The Portion of Vayikra

Leviticus 1:1-5:26

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 the voluntary offerings brought by the people under various circumstances, then continues by discussing the mandatory offerings required under different conditions.

 

As the Israel Bible points out, the Hebrew word for sacrifice is “korban”, which is derived from the word karov, meaning “close”. The purpose of the sacrifice, then, is to bring the bearer closer to God. Like the Tabernacle in which it is brought, the goal of the sacrifice is to foster the relationship between God and the Children of Israel. Thus, the one who brings the sacrifice gains much more than he gives. Today, since the Temple no longer stands in Jerusalem, we are unable to practice the sacrificial rites as outlined in the Torah. Instead, the prayer service is meant to bring worshipers closer to God.

 

 

Topic 1: Burnt Offerings

The Torah describes three types of burnt offerings which one might choose to bring to the Tabernacle, a cattle offering, an offering ‘from the flock’, or an offering of fowl. In the first two cases, the text specifies a male animal shall be brought -- a bull, a male sheep or a he-goat. For the… Read More »

 

 

Topic 2: Meal Offerings

The meal offering consists of a portion of grain and oil, usually mixed with frankincense. It can be brought raw, baked, fried or cooked. If it is not raw, it must not be leavened, nor may honey be added to it, but it must be seasoned with salt. A portion of the meal offering is… Read More »

 

 

Topic 3: Peace Offerings

The peace offering is an animal offering of either cattle, sheep or goat. It may be either male or female, but it must be unblemished. The individual making the offering must bring it to the Tabernacle and rest his hands upon its head while it is slaughtered (as is mentioned for the burnt offering of… Read More »

 

 

Topic 4: Sin Offerings and Guilt Offerings

Two more types of offerings are discussed in this week’s portion, and they are intimately related. To begin with, they are both mandatory offerings, required under specific circumstances, connected to the transgression of God’s laws.   Sin offerings are required when an individual commits a sin against God unintentionally. The text delineates different sin offerings… Read More »

 

 

Topic 5: Haftarah - The Spark of Sanctity in Blue, White, and Red

Between 1962-1967, Rav Soloveitchik addressed the conventions of the Mizrachi movement. Speaking in Yiddish, the Rav explained that the Israeli flag is infused with Kedusha:   The blue and white flag, soaked with the blood of thousands of young Jews who fell in the War of Independence, protecting the Land and settlements (religious and nonreligious,… Read More »
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