Your Offering Needs Wine! - שלח

Friday, 4 June, 2021 - 10:54 am


Your Offering Needs Wine!

Immediately after the tragic episode of the spies, when G-d declared that all men liberated from Egypt would perish in the desert over the next forty years, G-d offered a word of encouragement. The verse states: 

The Lord spoke to Moses saying: Speak to the children of Israel and say to them: When you arrive in the Land of your dwelling place, which I am giving you… 

Rashi explains that the commandment is prefaced by the introduction “when you arrive in the land” because: “He {G-d} informed them that they {the children of those who were destined to die in the desert} would enter the Land”. 

Of all the commandments that apply in Israel, the one mentioned here is the commandment of libations, pouring wine on the altar together with an offering. As the verse explains: 

{when} you make a fire offering to the Lord, the one who brings his offering to the Lord shall present... a meal offering containing one tenth fine flour mixed with a quarter of a hin of oil. And a quarter of a hin of wine for a libation, you shall prepare with the burnt offering or for the sacrifice, for each lamb.

The commandment of libations is presented here, and not in Leviticus, the third book of the Torah, where the laws of offerings are discussed, because the libations represent the antidote to the mistake of the spies. Chassidic philosophy explains that the spies preferred to remain in the desert where they would live a spiritual existence, secluded and protected from physical life. They sought to escape the mundane and live a spiritual life where they could be close to G-d. In a word, they sought to be “an offering”; they sought to be utterly devoted to holiness. Their mistake was that they were not aligned  with the purpose of creation, which is to create a home for G-d in the physical reality. They were happy to offer a “fire offering”, like the fire which surges upward, they sought to escape the gravitational pull of the physical. G-d, therefore, introduced the commandment of pouring wine together with the offering. Because the purpose of ascending to spiritual heights is to then "flow downward", to figuratively “pour the wine”, infusing physical life with meaning and joy. 

The Talmud equates the relationship between offering and libations with the relationship between reciting the Shema and putting on tefillin: 

Rabbi Chyya bar Abba said that Rabbi Yoḥanan said: {one who recites Shema without Tefillin} it is as if he has offered a burnt-offering without a meal-offering or a peace-offering without libations. 

When we recite the Shema we are raising ourselves to a higher spiritual plane. We meditate on the unity of G-d, and awaken a passionate love for G-d in our hearts. But just as the offering placed into the fire on the altar must be followed by the wine flowing downward, so too the fire of the Shema needs to be channeled into the Tefillin, which represent tangible, action based, commandments; thus fulfilling the  purpose of creation, making a home for G-d, not in heaven but right here on earth. 

(Based on Likutei Torah 40:1)  

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