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Getting In Touch With Your Animal Self

05/04/13 10:35:57


R Pesach Siegel

Getting In Touch With Your Animal Self

Parshas Shmini 5773

The Mishkan was completed. The seven days prior to Rosh Chodesh Nisan were filled with preparatory avoda. Moshe clothed Aharon and his sons in the bigdei kehuna and involved them in the sacrifices.

On the eighth day, Rosh Chodesh, Aharon was commanded to bring a calf as a sin offering. It was to be atonement for his participation in the sin of the golden calf.[1]

The posuk says, “Vayakrev Aharon el hamizbe’ach” – and Aharon brought himself close to the mizbe’ach.

The Ohr HaChaim explains why Aharon approached the mizbe’ach. He was prepared to give up his life, to sacrifice himself, to burn himself upon the fires of the mizbe’ach in place of the calf. It is only by way of Hashem’s compassion that he was spared from doing so.

What is gained by coming close to the mizbe’ach?

Aharon is fully aware that he will not end up being burned on the altar in place of the animal.

What is the purpose of doing something that has no meaning in reality?

The Ohr HaChaim explains that the act of coming close to the mizbe’ach has profound significance.

Chazal says, ein adam choteh ela im kayn nichnas bo ruach shtus[2] – A man does not come to sin unless a spirit of senselessness enters him. Prior to sinning, a man’s rational mind deserts him. He is but an animal that follows its passions.

After sinning, the ruach shtus departs from him. He reverts back to being a person. He is no longer the animal that committed the deed. It is out of Hashem’s compassion that the entire person is spared from death upon the altar. But this compassion is filled with a sense of justice. The animal that committed the atrocity is no longer present. The human being, the mentsch, never would have committed the atrocity. So it is that an animal is sacrificed in place of the person.

What emerges is that the actual sin is not the crime. The crime is allowing one’s self from descending to the level of an animal. The animalistic part is an integral part of us. The sons of Yaakov Avenu were praised for their animalistic natures. But it is meant to serve under the rational mind, the rational mind of the person.

The separation between passion and intellect lies at the root of all sins. There are all sorts of choices that one can make that will serve to drive a wedge between the two.

The onus of sin is the choices that one made that served to free the animal part of the person from the seichel that it was intended to serve under. These choices bring on the ruach shtus.

When Aharon approached the mizbe’ach, his approach was filled with meaning. He was getting close to the animal upon the mizbe’ach. He was empathizing with the animal. Witnessing what the animal was going through, he was feeling its pain.

He was connecting with the animal. And he was making a commitment, never to allow his animal to stray from his own animal again.

[1] Perek 9, posuk 8

[2] Meseches Sotah, daf 3a

Mon, September 21 2020 3 Tishrei 5781