There is a clear message in the early parshiyos of the Torah, one that
is often forgotten or denied. The first man and woman eat the forbidden fruit
and are sent out of Gan Eden. Kayin (Cain) kills and is killed. The generation
of the Flood are wiped out, as are the people of S'dom. The message is that
occurrences are not merely due to chance, nor should they be attributed to
ordinary natural causes, but may very well be determined by our conduct and
character. (See further: Tosafos to K'suvos 30a, beginning "Hakol")
The Yismach Moshe explained how service is performed by the body and
soul: Service requires that the body be humbled and the soul be strengthened.
In today's weak state of affairs, however, as we strengthen ourselves in
service, our bodies become haughty and overbearing. Hardships which come
our way, serve to humble our bodies, and, at the same time, strengthen our
intellectual perception; in today's weak state of affairs -- when our bodies
are weakened, our thinking becomes clouded, as well.
Yaros Devash discussed the sacrifices. The sacrifices come from animals,
because the animal has the spirit of life (associated with movement). Thus,
it is considered to have some spiritual aspect. The spiritual is the portion
of Hashem. The vegetative is regarded as having only body and no spirit,
and is not fit for sacrifice. This was the difference between the offerings
of Kayin (Cain) and Hevel (Abel). Hevel brought from the animal, which, having
the soul of life, represents the spiritual gift. Kayin gave merely from the
vegetable -- without spiritual -- which was not acceptable.
Why is it that we indeed find a non-animal offering? The poor-man's sacrifice
is a tenth of an ephah measure of flour, without any animal component! The
answer is that, since the poor-man can afford no more, Hashem is willing
to forgo His portion.
Many people make a mistake. They think that, when a person is at the
peak of suffering, and he cannot concentrate, he is exempt from davening
(prayer). The truth is that Hashem always hears the cry from the heart. It
is exactly comparable to the poor man's offering: although devoid of spiritual
content -- since he can afford nothing else -- Hashem forsakes His portion
and accepts the offering. (Yaros Devash, quoted in Yismach Moshe)
It is our job to lessen the significance of the material, and Hashem
will not be demanding with His portion. (Yismach Moshe, Bereishis)
Note: Yaros Devash was written by Rav Yonason Eibeschutz, whose life
was devastated by years of strife, due to a false accusation. The above is
eloquent testimony to the ability of Tzadikim to bear suffering quietly...