ותצא אש מלפני ה' ותאכל על המזבח את העולה ואת החלבים וירא כל העם וירנו ויפלו על פניהם.
“And a fire came forth before Hashem and it consumed the offering from upon the altar, along with the fats; and the entire nation saw and praised, and they fell on their faces.” (Vayikra 9:24)
The verse uses the word “milifnei” Hashem - from before Hashem. We know that Hashem’s Presence fills the entire world. Hashem is not a physical entity that has a front, back or side; so how can a fire come forth “before” Him? If the verse wants to tell us that the fire came from heaven, it should have said “min hashamayim.” The word “before” is a bit difficult to understand.
The yartzeit of the holy Sanzer Rav zt”l was just recently, on 25 Nissan. During his lifetime, in the year 5620, the world started to make tremendous progress in all areas of technology. Every year, new things were invented. It is said in the name of the Torah leaders who lived during those times that according to the holy Zohar, the gates of wisdom were destined to open during that era and mankind was to be enabled to make very enlightening discoveries. “If we would be worthy, the wisdom that is descending to the world would have been Divine wisdom – the eternal wisdom of the Torah,” they said. “We would then have merited the fulfillment of the verse ‘For the world will be filled with knowledge of G-d as the water spreads over the sea’ (Yeshaya 11:9). Unfortunately, we were not found worthy and this special wisdom was usurped by the nations, to be used for mundane things.”
It is told that the Sanzer Rav’s Chassidim once discussed the latest invention, the telegraph, marveling at the wondrous phenomenon of being able to send a message to a distant city and receive an almost immediate response. The Chassidim were saying to each other how remarkable it is that such great technological advancements were being made in their times. The Sanzer Rav listened to their discussion and explained to his Chassidim as follows: Every fruit has an exterior rind which protects the fruit from pests and infestation. When a person wants to eat the fruit, he must first peel away the outer layer. “The same concept applies to the wisdom that Hashem sends to the world,” the Sanzer Rav concluded. “True wisdom is also surrounded by layers of klipah (literally “peels,” referring to unholy forces). Hashem wants to bless us with true wisdom, the Divine wisdom that will fill the world upon the coming of Moshiach, but this wisdom comes wrapped in outer layers of external wisdom – such as the technological discoveries that are being made these days.”
The Sanzer Rav’s discussion with his Chassidim took place many years ago. Since then, the “peels” surrounding the true Divine wisdom have increased layer by layer. Unfortunately, we are still far removed from tasting the fruit, the eternal wisdom of Hashem.
This is hinted at in the verse: “And a fire came forth from before Hashem.” Before the revelation of Hashem, before the arrival of the Great and Awesome Day when His glory will be revealed, we will have to peel away many layers of external wisdom. The signs are clear: we are coming ever closer to the days of Moshiach, but unfortunately it is taking much too long. Meanwhile, “the fire is consuming the offering on the altar,” so many Jews are being sacrificed throughout this long and bitter exile! “And the entire nation saw and praised” – unfortunately, too many times we’ve been misled to believe in false messiahs. “And they fell on their faces,” these hopes fell flat, throwing our nation into great despair.
May Hashem have mercy on us and send us the final redemption. May we be worthy of receiving the true wisdom, when the entire world will be full of Hashem’s eternal wisdom, Amen.