Chagiga 11 - 17
Sacrifices Made in Heaven
One of the Seven Heavens, says Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish, is called Zevul, and it contains the Heavenly counterpart of Jerusalem and the Beit Hamikdash. There, too, is an altar upon which the Malach (angel) Michael offers a daily sacrifice.
The obvious question which arises is what does he offer on this altar, as there are no animals in Heaven? In his footnotes (and this appears in parenthesis in the Ein Yaakov) the Bach adds this question to the text, as well as an answer. The answer is also found in a Tosefot in Mesechta Menachot (110a). Tosefot cites conflicting midrashim as to the nature of these sacrifices. One states that the Malach offers the souls of the tzaddikim (righteous) upon this altar, and another states that the sacrifices are of fire in animal form.
It is the first midrash above, the one regarding the souls of the righteous, which appears in the aforementioned Bach and Ein Yaakov. And this answer is presented by Tosefot as an explanation of the prayer we say three times a day: Accept willingly, we ask of Hashem, Your people Israel and hearken to their prayer; return the sacred service to Your sanctuary and the fire offerings of Israel accept with favor. How can we ask Hashem to accept the fire offerings of Israel when there is no Beit Hamikdash today in which to offer sacrifices? According to the midrash, the phrase ishei Yisrael does not translate as the fire offerings of Israel but rather the men of Israel the tzaddikim whose souls are offered before Hashem.
Tosefot notes, however, that there is another opinion which translates these words literally as sacrifices, and views them as an extension of the request that Hashem return the sacred service to His sanctuary. Our prayer thus is that Hashem restore our ability to offer actual sacrifices. The Tur (Orach Chaim 187) presents a third opinion: We ask Hashem to accept our prayers which we offer in place of sacrifices.
The Mishna Berura (Orach Chaim 120) quotes the opinion of the Turei Zahav as favoring the first approach, about the souls of tzaddikim, and also quotes the Gaon of Vilna as expressing a preference for the second one, that it is a request for the return of the sacrificial service here on earth.
Between Angel and Animal
Six things have been said about Man, say our Sages; in three of them he is similar to the malachim (angels) and in three he is like an animal.
People are like the malachim in that they have intelligence, they walk upright and they speak the Holy Tongue of Hebrew. People are like animals in that they eat and drink, they multiply, and they expel wastes from their bodies.
The midrash (Bereishet Rabbah 8) adds one more comparison to each. Men see like the malachim and perish like animals. Why are these comparisons not listed by our gemara?
The comparison of sight does not present such a problem because an animal has the power of sight as well. But why is the comparison of man and animal regarding death ignored?
Two answers are found in the commentaries. Rif suggests that the gemara is referring to the initial creation of Man, before Adam ate from the Tree of Knowledge and brought death to the world. Iyun Yaakov explains that although both man and animal have limited existence in this world, the cause of their respective deaths is not the same. Man dies as a result of his sins, while the animal dies because Hashem has so programmed its existence.