Weekly Reading Insights:






Overview of the Torah Reading

To be read on Shabbat Vayikra, 3 Nissan 5783 / March 25

Torah: Leviticus 1:1-5:26; Haftora: Isaiah 43:21-28, 44:1-23

Vayikra is the 1st Reading out of 10 in Leviticus and it contains 6222 letters, in 1673 words, in 111 verses.

A discussion of how to bring burnt offerings of cattle, smaller animals and birds. Different types of meal offerings: burnt, baked, pan fried, deep fried, and the offering of the first grain of the season. A discussion of other types of offerings: Peace offerings could be of cattle, sheep or goats. Sin offerings are brought as an atonement. The sin offering for the high priest, then for the community, for the king or for an individual. Sins that the Torah delineates specifically as requiring a sin offering, in which cases he can choose between smaller animals, birds or a meal offering. Details about guilt offerings brought because of errors, doubtful situations or dishonesty or theft. 

An Essay from
Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, Director of Ascent

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This week's Torah portion, Vayikra,begins with the words "And G d called to Moses" - revelation. Very close to the end of last week's Torah reading, the end of the book of Shemot/Exodus, speaks about the cloud that covered the Sanctuary making it impossible for Moshe to enter - concealment.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe taught that this is an example of one of life's formulas that, whether we like it or not, each of us experiences the constant dichotomy between Divine concealment expressed as life's difficulties, and revelation, which is the light bursting through, G-d showing us the way.

The Degel Machaneh Ephraim, written by Moshe Chaim Ephraim of Sudikov, the Ba'al Shem Tov's grandson, connects this to Tractate Avot (Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers 6:2): "Each and every day, a divine voice calls out from Mt. Moriah saying, 'Woe to the people because their actions are an affront to the Torah!'" This divine voice is each person's thoughts of teshuvah, the return to spiritual sensibility that sparks the heart of each of us every day. Whoever opens themselves, and is sensitive enough to hear it, to understand and respond, is on the level of Moshe, to whom "the voice would reach out only to him". Whoever ignores this inner voice that sparks in his/her heart, risks becoming cold and deaf to its message and influence.

Vayikra's second verse is, "When a person brings an offering from his own" [in Hebrew, mikem]. Mikem can also be translated as "from himself". The Temple in Jerusalem no longer stands. The whole purpose of the offerings, even when the Sanctuary stood, and more so now when each person is themselves a sanctuary and our daily prayers are in place of the offerings, is to offer ourselves to G d. We must sacrifice the animal part of ourselves - our evil inclination, which is referred to as our natural or "animal soul" - as an offering on the altar, the grand stage of life. (Likutei Torah)

The third verse has the word l'riztono, which is usually translated as "willingly". When a person brings an offering to the Sanctuary, it should be "willingly before G d". The Maggid of Mezritch, the protégé and main student of the Ba'al Shem Tov, explains it differently. When a person offers him/herself, it should be l'ritzono, which can also mean, should offer "his/her own will". What is the most valuable element of ourselves that we can offer to G-d, that opens the channels for us to connect to the Divine and reach the highest levels of holiness? Our own will. This is explained by the Sages: "Fulfill His will as you would your own will, so that He may fulfill your will as though it were His will. Set aside your will because of His will, so that He may set aside the will of others before your will." ( Pirkei Avot/Ethics of Our Fathers 2:4)

The Maggid illustrated this with a story. Once in mid-winter, Napoleon was sleeping in a tent on the battle front. He had a few blankets to keep him warm. Suddenly, he woke with a terrific thirst but did not want to go out into the cold. He said to himself, "If I, Napoleon, am so lazy, what is the difference between me and everyone else?" So he jumped out of bed and walked across the camp for a drink. When he reached the water barrels, he changed his mind. He said, "For a little thirst I got out of bed and walked all this distance?! Can I not even control a little thirst? What is between me and everyone else?" He did not drink and returned to his tent. "This example," said the Maggid, "is what we call breaking one's will so we can offer it to G-d!"

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For last year's essay by Rabbi Leiter on this week's Reading, see the archive.


Specifically, for an overview of the recommended articles in the columns:
Holy Zohar, Holy Ari, Mystic Classics, Chasidic Masters, Contemporary Kabbalists, and more, click to Vayikra
one sample:

Mystical Classics

Fixing an Imperfect World

From Shenei Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz

"…Adam ki yakriv/for when a man shall offer"

The laws pertaining to sacrifices, as well as those pertaining to rehabilitation from different skin diseases and other impurities, are all reminders of the first sin committed by Adam and the resultant diminution of man's stature in the universe. Thus, Leviticus provides us with the general rectification of all humanity.

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