If you were a rich man … ya ba dibba dibba dibba dibba dibba dibba dum … and you had all the money in the world, would you still need to pray? Biblically, prayer is about asking for your needs. But what if you have no needs? Why did the rabbis establish set prayer on a daily basis for everyone?

It must be that prayer is not for the sole purpose of asking G‑d for money or health or any of our heart’s desires. There is another purpose to daily prayer that is relevant to everyone.

The Talmud says that “prayers were instituted based on the daily offerings sacrificed in the Holy Temple.”1 Since there is no Temple or altar or sacrifices today, the sages established daily prayer instead. But what is the connection between animals being burned on the altar and saying words of prayer? Obviously, the content and inner meaning of the sacrifices are parallel to the content and inner meaning of prayer. Let’s explore both.

The Inner Meaning of Sacrifices

When it came to bringing a sacrifice, an animal was placed on the altar and, during the first Temple, a fire descended from heaven—in the form of a lion—to consume it. What was that all about? Why an animal, and why have a fire descend from heaven to consume it?

The entire service of sacrificing animals was not just in order to burn physical animals; there was a deep spiritual process happening simultaneously.

An animal is not just an animal. Kabbalah explains that the soul of an animal is actually from a very high source—from spiritual fire. What is spiritual fire?

Spiritual fire refers to the angels with the fiery face of an ox and a lion as described in the vision of Ezekiel the prophet. Ezekiel had a vision where he saw the Divine beings in an image of a chariot. The face of the ox and the lion represented angels and “their appearance was like fiery coals, burning like the appearance of firebrands.”2 These angels are the spiritual fire that is the source of the souls of animals on this earth.

The fire that descended from heaven to consume the animals wasn’t just fire. The physical fire on the altar that descended from heaven was actually a physical manifestation of this very high spiritual source of fire, the ox and the lion of the chariot. It was a G‑dly and holy fire.

So what happened on the altar? As the physical animal was consumed by a physical fire from above, the energy of the physical animal, which originally comes from spiritual fire, was consumed and absorbed into its holy source, thus elevating the energy of the animal. That’s why the fire that descended actually resembled a lion, being as it was a manifestation of the true source of the soul of the animal, the angels of the chariot. What remained of the animal once it was burned was holy energy.

Why was that so necessary? The whole purpose of elevating the soul of the animal was actually for the effect it had on the person bringing the sacrifice! A person has a G‑dly soul and an animal soul, which has the same very high source as the soul of animal—aka the spiritual fire or the angels of the chariot. When the soul of the physical animal was elevated to its source, it also by default elevated the animal soul of the person bringing up the sacrifice. The person’s animal soul got elevated and refined, and that is the part that the sages wanted to replicate by establishing prayer—the elevation of the animal soul of a person.

The Inner Meaning of Prayer

Now that there is no physical Temple and no physical sacrifices, the sages established prayer to accomplish the same thing: to elevate the energy of the animal soul. How is this done?

Our animal soul descended through many spiritual processes until it became unrecognizable as the holy passionate love of G‑d it once once. The animal soul still has fiery components, but instead of a fiery passion for G‑d, it has a fiery passion for physical pleasures.

The purpose of prayer is to elevate the animal soul to its original source by revealing the true source of the animal soul, revealing its true desire to burn with love of G‑d. Just like in the Temple, today, we pray to reveal a love of G‑d, a “fire from above” that consumes the negativity of the animal and elevates it. This passionate love of G‑d that is awakened during prayer is really from the source of the animal soul, and it burns any negative energy of the animal soul. What remains of the animal soul is only the pure passion for G‑d.

That’s why regardless of your financial status, prayer is applicable to you—for who doesn’t have some work to do to burn the negative tendencies of the animal soul and reveal a real love of G‑d?

Soul Note: Prayer arouses a fiery love that burns the negative tendencies of the animal soul and elevates it, and this mimics the service of sacrifices in the Temple.

Source: The Maamar, ki teitzei l’milchama, in Likkutei Torah, as explained in Chassidut Mevueret, Chapter 1.