Saturday, March 19, 2005

III-1 Vayikra Coming Close

19 Mar III-1 Vayikra Coming Close

Torah: Lv 1-5:26

Haftorah: Is 43:21-44:23


1. Lv 1: 1-13
2. Lv 1:14-2:6
3. Lv 2:7-16
4. Lv 3:1-17
5. Lv 4:1-26
6. Lv 4:27-5:10
7. Lv 5:11-26


Vayikra, referred as the Torat Kohanim., is concerned with the pratical application in temple worship and ritual. After the destruction of the Temple in 70CE, prayer and synagogue worship came to replace the temple ritual and sacrifices. Instead of sacrifices, we pray for forgiveness. We are not excused from the mitzvot of reparation for the losses we cause others. Anyone could bring sacrifices to the Temple. God is accessible to everyone. "Korbanot" means to bring close. Sacrifice drew people to God, reconciling the disparity of the physical and spiritual worlds and allowing an introspective encounter with the Creator of the Universe. Unlike heathen offerings, the sacrificial animal was not consumed by fire to be a heavenly banquet. A small portion of the fat was sacrificed, parts given for the priests and the remainder eaten by the person bringing it. Sacrifice involved community participation as well as personal reconciliation with fellow man.


"Or when a person utters an oath to bad or good purpose--whatever a man may utter in an oath--and, though he has known it, the fact has escaped him, but later he realizes his guilt in any of these matters... he shall confess that wherein he has sinned. And he shall bring as his penalty to the Lord, for the sin of which he is guilty...." Lv 5:1, 4-6 JPS transl

"The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: When a person sins and commits a trespass against the Lord by dealing deceitfully with his fellow in the matter of a deposit or a pledge, or through robbery, or by defrauding his fellow, or by finding something lost and lying about it; if he swears falsely regarding any one of the various things that one may do and sin thereby-- when one has thus sinned and, realizing his guilt, would restore that which he got.... he shall repay the principal amount and add a fifth part to it. He shall pay it to its owner when he realizes his guilt. Then he shall bring to the priest, as his penalty to the Lord... The priest shall make expiation on his behalf before the Lord, and he shall be forgiven for whatever he may have done to draw blame thereby. " Lv 5:20-25 JPS transl


Vayikra follows Shemos, providing the instructions for temple service and sacrifices. In Shemos/Exodus, Moses leads the Israelites from enslavement in Egypt into freedom. Freedom has no meaning without social structures and laws; chaos quickly ensues. Moses ascends Mount Sinai; God reaches down. The Ten Commandments consititute a new covenant further elaborated in Mishpatim. Becoming a holy nation is not a matter of ritual, but of action, dependent on the relationships between man and man.

God instructs Moses to take up a collection of free-will gifts for the construction of the Mishkan. The gifts could not be cast-offs or the result of illicit behavior. You cannot steal something and offer it to God. Similarly offerings, brought before the priests, must be from the heart. Before giving a sin offering, restitution must be made to anyone wronged. Personal relationships must be reconciled before bringing the sacrifice to the priests. Emphasis was not on the slaughter on the animals, but on retrospection and teshuvah—repentance. "Korban" means to come close. In bringing sacrifices, anyone could enter into God's presence to make an atonement for his sins or to give a thank offering.

Many types of korbanot existed. The Olah was an ascending offerng, wholly consumed on the altar. Minchah was a flour offering made with olive oil and frankinscense. Shelamim was a peace offering that was eaten by the person bringing the offering after certain parts were consumed on the altar and others given for the Kohanim. Chatat, was a sin offering to atone for a wrong whether the King, High Priest or ordinary person. All people make mistakes. Asham was the guilt offering for someone who has doubts whether or not he has betrayed God or broken commitments by making false promises or vows.

Although many shudder at the thought of slaughter, consider how different this world would be, if we ate meat with full awareness of the life we destroyed to fill our stomachs. Today, animals have little value. A quick trip to the grocery store retrieves a frozen chicken or steak from the deep freezer. Headless, legless and formless, it imparts no impression on us as being a creation of God. We stick it in the pan and later devour it without thought to the value of life. There is no relation between body and soul.

Through sacrifices, people were constantly reminded of life's values. The meat was not wasted by massive recall by a FDA botulism warning or tossed into the garbage container at the local diner. Each person was confronted with his own transgressions and mortality, recognizing the irreplaceable value of life, whether human or animal. Which animals? Cattle, sheep, goat and dove—those that are domesticated.

The very poor could bring a flour offering. It was treated no differently than if it had been the blue rbbon bull of the local county fair. The significance of the sacrifice was not so much the gift, but how it was given. Just as Moses counted every little ring and hook for the Mishkan, so God accepts the smallest sacrifice as if it were the biggest.

Each sacrifice was salted. (Lv 2:11-13) A preservative, salt symbolizes the covenant made on Mt Sinai.God's love is everlasting. Salt heightens the flavor. Honey and leavening were forbidden additions. They change the nature of the sacrifice. So it is with spirituality, we need to develop our own qualities rather than adding superficialities or mingling strange elements. We need to bring out the hidden qualities rather than trying to be something different than ourselves.

Moreover, the opening of Vayikra begins, "Vayikra el Moshe" and God called to Moses... Midrash explains that the aleph at the end is reduced because of Moses' humility. Moses wanted to write "vayikir" which denotes happenstance such as the calling of Balaam, not the divine calling of the angels to one another, declaiming "holy, holy, holy." God was no hallucination to Moshe, but he made a compromise with God. "Vayikra" is written with the final aleph was reduced. Moshe didn't want others to feel excluded because he was personally called; the call extends to us also.

"Rav Naftali Amsterdam was a disciple of Rav Yisrael Salanter. He once came to his teacher and said, "Rebbi, if I had the head of the Shagas Aryeh and if I had the soul of the author of the Yesod v'Shoresh haAvodah and if I had your personality traits (midos) -- then I could truly be a Servant of G-d." Rav Yisrael responded to him, "Naftali -- with your head and with your heart and with your personality traits you can be Naftali Amsterdam. That is all you have to be. You do not need to be the Shagas Aryeh or Reb Yisroel Salanter or anybody else."

Rav Frand, Vayikra 5764: Mincha Offering: Leavening Agents and Honey: No. Salt: Yes


Rabbi Yaakov Menken, Lifeline, Terumah 5763 re: gifts

"G-d spoke to Moshe, saying: 'Speak to the children of Israel, that they take an offering for me; from every man whose heart desires [to give], take my offering.'" [Ex. 25:1-2]

Yanki Tauber, Terumah: Anatomy of a Dwelling

Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann, Olas Shabbos, Terumah: It's the Thought That Counts


Rabbi Neal Joseph Loevinger, The Spirituality of Business Ethics

Rabbi Melissa Crespy, Fellow, JTSA Vayikra 5762
regarding sin offering and reparation

Rabbi Yisroel Ciner, Parsha Insights, Vayikra 5762

Rabbi Yisroel Ciner, Parsha Insights: Vayikra 5763

Rabbi Yisroel Ciner, Parsha Insights, Vayikra 5768

Rabbi Yisroel Ciner, Parsha Insights Vayikra 5757

Rabbi Yaakov Menken, Lifeline, Vayikra: Lesson from Sacrifices

Tzvi Freeman, Vayikra Animal Sacrifices

Rabbi Matthew Berkowitz, JTSA Vayikra 5762

Rabbi Melissa Crespy, JTSA, Vayikra 5763

Yechmiel Telles, Vayika: The Gift


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