The Torah in Vayikra 1:11 teaches us that, for example the sheep that was being used as an korban, needed to be slaughtered on the north side (צָפֹ֖נָה) of the altar:

It shall be slaughtered before יהוה on the north side of the altar, and Aaron’s sons, the priests, shall dash its blood against all sides of the altar.

The translator's comment into Rabbeinu Bahya's commentary (ad loc.) explains that the north side (צָפֹ֖נָה) has a special, kabbalistic meaning in that it is the northern part, that a person needs to turn to, in order to atone for his sins.

Question: what is so special about the north side of the altar? Why did the offer needed to be slaughtered specifically on the northern side of the altar? (interesting fact: צָפֹ֖נָה can also mean hidden or dark, maybe that is something to think about?)

----------------- UPDATE----------

B"H I just found another answer on my question what the word "hidden" has to do with all of this. In Novominsk on Chumash Vol 2 (see page 15 on the preview here; click on view pages), the Chiddushei HaRim on parashas Vayikra is quoted in saying that צָפֹ֖נָה - where it roots can also mean dark and hidden - gives us the lesson that:

the aspect that Hashem seeks most is the hidden thoughts within the Yid's heart


2 Answers 2


Being that according to the Torah, east is considered the front, and south is on the right, also the front of the temple is on the east, it would come out that north is on the left - which represents the attribute of דין - judgement, that’s why it says in Yirmiyah 1:14: ״מצפון תפתח הרעה״ - from the north shall the evil begin.

The Kli Yakar and the Chizkuni (Bereishis 1:1) also explain, that it’s also hinted in the fact that Hashem created the world beginning with the letter ב, which is open on the left side, alluding to what it says in בבא בתרא דף כ״ה that the world is open - and unprotected - on the north side.

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    Nice answer Shalom! The Sharei Orah sefaria.org/… expands on the idea that the North side (which is on the left) represents all the dinim, mekatregin, malachei chabala etc, and Hashem wants us to slaughter korbanot on that side to atone for our sins and prevent those evil things from coming into this world. Mar 26, 2023 at 17:24
  • @AvishaiTebeka great observation. I am unfortunately not familiair with these concepts. The question still remains: why especially the northern side of the altar? The altar was not in the north, geographically speaking as I recall. Also, Rashi on מצפון תפתח הרעה mentioned by Shalom, explains that the north refers for example to Bavel, where misfortune comes from, as he says. So why is the north considered a good thing here?
    – Shmuel
    Mar 26, 2023 at 17:53
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    @Shmuel, if I understood correctly, I think because by bringing the korbanot we are stopping/preventing the evil that comes out of the north, so we specifically slaughter korbanot there to stop the evil entering the world. You right the north is bad, but we can prevent and make the north good by offering korbanot which raises it to a higher level Mar 26, 2023 at 18:45
  • @AvishaiTebeka that's a nice explanation. Thank you.
    – Shmuel
    Mar 26, 2023 at 19:03
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    @Shmuel mabye because even though someone does unintentional sins, the din, mekatregim, and malachei chabalah come for it too (obviously not as harsh as intentional sins). You make a good point that tzaphon is from the word tzaphun (hidden), however its hidden (not completely) in the sense that they are not as intensely looked at, or cause harm as do intentional sins, but in essence aveirot done beshoggeg do cause harm, but maybe not as noticed. Mar 27, 2023 at 13:36


When searching for new seforim to buy :), I came across a new sefer called Novominsk on Chumash (Vol. 2), a sefer with insights from the Novominsker Rebbe, Rabbi Yaakov Perlow. In the excerpt (p. 15), the Novominsker Rebbe quotes the Chiddushei HaRim on parashas Vayikra.

The Chiddushei HaRim (חידושי הרי"מ על התורה) explains that the reason why the Torah uses the word צָפֹ֖נָה , which shares a root with the words hidden/dark, is that Hashem wants us to offer our inner animal. On the mizbeach, we sacrifices the animals. That offer can clearly be seen by others. However, what others don't see, is what goes on inside of each Yid. That is what Hashem wants to see, that we sacrifice that part of our inner self. Our most inner thoughts. That is why this refers to hidden, because that part is mostly hidden (to outsiders). (my own interpretation of this Chiddushei HaRim).

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