Sunday, July 21, 2013

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Going Up

From Reb Gutman

Going Up


     In the Temple days, offering a sacrifice on the altar was our essential service to Hashem.

     The sacrificial altar was 10 cubits high (20 feet). This emphasized that when we offer a sacrifice to Hashem we go up. The ascent to the altar was by a ramp rather than by stairs, as it says "And you shall not go up to My altar by steps, so that your nakedness will not be uncovered upon it".[i]

     The literal explanation is that if a kohen (priest) serving in the Temple would walk up steps to the altar, as he raised his foot for each step some of his robe would be lifted and part of his bare flesh would show. To prevent this, a ramp led up to the Altar, and not stairs.

     But, as always, there are deeper things that we can learn from this. The Hebrew word for nakedness can also mean unfortified, needy, or detriment. Walking up steps allows us to stop and rest at each level even though we are putting an offering on the altar to Hashem. Not a good time to take a break!

     But climbing up a ramp, forces us to lean forward as we ascend and does not allow us to stand still and rest. If we would not lean forward, the slope would force us to back down the ramp. And when going down a ramp, we have to lean back up, or we might tumble down.

     Today, we do not have the Temple offerings, but we do have many mitzvahs, and these mitzvahs have to help stand in the place of the Temple service. The obvious lesson of the ramp is, when we are about to offer something to Hashem we should move continuously forward, leaning toward the goal, intent on fulfilling the deed. And when we move away from a mitzvah, we should not be in a rush, or we might fall down.

Exodus 20:23

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