[b-hebrew] Lev 1:9 - Burnt Offering

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Fri Oct 19 04:30:46 EDT 2007

Dear Bruce,

Before anyone jumps on you, let me remind us all that whether Jesus was or 
was not Son of God is off limits for discussion on this list, which deals 
with the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament to Christians). Of course, this does 
not mean that anyone on this list is denied the right to believe that he 
was, just that it is not a topic for discussion.

As to your question about the Hebrew word (Olah, which is often translated 
"burnt offering", that is a very legitimate question, and yes, you are 
correct - (Olah in Hebrew means "accent" or "something that goes up". 
Whether the term derives from the rising smoke, or from that fact that the 
sacrifice "goes up" to God in a more figurative sense is not clear. Probably 
a little of both.

And yes, the image of Jesus being a sacrifice which "accends" to God was 
probably influenced by the way in which animal sacrifices were seen by the 
Jews who were Jesus' early followers - remember, this image was formed while 
the Jewish Second Temple was still standing and sacrifices were still being 

BTW, the idea that a holy man "accends" to God after his earthly death is 
not uniquly Christian. It is also a cornerstone of Kabbalah, or Jewish 
mysticism. The recently-published vol. 4 of the journal "Moreshet Israel" 
features an article by Sheli Goldberg: "'Ascent after Ascent' - The Soul of 
the Zaddik after Death According to the Lubavitcher Rebbes". The journal is 
in Hebrew, but there is an English abstract:

This article shows the processes of change and ascendance that the Zaddik's 
soul undergoes from the time of its 'histalkut' (passing away from the world 
of matter) until its return to its source in the higher worlds, as reflected 
in the teachings of the Chabad/Lubavitch leaders, especially those of the 
seventh leader, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Shneurson.

In the Chabad philosophy, 'histalkut' is defined as 'ascendance' or 'going 
up', based on the perception of the soul as immortal, and by no means 
subject to extinction. The end of the soul's role in its physical existence 
is perceived as the end of one chapter and the beginning of another, in 
which the process of ascendance of the Zaddik's soul is dynamic. This 
process is described in Chabad literature through a variety of terms and 
metaphors, such as 'Ilui Ahar Ilui' (ascent after ascent), 'Meolam Leolam' 
(from world to world), 'Midarga Ledarga' (from level to level), 'Derech Ha'amud' 
(through the pillar), 'Gan Eden Hatachton' (lower paradise), 'Gan Eden Ha'elyon' 
(upper paradise), 'Ta'anug' (spiritual pleasure) etc.

The Zaddik's soul aspires to return to its upper source, and after its 
'histalkut', experiences an active stage of ascendance: 'Rum Hamaalot' 
(uppermost level). This is a dialectic process whose aim is the achievement 
of 'Ziv Hashechina' (uppermost pleasure) and 'Razin Deoreita' (Torah's inner 

The ascendance process is complex since it is both individualistic and 
unified, finite and infinite. In other words, the structure of the 
ascendance is unified, and every Zaddik's soul passes through lower 
paradise, through the purification in Dinur River to upper paradise and its 
many stages.

More than any of his predecessors, the seventh Rebbe, the Ramam, emphasized 
the establishment of the presence of the 'Shechina' in the lower world as 
the main duty of the seventh generation. This is the generation, defined as 
'the last for exile and first for redemption', which is to prepare the world 
for the coming of the Messiah.

The uniqueness of the seventh generation, which is attached to its Rebbe's 
soul in the upper world, finds its expression in the idea that the bringing 
of redemption is not the task of unique people as has been believed 
throughout all generations. This is now considered the task of the whole 
generation. This shows the importance of every person's deeds in the Jewish 

Yigal Levin

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Bruce Prince" <bruceprince at bigpond.com>
To: "b-Hebrew List" <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Friday, October 19, 2007 9:53 AM
Subject: [b-hebrew] Lev 1:9 - Burnt Offering

> Dear Folks
> I was recently interested to read that "burnt offering" (Heb:'olah) has 
> more
> an implication of ascent rather than a sacrifice that is 
> simplyburnt/roasted
> over flame.
> This is supported, among other things, by the smoke, which ascends, and
> meets the approval of God. Also, as the sin offering pointed to the 
> ultimate
> sacrifice of the Son of God, it can perhaps be seen that the act wasn't
> completed until he had ascended to God the Father.
> I'm wondering if you, who are Hebrew linguists, could comment on this
> please?
> Cheers
> Bruce Prince
> Australia
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