Parshat Vayikra

Shabbat Shalom! This week we are entering the book of Vayikra. There are ten different Torah portions in this book, usually three of them being read on Shabbat's as a double parshah reading.

We left off last week with an erected Tabernacle, now Hashem had called Moshe in the presence of the entire nation.

Moshe was to instruct the Jews with many of the different mitzvot which we are going to see in the coming parshahs. Moshe merited this as he was very humble and he always put others first. We saw in Parshat Ki Tisa how he urged Hashem to spare the destruction of the Jewish nation, putting his own neck on the line (Shemot 32:32).

Humility in Judaism is seen as a vital character trait, and very much represented by Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai, the ultimate chavruta pair during the Talmudic era. Hillel always allowed Shammai to express his opinion first, in a gentle manner they would listen to each other and never insult each other in halachic debates (Eruvin 13).

This week’s reading describes the various different sacrifices which the Jews had to bring or voluntarily brought to the Tabernacle/Temple.

The first offering related in this week’s reading is known as the ‘elevation offering’ (Vayikra 1:3). This was brought by an individual who was repenting due to any wrong thoughts he may have had (Midrash Tanchuma) or a transgression of a specific kind of negative commandment; voluntarily bringing the sacrifice to the Tabernacle, the entire offering was burnt up, this was also known as the ‘Burnt offering.’ This offering could be an ox, a lamb, a goat, a turtle dove, a pigeon or even a flour offering.

The individual would bring whichever offering he could financially afford. So the rich man was expected to bring an ox, whereas a poor man would offer a pigeon or flour. If a rich man would bring a pigeon as an offering, Hashem would not be satisfied as he is expected to bring much more given his vast wealth. Whereas, if a poor man donates even a cheap ‘flour’ offering, Hashem regards it as if he gave away his soul (Vayikra 2:1). We saw in Parshat Bereishit that Cain brought a very cheap offering to Hashem, when much was expected of him, whereas Hevel brought an expensive offering, Cain's sacrifice was not accepted by Hashem (Bereishit 3:5), whereas Hevel’s was (Bereishit 3:4). At the end of the day, the Talmud relates, that the main purpose of an offering is that one has the intention to give it to G-d and for no other purposes, whether expensive or not (Berachot 5).

The Parshah then goes on to relate the ‘Mincha offering,’ this was a flour offering that was made in different forms, the ingredients included wheat flour, oil and sprinkled incense. These flour offerings were cooked in the form of ‘wafers,’ challot, deep pan and fried. The Kohanim, when preparing these sacrifices were very quick since these offerings were not allowed to become chametz (Leavened) (Pesachim 36a).

All the sacrifices had to be ‘salted,’ (Vayikra 2:13). Salt can be destructive (as we saw with the destruction of Sodom in Parshat Vayera (Bereishit 19:26)) and it can also be a preservative.

The Torah then discusses the ‘Peace Offering,’ which is a free will offering of an individual who is in an elevated state of mind and, through the donation of a Korban, wishes to express his happiness to Hashem. When a peace offering was offered, the almighty blessed the world with peace and this offering brought about peace and harmony to all those who participated in offering it up (Tanchuma).

The Parshah then discusses the ‘Sin (Chatat) offering,’ this was given if a Jewish man or woman had inadvertently transgressed a negative Torah command. The sin offering would atone for the mistake (Gemara Shabbat 103), for example if an individual would have accidentally switched on a light on Shabbat, it would cost him a she goat or a lamb. The unintentional mistake usually comes about by an individual being very careless (Ramban), in order to prevent him/her doing it again, the Torah requires a heavy punishment as a deterrent from it happening again.

Next up, the Torah relates different types of ‘Sin offerings,’ the first was brought by a Kohain Gadol who became aware that he erred in a halachic (Torah law) decision (Horayot 7a). The second form of offering was brought if the Sanhedrin (Men of great assembly) erred in a halachic decision (Vayikra 4:14). The third form is the ‘Sin offering of a King,’ The Torah offers special attention to the subject of a Jewish King to show that even the king, if he had done wrong, had to bring the animal sacrifice personally, rest his hands on it and enunciate the sin confession just like anyone else (Vayikra 4:22/26). It shows that even the King is a human being who can make an error. True Kingship is when one puts his hands up after making a mistake; we saw in Parshat Vayeshev how Yehudah admitted his transgression with Tamar, in front of his family, thus saving Tamar’s life (Sota 36). Fortunate are the Jews who's leaders confess their errors and publicly offer a sacrifice for them (Horayot 10)!

The Torah then relates information on the ‘Guilt offering’ and the ‘Variable offering.’

The Natural Haftorah for this week’s reading, comes from Chapter 43 and 44 in the book of Isaiah. The Sidrah gives the rules for dedication to Hashem through offerings in his Temple; the Haftorah calls eloquently for Israel to devote itself to this calling.

This Dvar Torah is dedicated to Yael Leah Bat Margalit who is due to give birth, please pray for a safe and healthy delivery, quick recovery and a healthy baby.