The Book of Leviticus

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

 

 

The Portion of Vayikra

The portion of Vayikra opens where the book of Exodus left off; after God’s glory descends to the Tabernacle, Moses cannot enter, therefore God has to call to him to come forward. The portion, like most of the book of Leviticus, continues with a detailed accounting of several sacrificial services. It begins by looking at… Read More >>

 

 

The Portion of Tzav

Our portion provides additional details regarding the sacrificial rites discussed in last week’s portion. God instructs both the priests and the people, via Moses, on proper conduct with the various offerings they may encounter.   Additionally, the portion delineates certain general rules, such as not eating the fat of certain animals which can be used… Read More >>

 

 

The Portion of Shemini

This portion is a busy one. It details at length the special service Aaron and his four sons brought in the Tabernacle for the first time, following the seven day period of inauguration. It tells of the tragic demise of Aaron’s elder two sons, Nadab and Abihu, and what happens in the aftermath of their… Read More >>

 

 

The Portion of Tazriah

The portion opens with the ritual laws of a woman who gives birth, but the bulk of the content discusses the identification and quarantine of the metzorah, or leper. Unlike the medical affliction, Biblical tzaraat, or leprosy, can also affect clothing or buildings. Read More >>

 

 

The Portion of Metzorah

This portion discusses the purification of the metzorah, or leper, and ends with the laws pertaining to one who experiences an impure bodily discharge. Read More >>

 

 

The Portion of Acharei Mot

The portion of Acharei Mot picks up following the deaths of Aaron’s older sons, Nadab and Abihu. It contains the instructions for the Yom Kippur -- or Day of Atonement -- service in the Tabernacle, and forbids slaughtering animal offerings outside the Tabernacle and the consumption of blood. It lists a series of forbidden relationships… Read More >>

 

 

The Portion of Kedoshim

The portion of Kedoshim includes moral and ritual laws designed to increase the holiness of the nation, as well as punishments for many of the transgressions mentioned in Acharei Mot. Read More >>

 

 

The Portion of Emor

The portion of Emor continues many of the same themes found thus far in the book of Leviticus. It expands upon the laws of the priest which set him apart from the rest of the community, as well as those that apply only to the High Priest. It adds details regarding animals which may be… Read More >>

 

 

The Portion of Behar

Our portion this week deals with the laws of the Sabbatical and Jubilee years as they pertain both to the land and the people. The Sabbatical occurs every seven years, with the Jubilee taking place after every seventh seven, or once in fifty years. During both the Sabbatical and Jubilee years, the Children of Israel… Read More >>

 

 

The Portion of Behukotai

This week’s portion is the final one in the Book of Leviticus. It is often read in conjunction with the previous portion, Behar.   Our portion contains a brief passage outlining the blessings God offers the Children of Israel on condition that they keep his statutes, then continues with a lengthy and detailed accounting of… Read More >>
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