Torah Weekly - Parshat Vayikra

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Parshat Vayikra

For the week ending 7 Nissan 5761 / March 30 & 31, 2001

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    The Book of Vayikra (Leviticus), also known as Torat Kohanim -- the Laws of the Priests -- deals largely with the korbanot (offerings) brought in the Mishkan (Tent of Meeting). The first group of offerings is called korban olah, a burnt offering. The animal is brought to the Mishkan's entrance. For cattle, the one bringing the offering sets his hands on the animal. Afterwards it is slaughtered and the kohen sprinkles its blood on the altar. The animal is skinned and cut into pieces. The pieces are arranged, washed and burned on the altar. A similar process is described involving burnt offerings of other animals and birds. The various meal offerings are described. Part of the meal offering is burned on the altar, and the remaining part is eaten by the kohanim. Mixing leaven or honey into the offerings is prohibited. The peace offering, part of which is burnt on the altar and part is eaten, can be either from cattle, sheep or goats. The Torah prohibits eating blood or chelev (certain fats in animals). The offerings that atone for inadvertent sins committed by the kohen gadol, by the entire community, by the prince and by the average citizen are detailed. Laws of the guilt-offering, which atones for certain verbal transgressions and for transgressing laws of ritual purity, are listed. The meal offering for those who cannot afford the normal guilt offering, the offering to atone for misusing sanctified property, laws of the "questionable guilt" offering, and offerings for dishonesty are detailed.




    "And He called..."(1:1)

    The London Symphony Orchestra takes its places on the podium of the Royal Albert Hall. The large double basses mournfully tune up. The piccolos prance from one octave to another. The dull dooming thud of a muted timpani is heard. Two swift taps of the baton on the lectern. The cacophony ceases, replaced by a mighty chord played by eighty instruments. The chord grows longer and louder. The entire audience is enthralled in rapt attention. The entire audience, that is, except a rather eccentric gentleman leaning over the balcony. He seems somewhat distracted. He keeps looking this way and that. His concentration is anywhere except on the music. It's not surprising however, for covering his ears are a large pair of canary yellow plastic sound-excluders. The sort that you see ground crews use when they refuel airplanes.

    After a couple of minutes this fellow's next-door neighbor cannot contain himself any longer. He leans over the balcony and starts gesturing to the fellow, pointing at the sound-excluders and miming "Your ears are blocked! You can't hear anything because your ears are blocked!" The other fellow scrunches up his brow, cocks his head to one side as if to say "What are you saying?" So once again the other points to the sound excluders and mimes even "louder" than before: "You can't hear anything because your ears are blocked!

    Realizing that the man has something important to say to him, the fellow takes off his ear-muffs and says: "I'm sorry. I didn't hear you -- you see, my ears were blocked..."

    Look at the world. It's not a pretty picture. I don't want to spoil your Shabbat, but I'm sure it comes as no surprise to you that world-wide poverty is on the increase, that our natural resources are dwindling at an alarming rate and that selfishness, greed and intolerance are as popular as ever.

    Where is G-d? Is this a G-dly world?

    No. This is not the world that G-d wants. It's the world that man wants. G-d has created man as the being that chooses. This is man's unique privilege -- and his responsibility. There can be no choice without the potential to choose incorrectly. A world where choice has no consequences is, effectively, a world without choice. The world looks like it does because man chooses it to be this way, and most of the time man's choices are dominated by his own selfishness.

    The spiritual Masters teach that when G-d spoke to Moshe, He spoke in a voice that was overpoweringly loud, a voice that was vast enough to pulverize mighty trees -- and yet only one person heard the voice, our Teacher, Moshe. And when Moshe heard that voice, it sounded to him like a loving and gentle summons "Moshe, Moshe..."

    G-d's voice is the loudest thing in this world. If we can't hear it, it is because our ears are plugged with the wax of our own selfishness and egos, the detritus of ignoring the Designer and His design for this world.

    • Rashi
    • Sifra


    Yeshaya 43:21 - 44:23


    This prophecy chastises the Jewish People for their sins. The repeated motto being that it is better to adhere to the words of G-d than to sin and offer sacrifices. This is related to Parshat Vayikra, which deals with the laws of the sacrifices. We also find in this haftara sarcastic ridicule towards the senseless practice of pagan worship: The prophet tells of a man who sawed a piece of timber in two, half of which he used to cook his meal, while from the other half he created an idol before which he prostrates himself, fervently begging for mercy and salvation.


    "Jacob did not proclaim Me, as you felt wearied by Me, O Israel." (43:22).

    A true servant of G-d, one who acts for to sanctify the Name of the Almighty, finds enjoyment and satisfaction in the worship of G-d. He does not consider the strict and numerous prohibitions of the Torah encumbering, nor the many obligations a burden. To him they are a privilege he is proud of, just like a king who isn't bothered by the weight of his heavily jeweled crown.

    G-d does not need our service; He is omnipotent and complete. The commandments are solely for our benefit. The prophet proclaims that if one feels encumbered by his duties as a Jew, then he does not understand the concept of the worship of G-d, and therefore is not serving the Almighty truthfully.

    Written and Compiled by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
    General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
    Production Design: Michael Treblow

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