One of the less-know marvels of the Mishkan and Beit Hamikdash was the fact that the mizbei’ach hazahav – golden altar, which was made of wood and plated with a very thin layer of gold, never burned or was affected – not the wood and not the gold (Chagigah 27a). From the time it was built in the desert until the destruction of the first Beit Hamikdash alone, was almost a thousand years! And twice each day burning coals were placed on it, upon which the ketoret – incense was offered. Not only was the wood completely preserved, the gold was also totally intact: it didn’t melt or soften, it wasn’t scratched, dented or damaged in any way, nor did it blacken! The same was the case regarding the mizbei’ach hachitzon – the outer altar, which was also made of wood and coated with a thin layer of copper. But this mizbei’ach had korbanos offered on it all day long, and during the night as well, yet its wood and copper were also not affected at all (Vayikrah rabbah 7:5). By laws of nature not only should the gold or copper have been burned through, the wood should also have been at the very least scorched, but they remained totally unharmed.
The purpose of these altars was to sacrifice – and as such, they weren’t affected in any way; we learn from here that when we will sacrifice of ourselves for Hashem, we too, will not be negatively affected at all – even if the odds are against us! Man is prepared to expend a lot of his energy and power – no matter how tired he is – he may even do hazardous things or put himself in danger in order to fulfill his wishes or desires, or to make money. Yet when it comes to his spirituality, all of a sudden, he’s too tired, he doesn’t have the energy, or it’s too risky... We have to learn from the mizbei’ach that when it comes to our avodat Hashem, we have to be moser nefesh – sacrifice ourselves to do for Hashem, and by doing so, not only will we not be damaged or harmed; to the contrary, we will be blessed with the ability to continue our great work!
Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer, zt”l, related how an old, blind talmid chacham came to him with two of his sefarim, and opening to a folded page, told him that this was “the last chiddush – novel approach of explaining something – of his life.” The old man then explained that just recently he lost his ability to see. After the specialist comprehensively checked him, he told him “It is no wonder that you can’t see now; the wonder is how you were able to see until now!? From what I see, you shouldn’t have been able to see for over ten years!”
The old man then explained the doctor, “the only way I was able to see until now was because I studied Torah with all my strength, delving deeply into the subject matter, looking into one sefer after another until I had a clear understanding, and then wrote everything down. Recently, being very weak, I decided that I would change my habits, and instead of exerting myself so much, I would just learn Mishnayos and Gemara, which anyway I know from memory. That’s when I lost my eyesight! So long as I was pushing myself for Hashem, He altered nature for me! Once I stopped, so did He.
This is an extremely important lesson for all of us. No one will ever lose for doing more for Hashem. If it is hard or difficult to perform or fulfill any given mitzvah, we must internalize the fact that Hashem will help us and give us the ability to do it – only good will come from it! We will not be negatively affected in any way!