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Vayikra: The Little Aleph

Updated: Jun 22

“Said Rav Assi: Why do young children begin [the study of Torah] with the book of Leviticus, and not with Genesis? Surely it is because young children are pure, and the korbanot are pure; so let the pure come and engage in the study of the pure.” Midrash Rabbah cited at [1]

In the Hebrew text of Parashat Vayikra (Leviticus 1:1–5:26), there is an unusually small letter in the first word:

Why is the Aleph (א) in this word unusually small? The sages comment that this small Aleph refers to the humility of Moshe Rabbeinu, of whom the Torah says,

“Now the man Moshe was very meek (ענו), above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” Numbers 12:3

Like Moshe, Yeshua is described as ‘anav’ or ‘humble’,

“Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek (ענו) and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

The word “yoke” is an idiom for Torah, as Pirkei Avot says,

“R. Nechuniah ben haKanah said, “Whoever receives upon him the yoke of Torah, they remove from him the yoke of royalty and the yoke of worldly care, and whoever breaks off the yoke of Torah, they lay upon him the yoke of royalty and the yoke of worldly care.” Pirkei Avot 3:6

While Moshe and Yeshua are described as ‘meek’, Adam HaRishon, the first man, is described as having the opposite characteristic. His self-centeredness lead to his downfall, and is typified by an enlarged Aleph in the first word of the book of 1 Chronicles,

It seems that Moshe, and by extension Mashiach, will make a rectification for the enlarged Aleph which led to the exile of mankind from the Garden. R’ Yeshayahu Horowitz, known as the Holy Shelah, writes,

“Remember that if Adam had not sinned, the whole concept of areas that are sanctified and areas that are not would not have existed. The whole earth would have been like גן עדן (Gan Eden, the Garden of Eden). . . Man would not have been required to bring himself close to G’d by means of an animal sacrifice; he himself would have been the sacrifice, much as is described by our sages when they tell of the archangel Michael offering the souls of the departed righteous on the Heavenly Altar (Chagiga 12)….We can therefore view the whole of this book, תורת כהנים (Torat Kohanim, i.e. Leviticus) as the תיקון האדם, the rehabilitation of Adam = mankind.” R’ Yeshayahu Horowitz, Shney Luchot HaBrit, Translated and Annotated by Eliyahu Munk, Volume 2, pg. 681

R’ Daniel Krentzman says,

“…the need for the mission of Mashiach ben Yosef came about as a result of the sin of Adam. In theory, had Adam not sinned and brought about tremendous spiritual damage to himself and the world, there would not have been a need for the tikun olam efforts of Mashiach ben Yosef, in every subsequent generation. Mashiach ben Yosef thus comes to rectify that damage and return mankind to the state of Adam before the sin.” Yonah as Mashiach ben Yosef, R’ Daniel Krentzman

R’ Michael Munk writes of the shape of the aleph and its link to the unity of the Divine Name,

“The graphic form of the א symbolizes the infinite, eternal nature of G-d. It consists of three parts. Its upper right segment is a י ;  its lower left segment is a י ;  and these two letters are connected by a diagonal ו. Each yud has a numerical value of 10, and the vav has a numerical value of 6, yielding a total of 26. This equals the numerical value of the Four-Letter Divine Name…” The Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet, R’ Michael L. Munk, Mesorah Publishing, ltd., pg. 44

The yuds above and below are the Upper and Lower waters, which unite via the Vav, that is, the Son. This is the Unity of Heaven and Earth, and is accomplished through the korban (sacrifice).

Yud-Hei-Vav-Hei = Yud-Yud-Vav = 26


While the concept of sacrifice begins in Genesis, the book of Leviticus describes the different sacrifices in explicit detail. It is beyond the scope of this article (and author) to elucidate each one, so we will provide a general outline of the korbanot (sacrifices) and their ultimate purpose. The word korban itself derives from the word to “draw near.” The purpose of the sacrificial system was for man to draw near to HaShem. The sacrifices fall into a variety of categories such as:

  1. Korban Olah – “Burnt Offering”

  2. Zevach Shelamim – “Peace Offering”

  3. Chatat – “Sin Offering”

  4. Asham – “Guilt Offering”

  5. Minchah – “Meal Offering”

The Midrash Rabbah says,

“An ox was once being led to sacrifice, but would not budge. A poor man came along with a bundle of endive in his hand. He held it out towards the ox, which ate it… and then allowed itself to be led to sacrifice. In a dream it was revealed to the owner of the ox: “The poor man’s sacrifice superseded yours.”Once a woman brought a handful of fine flour, and the priest despised her, saying: “See what she offers! What is there in this to eat? What is there in this to offer up?” It was shown to him in a dream: “Do not despise her! It is regarded as if she had sacrificed her own life.” Midrash Rabbah, cited at [2]

This Midrash seems to echo the offering of the widow in the Gospels,

“Yeshua sat down opposite the treasury, and saw how the multitude cast money into the treasury. Many who were rich threw in much. A poor widow came, and she cast in two small brass coins, which equal a quadrans coin. He called his disciples to himself, and said to them, ‘Most certainly I tell you, this poor widow gave more than all those who are giving into the treasury, for they all gave out of their abundance, but she, out of her poverty, gave all that she had to live on.’” Mark 12:41-44

The Talmud says,

“It is said of a large ox, “A fire-offering, a sweet savor”; of a small bird, “A fire-offering, a sweet savor”; and of a meal-offering, “A fire-offering, a sweet savor.” This is to teach you that it is the same whether a person offers much or little, so long as he directs his heart to heaven.” Menachot 110a, cited at [3]

The key here is that one’s heart must be right in offering a sacrifice. However, one may notice that there does not appear to be a sacrifice for intentional sins (!), as Leviticus 4 states,

“Speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘If anyone sins unintentionally . . .” Leviticus 4:2

This may raise eyebrows as many sins, if not most, are committed with knowledge and intention (chas v’chalilah). The spiritual damage of a sin, especially an intentional one, is tremendous. Yet, the Talmud speaks of the power of teshuvah, repentance,

“Resh Lakish said: ‘Great is repentance, for because of it premeditated sins are accounted as errors, as it is said: ‘Return, O Israel, unto the HaShem, your G-d,’ for you have stumbled in your iniquity.’ “Iniquity” is premeditated, and yet he calls it “stumbling.” … For Resh Lakish said that repentance is so great that premeditated sins are accounted as though they were merits, as it is said: “And when the wicked turns from his wickedness, and does that which is lawful and right, he shall live thereby!” Yoma 86b, Soncino Press Edition

The korban acts therefore as a bridge between heaven and earth. However, one may not cross the bridge without teshuvah, repentance. David HaMelech reveals the ultimate purpose for the korbanot, to draw near, for man to desire HaShem and not sin,

“For you do not delight in sacrifice, or else I would give it. You have no pleasure in burnt offering. The sacrifices of G-d are a broken spirit. A broken and contrite heart, O G-d, you will not despise.” Psalms 51:16-17

The Messianic Era

In November of 2012, I stood in front of the Menorah in Jerusalem. I overheard a Bible teacher declare that this Menorah would be used in the “Temple of the Antichrist.”

This term is absolutely erroneous. The New Testament does not use this title to describe the pre-Millennial Temple. Thessalonians states,

“Let no one deceive you in any way. For it will not be, unless the departure comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of destruction, he who opposes and exalts himself against all that is called G-d or that is worshiped, so that he sits as G-d in the Temple of G-d, setting himself up as G-d.” 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4

Paul specifically calls it “the Temple of G-d.” Not the “Temple of the Antichrist.” Like Antiochus Epiphanes before him, the false Messiah, Armilus, will indeed defile the pre-Millennial Temple. After Antiochus defiled it, the Greeks were defeated and the Temple was restored, as commemorated in the Festival of Hanukkah. The believers never called the Temple that stood in Yeshua’s day “the Temple of Antiochus,” G-d forbid. In fact, it is just the opposite, as Matthew states,

“Yeshua entered into the Temple of God…” Matthew 21:2

This situation highlights the fact that some of the most misunderstood concepts among believers are the Temple, the korbanot, and their ultimate purpose in the Messianic Era. This lack of knowledge has produced a staunch opposition to the commandment to rebuild the Temple (Exodus 25:8), and the re-institution of sacrifices. It must be understood that the New Testament supports the sacrificial system, even after the death of the Messiah. Yeshua says that the building of the Temple and the sacrifices are still in effect, until heaven and earth pass away,

“Do not think that I came to destroy the Torah or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For most certainly, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not even one smallest letter or one tiny pen stroke shall in any way pass away from the Torah, until all things are accomplished. Whoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and teach others to do so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whoever shall do and teach them shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 5:17-19

Paul himself participated in the sacrificial system (after his coming to faith in Yeshua), as described in the book of Acts,

“They said to (Paul), ‘You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Torah. They have been informed about you, that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moshe, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk after the customs. What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear that you have come. Therefore do what we tell you. We have four men who have taken a vow. Take them, and purify yourself with them, and pay their expenses for them, so that they may shave their heads. Then all will know that there is no truth in the things that they have been informed about you, but that you yourself also walk keeping the Torah. But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written our decision that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from food offered to idols, from blood, from strangled things, and from sexual immorality. Then Paul took the men, and the next day, purified himself and went with them into the temple, declaring the fulfillment of the days of purification, until the offering was offered for every one of them.” Acts 21:20-26

They had taken a Nazarite vow, as described in Numbers 6,

“This is the law of the Nazirite: when the days of his separation are fulfilled, he shall be brought to the door of the Tent of Meeting, and he shall offer his offering to HaShem, one male lamb a year old without blemish for a burnt offering, and one ewe lamb a year old without blemish for a sin offering, and one ram without blemish for peace offerings, and a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and their meal offering, and their drink offerings. The priest shall present them before HaShem, and shall offer his sin offering, and his burnt offering. He shall offer the ram for a sacrifice of peace offerings to HaShem, with the basket of unleavened bread. The priest shall offer also its meal offering, and its drink offering.” Numbers 6:13-17

As described in the books of Ezekiel and Zechariah, the sacrifices are coming back. This throws a massive monkey-wrench into the theologies of many modern Christians. One counter-argument seeks to spiritualize the sacrifices away. However, Zechariah describes them as being cooked in a pot,

“…every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah will be holy to the HaShem Tzva’ot, and all those who sacrifice will come and take of them, and cook in them…” Zechariah 14:21

Can a spiritual sacrifice be cooked in a pot? Furthermore, the prophet Ezekiel describes the meal, sin and trespass offerings,

“Then he said to me, The north rooms and the south rooms, which are before the separate place, they are the holy rooms, where the priests who are near to HaShem shall eat the most holy things: there shall they lay the most holy things, and the meal offering, and the sin offering, and the trespass offering; for the place is holy.” Ezekiel 42:13

If perhaps one thinks that this did not refer to an literal sacrifice of an animal, Ezekiel says further in the next chapter,

“You shall give to the priests the Levites who are of the seed of Zadok, who are near to me, to minister to me, says the Lord HaShem, a young bull for a sin offering. You shall take of its blood, and put it on the four horns of it, and on the four corners of the ledge, and on the border all around: thus you shall cleanse it and make atonement for it. You shall also take the bull of the sin offering, and it shall be burnt in the appointed place of the house, outside of the sanctuary. On the second day you shall offer a male goat without blemish for a sin offering; and they shall cleanse the altar, as they cleansed it with the bull. When you have finished cleansing it, you shall offer a young bull without blemish, and a ram out of the flock without blemish. You shall bring them near to HaShem, and the priests shall cast salt on them, and they shall offer them up for a burnt offering to HaShem. Seven days you shall prepare every day a goat for a sin offering: they shall also prepare a young bull, and a ram out of the flock, without blemish.” Ezekiel 43:19-25

So how can this be reconciled with the book of Hebrews which seems to imply that Yeshua’s sacrifice is the sacrifice to end all sacrifices?

Beyond Time and Space

It must be understood that all of the korbanot are like facets of a single diamond, and that diamond is the death of Yeshua of Nazareth. The death of the Messiah, to be sure, happened in the middle of history. It is the focus, the fulcrum upon which the story of the world turns. And yet, he is spoken of as “being slain from the foundation of the world.” Moreover, his korban is the catalyst upon which the World to Come will come into fruition. Leviticus Rabbah says,

“R. Phinehas and R. Levi and R. Johanan said in the name of R. Menahem of Gallia: In the Time to Come all sacrifices will be annulled, but that of thanksgiving will not be annulled, and all prayers will be annulled, but that of Thanksgiving will not be annulled. This is indicated by what is written, ‘The voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that say: Give thanks to the L-rd of hosts (Jer. 33:2). . .” Leviticus Rabbah 9:7, Soncino Press Edition

Something must be incredibly awesome to transform the sacrificial system to where it would be annulled in the Olam Haba (the World to Come). This may best be illustrated by an anecdote about the life of Albert Einstein. When his friend Michele Besso died, he wrote,

“People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” Albert Einstein

Incredibly, this concept was elucidated by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov a century earlier,

“In reality there is no such thing as time. Time is only an illusion…Our notions of time are pure illusion. Someone who thinks about this carefully will certainly put all his strength into abandoning the vanities of this time-bound existence and putting all his hope in that which is beyond time. You should have faith in the One who is beyond time. Then nothing in this world can throw you down. Wherever you are, you will always be able to remind yourself, “This day have I given birth to you” (Ps. 2:7). These words refer to Mashiach who is in a realm beyond time. There everything finds healing. Time past is annulled completely. The great Tsadikim, who are filled with the spirit of the Mashiach, are able to achieve this level beyond time. There is only today. Today you were born. Literally! All that is wrong with the world is a part of the “Evil work that is done beneath the sun” in the time-bound world. . . what remedy is there for all the days and years, all the time that [one] wasted in wrongdoing? His only hope is in the realm beyond time. From there comes all healing. It will be as if he were born again today. So long as you have faith – in God, in the World to Come, and in the Messiah who is beyond time – you have eternal hope.” Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, Meshivat Nefesh, Restore My Soul, translated by Avraham Greenbaum, Breslov Research Institute, pgs. 88-89

Heavenly Sacrifices

R’ Chaim Kramer comments,

“…Atik includes all time and space – yet transcends it all. The soul of Mashiach “resides” within Atik, and it is from this level that all his powers will be drawn. And, since he transcends time and space, Mashiach can transcend every transgression ever committed and rectify it – for since he can transcend everything ever done, he can bring each person to a state prior to his having sinned. . . With the power inherent in this exalted level, Mashiach will be able to bring the world to a state of perfection.” Mashiach, Who, What, Why, How, Where, When, by Chaim Kramer, Breslov Research Institute, pg. 209

The Talmud describes the seven heavens, and what happens in each. Speaking of the Heaven of ‘Zebul’ (Habitation), tractate Chagigah says,

“… Resh Lakish said: [There are] seven (heavens), namely, Vilon, Rakia, Shehakim, Zebul, Ma’on, Makon, Arabot…Zebul is that in which [the heavenly] Jerusalem and the Temple and the Altar are built, and Michael, the great Prince, stands and offers up thereon an offering, for it is said: ‘I have surely built You a house of habitation [Zebul], a place for You to dwell in forever…” Chagigah 12b, Soncino Press Edition

Just as the book of Hebrews describes, there is a Heavenly Temple and the angels are ministers thereof, specifically Michael as a High Priest. Mashiach too, being higher than the angels (Midrash Tanchuma, Toldot 14), is also a High Priest, as Avraham Abulafia says,

“The more noble man in his species is Israel…and the most noble of Israel is Levi, and the most noble of Levi is the priest, and the most noble of the priest is the Messiah, who is the high priest, who is the greatest among his brethren, and knows the [divine] name and blesses the people of Israel by dint of the Explicit Name in the Temple…” Avraham Abulafia, Sefer Chayyei Olam Haba 13a, Ms. Oxford 1582, cited in Messianic Mystics, Moshe Idel, Yale University Press, pg. 95

The earthly Temple is merely a shadow of the heavenly. Commenting on this concept, the Shelah explains an idea brought by R’ Menachem Recanti, speaking of the heavenly sacrifices,

“(The Rekanati) says that every concept can be described by means of some metaphor, example. The relation of the metaphor to the concept it represents is like that of a shadow to the object that casts it, from which it is inseparable. The life-force, רוח (ruach, spirit) of the beast which serves as the offering is derived from the שור (shor, ox), of the four חיות (chayyot, living creatures) in Ezekiel’s vision. When the animal rises in the form of smoke after being offered on the altar, it reunites with its source in the מרכבה (merkavah), G’d’s celestial chariot. The life-force of the bird which serves as an offering similarly reunites with the חיה (chayyah) called eagle…” R’ Yeshayahu Horowitz, Shney Luchot HaBrit, translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk, Volume 2, pg. 708

The korbanot therefore effect a unification of above and below, between the actual higher dimensional reality and its shadow. Unfortunately, the soul level of an animal is on a much lower status than man, requiring a repetition of the sacrifice. It has no transforming power to remove sin from the heart of man. For instance, Yom Kippur atones on an annual basis, for sins between man and HaShem. Citing the New Covenant of Jeremiah 31, Hebrews 8 makes a controversial statement,

“In that he says, “a new covenant,” he has made the first old. But that which is becoming old and grows aged is near to vanishing away.” Hebrews 8:13

The author of Hebrews does not say that the Older Covenant has passed away, but that “it is near to vanishing away.” The Older Covenant is in the process of passing away, because the Olam Hazeh itself is passing away. Understand that the real ‘fault’ of the Older Covenant is not with the covenant itself, but with us. As described by the Rabbis, and cited in the book Otzrot Acharit HaYamim by R’ Yehuda Chayoun, the Torah will undergo a variety of transformations when the Olam Hazeh passes away. Hebrews continues,

“The Holy Spirit is indicating this, that the way into the Holy Place wasn’t yet revealed while the first tabernacle was still standing; which is a symbol of the present age (olam hazeh), where gifts and sacrifices are offered that are incapable, concerning the conscience, of making the worshipper perfect; being only (with meats and drinks and various washings) fleshly ordinances, imposed until a time of reformation.” Hebrews 9:8-10

Notice that the author of Hebrews uses the term “the present age” – i.e. עולם הזה (Olam Hazeh, this World) in Hebrew. This makes perfect sense and is in accord with what the sages say above in Leviticus Rabbah, that when the עולם הבא (Olam Haba, World to Come) arrives (i.e. a “time of reformation,” see Revelation 21), all sacrifices will be annulled. How will they be annulled? When sin is removed from the world, the Torah can reconfigure to its primordial state, thus without sin, there would be no need for sacrifices, except that of one’s lips in praise and thanksgiving. When sin is removed, death is swallowed up. 

When HaShem created the world through the Primordial Torah, it was absolutely perfect. There was no death, suffering, sadness or pain. However, when Adam sinned, the letters of the Primordial Torah re-arranged, to apply to a fallen world. The Torah remained perfect, but it now applied to a world that was no longer perfect. The Older Covenant, as explained below at verse 13, applies to a fallen world that contains sin and death, as Numbers 19 illustrates,

זאת הַתֹּורָה אָדָם כִּי־יָמוּת בְּאֹהֶל

“This is the Torah when a man dies in a tent…” Numbers 19:14

When Adam sinned, the Primordial Torah’s letters rearranged to apply to situations like death, sickness, divorce, sin, suffering and war. In the New Torah the word ‘death’ will never be mentioned. Even the Midrash on Psalms hints that the Torah of this world is not in its proper order,

“Man knows not the order thereof” (Job 28:13). R. Eleazar taught: ‘The sections of Scripture are not arranged in their proper order, and any man so read them, he would be able to resurrect the dead and perform other miracles. For this reason the proper order of the sections of Scripture is hidden from mortals and is known only to the Holy One, blessed be He, who said: “Who, as I, can read and declare it, and set it in order.” (Isaiah 44:7)” Midrash Tehillim on Psalm 3, translated by R’ William G. Braude, Yale University Press, Volume 1, pg. 48

Yet the Midrash Talpiyot comments that the letters of the Torah will reconfigure itself back to its primordial state,

“The Holy One, blessed is He, will sit and expound the New Torah which He will give through the Messiah. “New Torah” means the secrets and the mysteries of the Torah which have remained hidden until now. It does not refer to another Torah, heaven forbid, for surely the Torah which He gave us through Moshe rabbeinu, peace be upon him, is the eternal Torah, but the revelation of her hidden secrets is called the “New Torah”. . . when Adam the first man sinned, God arranged the letters into words, such as, When a man dies in his dent (Num 19:14). For had Adam not sinned, the letters would have arranged themselves into other words. Therefore, in the Olam Haba, the words will return to their primordial state.” Midrash Talpiyot 58a, cited in the Messiah Texts, Raphael Patai, pg. 256

It is important to note that the New Torah is the same Torah of Moshe, but with its hidden soul revealed. Yeshua teaches that ‘not one jot or tittle shall ever pass from the Torah. When ‘heaven and earth pass away’ is when the Olam Haba, the World to Come arrives. HaShem will use the New Torah in order to re-create the Heavens and the Earth. Then the New Torah will be revealed in its fullest measure, through the merit of the New Covenant. The New Covenant will remove sin out of us, thereby transforming the world, one person at a time from within. Without sin, there will be no more need for a korban, as man and HaShem have been brought near. Its purpose will have been accomplished.

The Blood of the Tzaddik 

“According to the Torah, nearly everything is cleansed with blood, and apart from shedding of blood there is no remission.” Hebrews 9:22

This passage has been maligned by anti-missionaries and misunderstood by believers. In Judaism, atonement can be made in a variety of ways: Sacrifice, suffering, exile, etc. This has become a major point of contention between Christians and Jews. Christians focus on the last half of the verse, “apart from the shedding of blood, there is no remission” or atonement. However, the first half of the verse limits the application, “almost everything is cleansed by blood.”

Elu v’elu divrei Elokim Chayyim

These and these are the words of the Living God Eruvin 13b

The harmonization between the two viewpoints is that atonement can be achieved in a variety of ways. First, the entire context of the book of Hebrews is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. In the presence of the Temple, the Torah requires the shedding of blood on Yom Kippur. Secondly, there are levels of atonement, for the severity of the sin and for a particular time frame. However, there are cases where it requires the blood of the Tzaddik, as Rebbe Nachman of Breslov writes in Likutey Moharan,

“…Israel’s spilled blood contains many lofty and hidden matters, be it blood spilled through embarrassment or other, actual spilled blood. For there are very many fallen souls which have no elevation except through the spilled blood of Israel; [that] of a great individual. In some cases, they have no elevation except through actual spilled blood.” Likutey Moharan 83:11, Volume XV, Breslov Research Institute, pg. 225

The Breslov Commentary on this passage states,

“Rebbe Nachman teaches here that this is the deeper reason – “the lofty and hidden matters” – that Israel’s blood has been spilled time and again down through the generations. Whether through embarrassment or murder, the spilled blood of the righteous – a “great individual” – raises the fallen souls and brings to their rectification. The Rebbe has already alluded to this spilled blood of a great individual in the previous section, where he spoke of the tzaddik who must undergo “ritual slaughter” so that God’s tasting his mitzvot is not the consumption of the limb of a living creature….In Likutey Moharan 1, 260, Rebbe Nachman teaches that there are times when, to gain forgiveness for the Jewish people, tzaddikim sacrifice their name and honor and willing suffer embarrassment. Other times, the truly great tzaddikim are required to make the ultimate sacrifice and give their lives to effect forgiveness. This related to the tzaddik’s spilled blood, and to the elevation of the very many souls which have fallen on account of Adam’s blemish of the brit and due to the sins of mankind ever since…The only way to effective unification when sins are prevalent is by the tzaddik’s ultimate self-sacrifice. The righteous are required to accept judgment upon themselves, giving up their lives for God. One such time is when the Holy Temple was destroyed. Sin abounded then, and many souls became trapped in the kelipot. The only possibility of releasing the fallen souls was by entering the realm of impurity itself. The Ten Martyrs, all very great and pure tzaddikim, undertook to do this. Accepting the judgment upon themselves, the Ten Martyrs made the ultimate self-sacrifice, submitting their physical bodies to the realm of the kelipot – the Romans, who tortured and murdered them. Through this “exchange” (for the bodies of the tzaddikim were so holy, they were equivalent to the souls of most other people), the Ten Martyrs rescued the trapped souls, whose elevation, an arousal from energy below, brought about a unification of the Holy One and His Shekhinah in the Upper Worlds…” Commentary to Likutey Moharan 83:11, Volume XV, Breslov Research Institute, pgs. 225-226

Pesikta Rabbati makes a stunning statement about the suffering of the Messiah atoning for the world, from the time of Adam until the Redemption, the entirety of human history,

“At the time of the Messiah’s creation], the Holy One, blessed be He, will tell him in detail what will befall him: ‘There are souls that have been put away with you under My throne, and it is their sins which will bend you down under a yoke of iron and make you like a calf whose eyes grow dim with suffering, and will choke your spirit as with a yoke; because of the sins of these souls your tongue will cleave to the roof of your mouth. Are you willing to endure such things?’ The Messiah will ask the Holy One, blessed be He: ‘Will my suffering last many years?’ The Holy One, blessed be He, will reply: ‘Upon your life and the life of My head, it is a period of seven years which I have decreed for you. But if your soul is sad at the prospect of suffering, I shall at this moment banish these sinful souls.’ The Messiah will say: ‘Master of the Universe, with joy in my soul and gladness in my heart I take this suffering upon myself, provided that not one person in Israel perish; that not only those who are alive be saved in my days, but that also those who are dead, who died from the days of Adam up to the time of redemption, and not only these be saved in my days, but all those who died as abortions; and that not only these be saved in my days, but all those whom You thought to create but were not created. Such are the things I desire, and for these I am ready to take upon myself [whatever You decree.]’ At these words, the Holy One, blessed be He, will appoint for the Messiah the four creatures who will carry the Messiah’s throne of glory.” Pesikta Rabbati, Piska 36, translated by William G. Braude, Yale University Press, pgs. 678-679

The Shelah says,

“The Mashiach ben Yosef, when he comes, does not come in order to establish his own dynasty, rather he comes to help re-establish the Davidic dynasty. He will even sacrifice his own life in order to accomplish this. His blood will atone for the sins of the Jewish people. His atonement will take the form of the Davidic dynasty being restored to the Jewish people as an everlasting kingdom.” Shelah, Shnei Luchot HaBrit, Vayeshev-Miketz-Vayigash, R’ Isaiah Horowitz (1565-1640), translated by Eliyahu Munk, pg. 317

The Ben Ish Chai, R’ Yosef Hayyim of Bagdad, writes,

“…the Messiah is Israel’s guarantor; he has undertaken suffering to atone for Israel’s sins in order to shorten the exile (Yalkut Shimoni 499).” Ben Ish Chai, Aderet Eliyahu, Haftarat Yitro, Days of Peace,Yeshivat Ahavat Shalom Publications, pg. 127

Commenting on Isaiah 53, the Zohar makes the remarkable statement:

בְּשַׁעֲתָא דְּאַמְרִין לֵיהּ לִמְשִׁיחָא צַעֲרָא דְּיִשְׂרָאֵל בְּגָלְוּתְהוֹן, וְאִינּוּן חַיָּיבַיָּא דִּי בְּהוֹן, דְּלָא מִסְתַּכְּלֵי לְמִנְדַּע לְמָארֵיהוֹן, אָרִים קָלָא וּבָכֵי, עַל אִינּוּן חַיָּיבִין דִּבְהוּ. הה”ד, וְהוּא מְחוֹלָל מִפְּשָׁעֵינוּ מְדוּכָּא מֵעֲוֹנוֹתֵינוּ תַּיְיבִין אִינּוּן נִשְׁמָתִין וְקַיְימִין בְּאַתְרַיְיהוּ. בְּגִנְתָּא דְּעֵדֶן אִית הֵיכָלָא חֲדָא, דְּאִקְרֵי הֵיכָלָא דִּבְנֵי מַרְעִין. כְּדֵין מָשִׁיחַ עָאל בְּהַהוּא הֵיכָלָא, וְקָרֵי לְכָל מַרְעִין וְכָל כְּאֵבִין, כָּל יִסּוּרֵיהוֹן דְּיִשְׂרָאֵל, דְּיֵיתוּן עָלֵיהּ, וְכֻלְּהוּ אַתְיָין עָלֵיהּ. וְאִלְמָלֵא דְּאִיהוּ אָקִיל מֵעָלַיְיהוּ דְּיִשְׂרָאֵל, וְנָטִיל עָלֵיהּ, לָא הֲוֵי בַּר נָשׁ דְּיָכִיל לְמִסְבַּל יִסּוּרֵיהוֹן דְּיִשְׂרָאֵל, עַל עוֹנְשֵׁי דְּאוֹרַיְיתָא. הה”ד אָכֵן חֳלָיֵינוּ הוּא נָשָׁא וְגוֹ’. כְּגַוְונָא דָּא רִבִּי אֶלְעָזָר בְּאַרְעָא. בְּגִין דְּלֵית חוּשְׁבָּנָא, לְאִינּוּן יִסּוּרִין דְּקַיְימִין עָלֵיהּ דְּב”נ בְּכָל יוֹמָא, עַל עוֹנְשֵׁי דְּאוֹרַיְיתָא, וְכֻלְּהוּ נַחְתוּ לְעָלְמָא, בְּשַׁעֲתָא דְּאִתְיְהִיבַת אוֹרַיְיתָא. וְכַד הֲווֹ יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּאַרְעָא קַדִּישָׁא, בְּאִינּוּן פּוּלְחָנִין וְקָרְבְּנִין דַּהֲווֹ עַבְדֵי, הֲווֹ מְסַלְּקִין כָּל אִינּוּן מַרְעִין וְיִסוּרִין מֵעָלְמָא. הַשְׁתָּא מָשִׁיחַ מְסָלַק לוֹן מִבְּנֵי עָלְמָא, עַד דְּנָפִיק בַּר נָשׁ מֵהַאי עָלְמָא, וּמְקַבֵּל עוֹנְשֵׁיהּ, כְּמָה דְּאִתְּמַר זֹהַר, שְׁמוֹת, וַיַּקְהֵל

“When the Messiah hears of the great suffering of Israel in their dispersion, and of the wicked amongst them who seek not to know their Master, he weeps aloud on account of those wicked ones amongst them, as it is written: But he was wounded because of our transgression, he was crushed because of our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5). The souls then return to their place. The Messiah, on his part, enters a certain Hall in the Garden of Eden, called the Hall of the Afflicted. There he calls for all the diseases and pains and sufferings of Israel, bidding them settle on himself, which they do. And were it not that he thus eases the burden from Israel, taking it on himself, no one could endure the sufferings meted out to Israel in expiation on account of their neglect of the Torah. So Scripture says, “Surely our diseases he did bear, etc. (Isaiah 53:4). A similar function was performed by R. Eleazar here on earth. For, indeed, beyond number are the chastisements awaiting every man daily for the neglect of the Torah, all of which descended into the world at the time when the Torah was given. As long as Israel were in the Holy Land, by means of the Temple service and sacrifices they averted all evil diseases and afflictions from the world. Now it is the Messiah who is the means of averting them from mankind until the time when a man quits this world and receives his punishment, as already said.” Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 212a, Soncino Press Edition

R’ Tzadok HaKohen of Lublin (1823  – 1900 CE) writes in his work, Poked Akarim, Letter Hei,

ומשיח בן יוסף המוחה כל זכר עמלק, שיהיה נקי לגמרי, סוף נהרג על ידי גוג ומגוג. ונאמר עליו (זכריה י”ב, י’) והביטו אשר דקרו כמו שאמרו ז”ל בסוכה (נ”ב). משמע פשטיה כאילו ישראל דקרוהו. והיינו דמצד עצמו ודאי היה משפטו שלא למות כלל, רק לפי שלא נהפך למלאך כאליהו, ויש לו חיבור עם שאר בני אדם מישראל להיות יחד קומה שלימה דכנסת ישראל שבאותו דור. והם לא ניקו לגמרי, על כן הוכרח ליהרג לכפר על בני ישראל רבי צדוק הכהן מלובלין זי”ע ספר פוקד עקרים אות ה

“Messiah Son of Joseph who wipes out all traces of Amalek, the one who will be perfectly clean, dies during the end times at the hands of Gog and Magog…’They will look upon him whom they pierced’ means literally that Israel pierced him, although legally speaking he did not deserve to die…since his generation was not clean; however, he had to be killed in order to atone for the people of Israel.” Poked Akarim, Letter Heh – cited in The Concealed Light, “Pierced,” Tsvi Sadan, Vine of David, pg. 49

Bittul HaYesh

We too must become like Messiah, becoming a living sacrifice for the Sanctification of the Name. Chabad says,

“A man who shall bring near of you an offering to G‑d (1:2) The verse does not say, “a man of you who shall bring near an offering,” but, “a man who shall bring near of you an offering”–the offering must come from within the person. It is the animal within man that must be “brought near” and elevated by the divine fire upon the Altar.” The Chassidic Masters, cited at [4]

The Shelah describes Adam’s ultimate purpose and spiritual service (avodah),

“Adam had been created and placed in Gan Eden in order לעבדה ולשמרה “to work and preserve it” (Genesis 2,15)…He himself was meant to be the “service” or, as we expressed this later, the “offering.” He was a “living sacrifice.” While alive in a body, he was supposed to be what the souls of the righteous are nowadays after they have left this earth and their bodies behind and when the archangel Michael offers their souls on the Celestial Altar…Man is supposed to be close to this image of himself since man of this earth was created in the image of the אדם (Man, Adam) who sits on the “throne” in the Celestial Regions, the mystical dimension of אצילות (Atzilut, the World of Emanation)….Originally, man’s body and soul were so close to one another that they could almost be considered one. This relationship paralleled the relationship between אדם העליון (Adam HaElyon, The Supernal Adam) and G’d Himself in the Celestial Regions. Man was therefore considered a קרבן (korban, sacrifice), and placed in גן עדן (Gan Eden, the Garden of Eden), the most refined place in the physical universe. He was meant to live indefinitely. When the Torah describes man as becoming נפש חיה (nefesh chayyah, a living soul), in Genesis 2,7, the meaning is that his soul comprised all other souls in the universe, as our sages have described…Under such conditions, he represented the closest one could come to G’d, i.e. the objective of the concept of קרבן (korban), offering, self-sacrifice. If he was described as (k’ruv l’atzmo) “close to his own essence,” this merely meant that man himself was the קרבן (korban).” R’ Yeshayahu Horowitz, Shney Luchot HaBrit, Translated and Annotated by Eliyahu Munk, Volume 2, pgs. 698-699

 Paul says in Romans,

“Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service (avodah). Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1-2

If we become a living sacrifice as Adam was intended, through humility, we will become the Little Aleph, like Moshe, like Messiah.



  1. Parsha In-Depth: Vayikra,

  2. Ibid.

  3. Ibid.

  4. Ibid.

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