Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto ("RaMChaL"):

It is in this Inner Courtyard that the outside altar, or "Altar of the Burnt Offering", is located. This is where the daily sacrifices are offered. I must now explain the order of the Temple services and offerings to the King. Make every effort to understand.

Know that all the heavenly hosts - the angels and the souls - receive from the array of holy lights [the Sefirot] the flow of sustenance and power they need in order to survive and carry out their duties. Every day all created beings must receive blessing and sustenance from their Creator. Why do I say "every day"? Because each day is a unique level, and no day is like any other. I cannot go into this in depth as it would require lengthy explanation, so I will be brief. Use all your powers of intellect to plumb the depths of these matters.

Every day the lower realms need to draw close [KaRoV] to the upper realms in order that the branches should be connected to the roots. This way the angels are bound to their roots, and the souls to theirs. It is the animal offering [KoRBan] that brings the angels close, while the incense offering brings the souls close. Understand this well, for this is the secret of "man and animal" (Psalms 36:7): the innermost beings [Pnimi'im] are called "man" while the exterior creations [Chitzoni'im] are called "animal".

Types of sacrificial animals and birds

The sacrifices consist of animals (oxen, sheep and goats) and birds (doves and pigeons) but not wild animals. Each of these three categories has its unique place in the order of creation: the domesticated animals in the world of Beriyah (Creation), the birds in that of Yetzirah (Formation) and the wild animals in that of Asiyah (Action). The wild animals are on such a lowly level they are not brought as offerings. Because of the powerful hold of impurity on their level, they would not have the strength to ascend to such an exalted place.

The actual altar is the special place prepared for the performance of this service. The intrinsic quality of the altar derives from the "point" (see "Building the House by connecting the lights" p.60), the place of desire. Here burns the blazing fire of which it is said: "This is the burnt offering on the pyre" (Leviticus 6:1). Make every effort to understand, for these are very deep matters.

Priests, Levites and Israelites

Let me now explain the sacrificial service. Understand that there are three main columns: Kindness [Chesed], Judgment [Din] and Mercy [Rachamim], corresponding to the three categories of Priests [Cohanim], Levites and Israelites. Closest of all [to the higher levels] is Kindness, corresponding to the Priest, who actually performs the service. All three must be joined in a single bond. Beauty, Tiferet [= Mercy, the center column] must be joined with and included in Strength, Gevurah [=Judgment, the left column]. Then Strength, Gevurah, must be joined with and included in Kindness, Chesed [the right column], while Kindness, Chesed, finally offers the gift in a fitting manner.

This is why the Israelites, Levites and Priests each have their own special places in the Inner Courtyard starting from below and going upwards. All are present at the time of the offering, though the actual sacrifice may only be performed by the Priest. The Priest offers the sacrifice, the Levite sings with all his strength, and the Israelite stands by focusing intently, so that all are elevated together. To be more precise, the Courtyard has places for four categories of people: the Priests, Levites, Israelites and women. The women's place is outside in the Outer Courtyard, while the other three categories have their places inside.

Three parts of the animal included in the sacrifice

You must know that living beings are made up of three components. The limbs and fat are rooted in Kindness [Chesed], the blood in Strength [Gevurah] and the soul in Beauty [Tiferet]. This is why the blood is sprinkled on the altar while the limbs and fats are burned on it. And as the soul leaves the animal, it joins them both and thereby ascends and becomes bound to the lofty place to which it rises.

All these phenomena are visible and manifest in our world here below in accordance with the King's command, while their inner secret is known in the upper worlds as these three aspects join together in a single bond so as to rise and become included in the place to which they ascend. One part of the sacrifice corresponds to the Priest, another to the Levite, and another to the Israelite. Note how all the different aspects of the Temple are bound up with creation in general and not merely with specific details. Only later [in the chain of creation that begins with the Temple] is there a descent from the general plane and division into specifics.

Slaughter and sprinkling the blood

Let me now explain the sacrificial ritual. First comes the slaughter of the offering, which may be performed even by one who is not a Priest. The purpose of slaughter [Shechitah] is to bring out the blood, which being rooted on the "left" side [Gevurah] is all the stronger. This is where the destructive angels have their hold. For this reason the blood has to be brought out by means of the "knife" [Sakin], which is an awesomely holy light emanating from Understanding [Binah]. The numerical value of the letters of the word SaKiN is 140, corresponding to the sum of the letters that make up this light: ל"ף י' ו"ד י'. These are the "filling" letters of the expansion of EHYH with Yud's [הי אלף הי יוד]. Through the power of this light the strong blood that is not fitted to come before the King is removed. Until this point the service is on the level of the pure [Tahor] but not the holy [Kadosh]. Afterwards the portion of blood that is fit for the altar is taken and sprinkled upon it, this being the portion that is offered from this part of the animal.

The House of the Knives

Let me now explain to you the great and awesome secret of why the two places [on either side of the Ulam, the Vestibule of the Sanctuary Gate] that I mentioned earlier are called "The House of Knives". For this is where the knives are kept. Great wisdom may be seen here. Understand that in general, each of the places we will discuss as we proceed, whether within the courtyards or elsewhere, has its own particular function. This is because special lights shine in each place providing the power to carry out the specific activity associated with it.

The knives are kept here because this is the place from which these knives receive the power to fulfill their function properly. To explain this matter further: The Gate of the Sanctuary is for the souls, and so the angels do not receive anything from there. They receive nothing at all from the great Gate itself. What they do receive from here comes only from the side entrances and the adjacent "Houses of the Knives". From here they receive a little, including the power to prepare their offering and banish all impurity, purifying and rectifying the sacrifice through the power of this knife.

Let me explain how they receive their power from these side entrances. For here we find two simple names of EHYH without the "expansion" with Yud's found in the case of the center Gate. Instead, the "filling letters" are drawn down to make these knives. [As explained above, the Hebrew word for "knife", SaKiN, has the same numerical value as the "filling" letters of the expansion of EHYH with Yud's, ל"ף י' ו"ד י'.] Thus the knives are put away in these places in order to join them to their root, which here takes the form of the simple names of EHYH. From here they receive the strength and power they need in order to carry out their function properly. One side is for the knives that are fit for use while the other side is for those that need repair.

Benefits of the sacrifices for the angels and souls

Understand that even though the animal sacrifices come to rectify the angels, it is Israel who are commanded to offer them since they are entrusted with the task of rectifying all the worlds on all their different levels. This is because all the worlds were created for the sake of Israel, whose service gives them merit before the King. Here in the lower world the People of Israel offer the animal sacrifice, through which the angels are rectified. After this they offer the incense, which brings about their own rectification.

The sacrificial service therefore starts with the sprinkling of the blood of the daily animal offering [on the outside Altar in the Temple courtyard], in order to go from the lower levels upwards. The animal sacrifice rectifies the external aspects of creation, and at the same time the souls themselves are also rectified by virtue of the fact that they are carrying out the King's command.

Immediately afterwards they burn the incense [on the Golden Altar inside the Sanctuary]. This brings about the rectification of the inner aspects of creation. They then go back outside to complete the sacrificial service [i.e. the burning of the animal portions]. For the only way to ascend to the supreme level is by starting on the lowest level. Yet the lower worlds can only come to perfection through the rectification of the upper worlds. Understand this well.

Slaughter of the "most holy" offerings in the north

The slaughter of the "most holy" offerings [i.e. the burnt, sin and guilt offerings, Kodshey Kodshim] is carried out in the northern section [of the Temple courtyard]. This is because the beneficial effects of the sacrificial services are brought about through Strength [Gevurah = "north"], which "goes up but does not come down". In addition slaughtering these sacrifices in the north breaks the root power of anger and the destroyer.

The slaughter area

Adjacent to the vestibule of the north gate of the Inner Courtyard is the Slaughter Area (Beit Mitbachaim). Remember the underlying principle which I explained earlier, that all the various areas of the Temple are differentiated in accordance with the specific lights that shine in each one providing the power to carry out the specific activity associated with that place.

Four lights emerge from the radiance of the Lower Shechinah and stand in the Vestibule, two to the east and two to the west. They spread out in the form of four tables. Know that it is through the power of Malchut that all things come into being. These four lights are the four letters of ADNY. And four others exactly like them stand above at the "shoulders" of the gate, and they go forth from the Upper Shechinah.

The Washers' Chamber

Also in the Inner Courtyard is a place where the slaughtered sacrifice goes through a major purification, because here the waters of mercy spread forth and cleanse it of all filth and impurity. This place is therefore called "The Washers' Chamber". In it shine four other lights in the form of four tables whose measurements correspond to their underlying secret. Each table is one cubit high, and one and a half cubits in length and breadth. The table's height of one cubit added to the sum of its length and breadth (=3) make a total of four, corresponding to the four letters of ADNY. When the constituent letters of the name are "expanded" they are made up of three letters each. It is here that the slaughtering utensils are placed ready for use, and from here they receive their power.

Iron hooks for skinning the sacrifice

In this chamber are choice names. They are all HaVaYaH's filled with light and power. As the sacrifice of the angels begins to rise, it connects with these names, receiving great light from them, which prepares it until it is fit to go up on the altar of the King. Correspondingly the Slaughter Area in the Temple below contains "hooks of one handbreadth" (Ezekiel 40:43) for hanging the sacrificial animals [while they are skinned]. Understand that a handbreadth is sometimes considered to be four fingers wide and sometimes five. This is because the Divine Name YHVH to which the "handbreadth" alludes is made up of four letters, and when the cusp of the Yud is included it makes five.

The entrance to this chamber is at the side of the Gate of the Courtyard [to the north]. Understand that when I speak about the entrance of any given chamber, this is the place where the light enters to carry out its function.

As the light spread forth to leave through the Gate of the Courtyard it entered this chamber and dwelled there.

The Chamber of Song

Besides the Washers' Chamber, this courtyard contains other chambers including two located at the side of the northern gate facing south. The truth is that from the outside they appear to be one chamber but inside it is divided into two. This is where the musical instruments with which the holy Chayot sing are kept.

I will be very brief in my explanation of this matter. Make every effort to understand. Melody and song emerge from Malchut, as indicated in the verse: "And at night His song is with me" (Psalms 42:9) ["night" alludes to Malchut]. The roots of melody and song lie in Gevurah, Strength, tempered with Mercy, for she [Gevurah] yearns to ascend and to be connected with the right side [Chesed, Kindness], as it is written: "And your urge will be for your husband" (Genesis 3:16).

All who rise can do so only through Gevurah, which is why they only ascend through song. And the truth is that song has tremendous power to arouse love and desire. There are known to be seven basic notes. It is just the pitch and timbre that vary, creating the great variety of actual musical sounds. The lights manifest themselves in many different ways. How the various root lights shine determines the nature of the corresponding musical instruments. The sole function of any given instrument is to play the particular kind of song that corresponds to the level from which the instrument derives.

Song and music derive their power from these two chambers, which correspond to the Upper and Lower Shechinah. The chambers face south because, as you already know, melody derives from Gevurah tempered with mercy.

Chamber of the garments

Near the eastern gate is another chamber facing north where the priests dress in their priestly garments. Let me explain a deep secret about the priestly garments. They are all made of linen, which is rooted in Strength, Gevurah [on the left], yet they are white, which indicates mercy [the center column]. And they are worn by the Priest, who as you know is the man of Kindness, Chesed [on the right].

Let me explain this: Understand that Chesed and Gevurah are quite separate from one another. Each faces in a different direction and there is no connection between them until a third deciding factor [Mercy, Rachamim] comes and makes peace between them. For Rachamim takes the lights of Gevurah and joins them to itself, thereby extinguishing something of the burning intensity of Gevurah, which now becomes tempered with Rachamim. Then it is the turn of Chesed to connect with these two, forging such tremendous interconnectedness between them that they become a single inseparable unity. The entire process can be seen in the case of the garments kept in this chamber. The lights of Gevurah travel from the north and enter this chamber, which is in the east [= Rachamim]. Here they are tempered with Rachamim, producing beautiful white garments with which to clothe the Priest [= Chesed]. Understand this well.





Translated by Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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