Would You Donate Some Wood? - ויקרא

Friday, 22 March, 2024 - 11:17 am


Would You Donate Some Wood? 

The entire first portion of the third book of the Torah, Vayikra, is dedicated to the laws of the various offerings in the temple: elevation offerings, meal offerings, peace offerings, and sin and guilt offerings. There is one offering that, while not mentioned explicitly in the Torah, was the cause for a great holiday for various Jewish families. 

The Talmud explains that in a time of shortage, some families donated wood for the fire on the Altar. The times of those donations became holidays for those families who would then donate wood on those days in subsequent years:  

When the people of the exile ascended to Jerusalem in the beginning of the Second Temple period, they did not find enough wood in the Temple chamber for the needs of the altar. And these families arose and donated from their own wood to the Temple. And the prophets among them stipulated as follows, that even if the entire chamber were full of wood, the descendants of these families would donate wood from their own property on these specific days, as it is stated: “And we cast lots, the priests, the Levites and the people, for the wood offering, to bring it into the house of our God, according to our fathers’ houses, at appointed times year by year, to burn upon the altar of the Lord our God, as it is written in the Torah” (Nehemiah 10:35). Although these donations were not always necessary, it was established that all generations would observe these days. (Talmud, Taanit 28a)

While the wood offerings were not mentioned explicitly in the Torah, they caused a great holiday because, in some ways, they were even more profound than the offerings mentioned explicitly in the Torah. Every offering represents the effort to draw one specific aspect, dimension, or experience of self closer to G-d. Yet the wood, to fuel the fire of the Altar, present in all offerings, represents the general longing and desire to transcend and connect to G-d, expressed by abandoning the orientation toward self and focusing entirely on what is needed. Thus, the person donates not a specific offering, which is a Mitzvah, giving him the satisfaction that he is the one performing the will of G-d, but rather he donates the wood which is merely an accessory, allowing others to bring their offerings. 

Joy is a by-product of transcending self. Therefore, the holidays were established specifically to celebrate the wood, where the emphasis was not on an individual’s own spiritual growth, but rather on his enabling others to reconnect and reunite with G-d.

Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe, Likkutei Sichos 22 Vayikra 2


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