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VaYikra, Leviticus 6:1 – 8:36

“The End of The Universe”


The early verses of this week’s Torah portion are translated by our mystics as follows:

This is the Torah of the ascending-offering. This is the ascending-offering that stays on the flame, on the altar, all night until morning the altar’s fire shall be lit upon it… A perpetual fire shall be kept burning on the altar, it shall not go out. [Lev. 6:2-6]

This interpretation defines the Torah as a means to ascend, to rise upward into the “spiritual spheres.” In doing so, the Kabbalists transform Torah study from an intellectual endeavor to a transcendental practice. This “ascending-offering” that is Torah study, “stays on the flame…all night until morning;” which, according to our sages, points to the ecstatic “ablaze” practice of study that supports our moving from the night of ignorance into the dawning light of awakening.

Dov Baer Friedman of Miedzyrzec asks:

What sort of Torah study is this talking about? ‘The ascending-offering that stays on the flame,’ meaning teachings offered in ecstasy and close attachment to our blessed Creator, not things that flow only outward from the lips. ‘Any word that does not come forth in awe and love does not fly upward’ (Tikkuney Zohar t. 10,25b) and is not called an ascending-offering.” [in Speaking Torah, Arthur Green et al. p.258]

A parable in the Zohar teaches that, at first, Adam was able to see from one end of the universe to the other, as he bathed in the primordial Light of the six days of Creation. After eating from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil—after the fall into dualistic consciousness—the Zohar continues, God hid the Light away, to be revealed again only in messianic times. Before leaving Eden, before leaving the world of Undifferentiated Awareness, of Non-Dual Consciousness, Adam and Eve—beings of light—are clothed by God in “garments of skin.” [Gen. 3:21] Such is the reality of Creation. Every thing, every being existing in this universe, is the Light of God clothed in Divine garments. The Light is covered, hidden beneath the garments. And we, who have identified with this outer garb, have forgotten the beings of Light that we are. We have forgotten that even the garment itself is a manifestation of God, an expression of that Light. A teaching in the Midrash connects the Hebrew word Or/skin with its homophone Or/light.  Though they appear to have different shapes (when written,) they are one and the same (when sounded.) The “garments of skin” are, themselves, garments of Light.

The Torah, scribed on a garment of skin, is both where the Light of God is hidden and where it is revealed. Approaching, looking deeply into this hidden Light through the Hebrew letters of her scroll in ecstatic fervor is, our mystics teach us, the way to rise up and break through the delusion of separateness, of identification with the garment. “The Torah given to Moses was written with black fire upon white fire, sealed with fire, and swathed with bands of fire” [Talmud Yerushalmi, Sh’lamim, 6:1, 49d] For the Kabbalists, “This is the Torah of the ascending-offering.” May the Torah be a pathway for us to pierce through the delusion of its outer garment, and uncover the Light that is its Source, the Source of all beings, of all Creation. May we awaken to “messianic” Non-Dual Consciousness, return to the Eden of Undifferentiated Awareness, shed our dualistic garments of skin and, like Adam, step into the Light of Being and see, at once, from one end of the universe to the other.