Every year, around this time of year, I hear this refrain: “Hey, Rabbi, the second week in a row reading about sacrifices? Why?”

There is no getting around it: the Torah talks a lot about animal sacrifices, libations and all that.

Now, it is true that there are profound spiritual ideas inherent in the sacrificial services. As we discussed last week, these ideas are profoundly relevant to our personal spiritual growth.

However, ultimately the Torah is telling us to find a sheep, bring it to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem (or its earlier iterations), and offer it upon the altar, where it is consumed by fire. The amazing thing is that not only is this a ritual of the past, but we pray every day numerous times for the redemption, the rebuilding of the Temple and the restoration of the sacrifices!

Not only is this a ritual of the past, but we pray for its restoration!

We already have mitzvot, prayer and the spiritual implication of the sacrifices—the sanctification of the everyday. With all these spiritual opportunities, why are we missing the sacrificing of an actual animal?

The ultimate sacrifice is the olah (“that which ascends”) sacrifice. Parts of every sacrifice were consumed by the altar’s fire—the essence of the sacrificial service. The olah is the quintessential sacrifice, as it is entirely consumed by the altar’s fire.

The fire on the altar was no ordinary fire. At the inauguration of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), “fire went forth from before G‑d and consumed the burnt offering and the fats upon the altar, and all the people saw, sang praises, and fell upon their faces.”1 Indeed, our sages tell us that this heavenly fire remained on the altar for all the years that the Temple stood.

This fire on the altar came from G‑d, and caused the people to “see.” The fire consuming the sacrifice caused us to see things as they really are.

Creation did not happen once; it is an ongoing process. The terminology the Torah uses to describe the creation of each system is “And G‑d said.” Speech happens only as long as it is being communicated. Existence is not an “is.” Existence is conversation, a dialogue G‑d is having with creation. As long as that dialogue—i.e., the flow of divine life-force from the very essence of G‑d’s being—happens, an object exists. If that flow of energy were to cease, the created would no longer exist. As Maimonides writes, “All that exist in heaven and earth come into being only from the Truth of His Being.”2 The spiritual energy that flows from G‑d becomes condensed and “frozen” until it becomes physical matter.

Nuclear fission or fusion takes matter and reveals that it is all simply congealed energy—there is a huge amount of energy packed into every particle of matter. This is all the more true of the relationship between creation and the energy from which it is formed.

G‑d is the only reality; we just don’t see it. We do not see or feel the energy from which we are being woven at every moment.

And while we can understand this idea, we can be inspired by it, we can maybe even feel it in our souls—we do not experience it as the reality of the physical world.

This is because we are in galut, exile, which essentially means one thing: there is a veil obscuring the G‑dly truth from our view. All other aspects of galut follow from this fact.

The heavenly fire on the altar performed creation in reverse. The fire took the physical and “melted” it—reverting the offering to the spiritual energy of which it was composed.

When the people who brought the offering experienced and saw and felt the physical being returning to its spiritual source, when they saw that our world is pure G‑dliness, they were uplifted to a place where the oneness of all was felt. They were transported to a mode in which the fragmentation and alienation we normally feel was dissipated.

The heavenly fire on the altar performed creation in reverse

In the First and Second Temples, this was felt in a transient and temporary way; in the Third Temple that will be built after the Redemption, this theme will be felt in a way that permeates the whole universe. This is why the Third Temple will be a place where, as Isaiah puts it (56:7): “I will bring them to My holy mount, and I will cause them to rejoice in My house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be acceptable upon My altar, for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

Once all humanity recognizes that every one of us and every iota in the multiverse is an extension of the Endless One—there is no longer any logical choice other than unity. A unity not merely of purpose, which tends towards entropy, but an essential unity that only grows stronger with time.

This is why we yearn for the Redemption and the restoration of the Temple and its sacrifices. We yearn for the ability to see, live and breathe the unity we know to be true, but which is hidden from us.

Until then, let us seek to find this unity with the G‑dly reality as much as we can in our Torah, mitzvot, and interaction with the world and all in it. Indeed, by living in the spirit of this unity, we will ultimately merit to truly experience it.