"…two male goats as a sin-offering." (Lev 16:5)

The Zohar states that every sin committed by man creates an accusing angel - a negative, destructive spiritual force. On the other hand, performance of positive, constructive deeds creates a sacred constructive force. When, after confession, a person places his hands on the sacrificial animal he offers in expiation of his sin, he transfers the spiritually negative force he has created through his sin to the animal to be slaughtered. The reason why the animal had to be slaughtered immediately after the owner has placed his hands on it was to subdue this spiritually negative force, to neutralize it.

The fire of the Altar acts as the purifying agent…

This is why it has to be burned on the holy Altar. While the animal bears the weight of this spiritually negative force, it is joined by the positive force created by performance of the mitzvah of the owner's penitence and confession (see Lev. 5:5). These two opposing forces are present during the burning of the flesh and the fat parts of the offering. The fire of the Altar therefore accomplishes two tasks: 1) It totally disposes of the spiritually negative force created by sin, and 2) it causes the positive forces created by penitence and confession to ascend heavenwards, purified from all ulterior motives which are sometimes associated with the performance of mitzvot, the Torah's commandments.

The fire of the Altar acts as the purifying agent because of the donor's good intentions. This purity of intention is called "sweet smelling fragrance to G‑d". When a person raises a sweet smelling flower to his nose in order to inhale its fragrance, he is as if absorbing the essence of the flower. G‑d, so to speak, absorbs the pure intention of the person who has offered this sacrifice. It is the presence of this pure intention, that enables the sacrifice and all it stands for to ascend heavenwards.

[Translated and adapted by Eliyahu Munk.]