"A man who shall bring from you an offering to G‑d…."—Leviticus 1:2

This week we begin the third of the Five Books of Moses, the Book of Leviticus, which deals primarily with the sacrificial offerings brought on the altar in the times of the Temple.

What is the significance of the many animal sacrifices commanded in Leviticus? Why does G‑d want us to get close to Him by bringing an animal to be slaughtered and consumed by fire on the altar?

One way of understanding this is that the animal one brings as an offering to G‑d is symbolic of our own inner animal, our instincts and primal desires that we must bring into alignment with G‑d's will. When we wish to approach G‑d, we cannot do so merely with the spiritual side of ourselves; we must draw near to Him with our selfish and animalistic nature as well. We surrender that part of us that is resistant to G‑d and make it submissive to Him so that it too may seek to do His will. The animal is then consumed in fire on the altar; its material existence is converted into warmth and light. The very stuff that had epitomized base instincts becomes fuel for G‑dly revelation.

The very stuff that had epitomized base instincts becomes fuel for G‑dly revelationWhen we in recovery seek to give ourselves over to G‑d, it is not just our holy parts we offer Him. As it says in the Seventh Step prayer, "My Creator, I am now willing that You should have all of me, good and bad."

We don't try to destroy our instincts; we give them up to G‑d. That means that they are now His to use for His glory. One might say that we are taking those very same character defects that drove us far from G‑d and giving them right back to Him to do with as He pleases. It's not for us to try and determine which parts of us G‑d has use for. We just offer all of ourselves to Him and let Him decide.

This idea may sound abstract but it isn't. We see how old character traits, when surrendered to G‑d's will, actually become assets in recovery. For instance, one who could manage to make sure to never miss a day of drinking, once he surrenders to G‑d, may find that same quality expressed in a fixation to never let a day go by without a meeting. When people say things like: "You should spend as much time working on your recovery as you used to spend on your drinking," it's not just meant as a way of counteracting an old habit but, more than that, redirecting it and giving it to G‑d.

As long as there is a G‑dly fire burning on the altar – that is, excitement and enthusiasm for doing G‑d's will – then even the coarsest animal can be converted into bright, glowing energy and G‑dly light.