Weekly Reading Insights:
Vayikra 5777



Overview of the Weekly Reading An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent
From the Chasidic Rebbes A Mystical Chasidic Discourse from the "Chabad Master" series
Moshiach this Week Kabbalah Teachings from the Sages of Tsfat and Galilee
Shabbat Law of the Week This week's story from Ascent's storyteller, Yerachmiel Tilles

Overview of the Weekly Reading

To be read on Shabbat Vayikra, 5 Nissan 5777/April 1

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 speaks about the animal offerings on the altar in the Holy Temple. Some of the animals that were offered were cows, goats and sheep. Today we do not have animal offerings so how does it relate to me? On a spiritual level the offerings were talking about each of us, offering our 'animal' like nature or attributes on the altar of the Divine, being willing to change ourselves so we can come closer to G-d. The Hebrew word for offering, korban, actually means to come closer. Some people are more like cows - arrogant and careless, like a bull in a china shop. Some people are like goats - pushing themselves in, go anywhere, eat anything, full of chutzpa, like a goat. Some people are like sheep - meek to a fault, just following along, losing the opportunity, not taking the initiative. Which one are you? Which one am I? Am I ready to offer this part of myself on the Divine altar, to burn it up for G-d? (adapted from 'Kuntres Hatefilah')

But let's look into this a bit more deeply. To burn the sacrifice on the altar you needed wood. Is the wood also an offering or something negligible? On the one hand, conventionally, the wood was not part of the offering, rather like a part of the preparation. Yet, the verse says (chap 2 verse 1), "If a person offers a meal offering, the offering must be unbaked fine flour". The first word "offering-korban" is extra. The Sifra Midrash derives from this extra word that when you bring an offering of flour you can also bring the wood for the altar. If we learn about the wood from the word "offering-korban", how can it be that the wood is just something inconsequential, just part of the preparation?

As we said above, the spiritual idea of an offering is that a person offers his total self completely to G-d. Just like there are many types of offerings, and each one offers something different to G-d, so also on a spiritual level, each different offering reflects a different part of ourselves that we give over to G-d.
Now, even though there are different types of offerings, the foundation of the entire concept of offering is that a person has to be ready to give up all of himself to G-d, not just different pieces here and there. This is why with all the different types of offerings there was also a burning of wood. The wood symbolized the person, as the verse says (Deut. 20/19), "a person is a tree of the field." This demonstrates that in every offering, what is actually being offered is not just one of the parts, but the whole person, including his essence.

We can understand from this that even though the wood was just part of the preparation, you can call it also an offering, because it symbolized the true essence of the offerings, of the person giving himself over entirely to G-d. Even more, that a person donates wood that is burned totally on the altar and it was not a mitzvah to do so but only 'preparation' for the offering to come, shows us that he has no agenda-rather, his whole purpose is to offer himself. Finally, even if the giving of the wood was voluntary, not a commandment but a preparation to do a commandment, a person still wants to donate it because he understands that the wood is crucial. It demonstrates that his wood donation is all about being willing to offer himself completely to G-d. This is what an offering really means. (from 'Likutei Sichos' vol 22 p. 7)

A Jewish author wanted to understand the essence of the Chassidic approach to Judaism.
"Let's take bread as a metaphor," the Lubavitcher Rebbe began. "Even if you have all the ingredients perfectly arranged, and the dough kneaded to perfection, unless it is placed in a fiery oven for some time, the ingredients will remain just that, ingredients.
"The same is true of prayer and the performance of the commandments. One is able to make a blessing by simply saying the words, and doing a commandment can be merely performing a deed. However, Chassidut demands that we become an oven-a fiery space created of enthusiasm and passion and joy. That's when mitzvot become alive!" (from 'Seeds of Wisdom')

Shabbat shalom, Shaul

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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,
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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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