The Torah teaches “you shall not ascend my Mizbeach with steps (מעלות) so that you do not reveal your nakedness upon it”. This is counted as one of the 365 prohibitions of the Torah. Instead, the Kohanim would climb the Mizbeach via a ramp (כבש).
The word for steps – מעלות – derives from the root עלה, meaning to go up. Maalos is used to describe a person’s qualities and accomplishments that elevate them to a particular level or status.
The Mizbeach represents the service of Hashem. The Torah is telling us that when we begin climbing the Mizbeach of serving Hashem, we should not focus on scrutinising our Maalos – our spiritual qualities and accomplishments.
The concern is that by doing this, we may come to uncover our ‘nakedness’. When we honestly reflect on our spiritual accomplishments and where we really stand, we can come to realise that we are in fact spiritually ‘naked’ and lacking; that we are lowly and not lofty. When we focus on our deficiencies, we may feel ourselves inadequate and unworthy to be able to serve Hashem or feel like a fake for trying to do so.
Despite where we are up to and what is going on inside, Hashem wants our service. We can and we must climb the altar of serving Hashem.
But how is it possible to advance in keeping Torah and Mitzvos when we don’t feel anything inside or if we feel spiritually low?
The answer is via a Kevesh. Kevesh, meaning ramp, comes from the word to conquer. When we feel spiritually low, we need to conquer our feelings of inadequacy and ‘throw’ ourselves into the Avodah. Even if we feel like a fake, we have to find the inner strength to keep the Mitzvos, because that is what Hashem wants. This is the Middah of Kabbolas Ol.
When we climb the Mizbeach with this approach, Hashem will help us, so that ultimately, we will attain true and genuine spiritual accomplishment.
~ Toras Menachem 5713 volume 2 p189