of the Weekly Reading
To be read on Shabbat Vayikrah, Shabbat HaChodesh,
1 Nissan 5778/March 17, 2018
Torah: Leviticus 1:1-5:26;Maftir HaChodesh: Ex.
12:1-20; Haftorah: Ezekiel 45:16-46:18 (for
Shabbat HaChodesh. as its beginning mentions both Rosh Chodesh
Nissan and the Pesach sacrifice)
Vayikra is the 1st Reading out of 10 in Leviticus and
it contains 6222 letters, in 1673 words, in 111
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.
Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent
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This week's Torah portion is completely about the offerings that
were made in the Tabernacle and in the Holy Temples that came after.
Why do we need animal sacrifices? Why would the physical slaughter
and burning of an animal be our primary form of divine worship for
hundreds of years (see Avos 1:2; Yerushalmi, Taanis 4:1)? Why not
something more humane that we could relate to in a more personal
In truth, the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains in his collected talks
(v. 22, pp. 3-4), one of the ways to understand the significance
of the sacrifices lies precisely through their seeming lack of spiritual
experience. The Torah's word for sacrifice is korban, from
the word karov, "close," indicating that the purpose
of the sacrifices is to arouse and reveal the Jew's essential and
unbreakable bond with G-d.
This closeness could not be adequately expressed in a service that
highlights the Jew's unique spiritual capacities, for this essential
bond with G-d is not contingent on the Jew's efforts and experience;
it is purely the result of G-d's existential choice of His beloved
nation, the Jews. Therefore this bond is best expressed through
a Jew offering a korban, the spiritual value of which
is not obvious, save for the fact that G-d has deemed it desirable
for a Jew to offer a sacrifice to Him.
This idea can be connected to the name of the third book of the
Torah that we are starting this week, which is also the name of
the parsha, Vayikra. In English, Leviticus relates to the
tribe of Levi where the priests who brought the offerings came from.
In Hebrew, vayikra means "And He called." What
can we learn from these words, "And He called" about how
to serve G-d?
Every Jew has to know that from heaven G-d is always calling him.
G-d is always demanding that a person elevate themselves, grow spiritually,
and never be stagnant! There are always two sides to such a call.
For the active person, who is already pushing ahead, who is to some
extent a master of himself, the call is a challenge. You are not
allowed to be satisfied with what you have already accomplished
until now. Rather, you have to reach even higher.
But G-d is also calling to the person who sees themselves as lacking
in accomplishments, the one who is not a fighter. For this person
the call is like stretching out a helping hand. Don't ever give
up! No matter how desperate the situation might seem, it is always
in your strength to pull yourself up and out of from darkness to
light. (Farbrengens of 1982, vol. 2, p. 1107)
In the Beit Midrash Hall of the Gur chassidim, everyone pushes
to get closer to the Rebbe and his table. Young and old, connected
or from the periphery, you are not supposed to be bashful about
pushing. Once in the crowd there was a wealthy person, who was also
an accomplished scholar. The problem was he was very aware of these
qualities almost to the point of arrogance. When the pushing became
too much for him, he complained loud enough for those around him
to hear, "Derech Eretz! Where are your manners!" In all
the tumult, the Rebbe also heard and said to the chassidim, "Don't
Afterwards, the Rebbe said to this person in a tone of apology,
"This is the way of chassidim, that they push around a person
who is kosher." (the inference is that a kosher person (a compliment)
gets pushed around, meaning he is forced to reevaluate his view
of himself when he is among chassidim). With something like false
humility, the wealthy person responded, "I am a kosher Jew!"
And the Rebbe answered, "Therefore I told them to stop pushing
" The first thing to decide when you realize G-d is
calling you is whether you are on the top of the ladder or at the
Shabbat Shalom, Shaul
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For last year's essay by Rabbi Leiter on this
week's Reading, see the archive.
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From the writings & talks of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch
The service in the Temple and the Sanctuary centered around the
principle of refinement subduing one's physical nature, which
leads to and brings about the transf
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