that the thief stole a sum for a certain period indicates that this loss was preordained. Thus, even if the theft had not occurred, the victim would in any case be lacking the money for this period. This being so, why does the thief have to add a fifth when he makes restitution?

In truth, the same question applies even to the principal: Since Heaven decreed that the victim would lose the use of this money, and since this decree would have been realized even without the theft, why does the thief have to return the money to the victim at all? Why not give it to charity or the like?

The answer is obvious: The fact that the person had this money stolen from him does not necessarily indicate that he was to lose it permanently. Whether it was decreed that the person lose the money temporarily of permanently only becomes clear upon its return; if the thief gives back the money, then it is obvious that the loss was to be only temporary; if the stolen goods are never returned, we will then know that the decree was for a permanent loss.

Since we cannot know the nature of the decree, clearly the thief has no right to keep the money (or even delay its return) with the specious argument that by doing so he proves that the victim was meant to suffer a permanent loss. In the same way, it is wrong to hurt another person and justify this action with the argument that the victim was meant to suffer.

The same is true with regard to the additional fifth: Since adding this fifth means that the victim suffers no monetary loss, it is entirely possible that the victim was to lose this additional fifth only until the time of its return.

The above discussion contains an invaluable lesson in interpersonal relationships: When someone acts badly towards another, he may be tempted to think that since the person was destined to suffer anyway, he need not ask his forgiveness.

The answer is that by asking forgiveness, one lessens the other’s pain. A person does not have the right to inflict even greater pain by not asking forgiveness, for there is no proof that the other person was decreed to suffer that much. One must do all he can to lessen the pain of others.

Based of Likkutei Sichos , Vol. VII, pp. 9-16.


1. Vayikra 2:1.
2. Vayikra 1:9.
3. Devorim 20:19. See also Ta’anis 7a.
4. See Sefer HaMa’amarim 5659 p. 23ff; Likkutei Sichos XX p. 176ff.
5. Vayikra 5:21-24.
6. Klei Yakar ibid.
7. Igeres HaKodesh XXV.
8. See Rambam , Hilchos Teshuvah conclusion of ch. 6.



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