Following the inspirational narrative of Bereishit (Genesis) and the exciting stories of Shemot (Exodus), the Book of Vayikra (Leviticus), at first glance, fails to live up to its two dramatic precursors. The name Leviticus comes from “Levi”, who was the father of the priestly tribe, and much of its 27 chapters describe in great detail the priestly rituals. Since most of these practices are no longer observed today, some modern readers have a hard time finding practical significance in the Book of Leviticus and miss out on Vayikra’s eternal values.
To be sure, it is possible to get lost in all the ins and outs of the various rituals and offerings described in Vayikra, but it is imperative not to lose sight of the big picture. As we study all of the intricate details of the offerings, we discover that their overriding purpose is to bring the people closer to God through His earthly dwelling place, as it says, “build for Me a Tabernacle so I can dwell in your midst” (Exodus 25:8). Vayikra’s intricate details are necessary for us to bring God’s presence into our lives in a very physical way by serving Him in a very specific manner.
The Tabernacle was a temporary edifice that paved the way for the Temple in Jerusalem which served as the permanent structure for worshipping the God of Israel. Even though today we don’t have the Tabernacle to uplift us or the Temple to pray in, Jerusalem remains mankind’s special gateway between heaven and earth. Nowadays, our connection to the Land of Israel still has the ability to uplift our service to God.
By delving deeper into the meaning behind the ancient rituals and discovering their many fundamental truths and by highlighting the role of Zion throughout the Book of Vayikra, it is our hope that “The Israel Bible” helps us fulfill the purpose of the Tabernacle of bringing God’s presence into our lives.
May our study of “The Israel Bible” infuse our lives with sanctity as if we were bringing the offerings described in Leviticus and prepare us for the final day when the Temple is rebuilt in Jerusalem and we are able to fully feel God’s presence in this world.
Rabbi Naphtali Weisz
Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel