Torah: Leviticus 1:1-5:26;
Haftorah: Isaiah 43:21-44:23 (on
the theme of sacrifices)
THE CHASSIDIC REBBES
"And the L-rd called ("Vayikra") to Moses."
The word "vayikra" is written in this verse with an alef
much smaller than the other letters of that word. This alludes to Moses'
great humility, for "vayikra" with an alef indicates that G-d
called Moses with an extra measure of love. The Torah tells us that "the
skin of Moses's face shone" with a special radiance. According to
the Midrash, when Moses was writing the Torah, he took some extra ink
and rubbed it on his forehead, causing his skin to glow. This extra ink
was left over from the alef of "Vayikra": G-d had wanted Moses
to write it with a regular-sized alef, whereas Moses didn't want to write
it at all. As a compromise, Moses made the alef tiny, and thus had a small
amount of ink left over from the exact amount G-d gave him.
(Reb Simcha Bunim of Pshischa)
"And G-d called to Moses"
We learn about the various offerings and
sacrifices to teach us that we must be willing to make sacrifices, both
monetary and otherwise, to afford our children a proper Jewish education.
Furthermore, a child's earliest and most precious years must be devoted
to Torah study, without regard for later professional choices. For this
reason, young children just beginning their Torah studies start with the
book of Leviticus.
"If any one of you bring an offering to G-d." (1:2)
Chasidic philosophy interprets this verse to mean that the personal offering
each one of us brings to G-d must truly be "of us," from our
innermost part. Yet a person might hesitate, thinking that a mere mortal
can never bridge the gap between the finite and infinite. We must therefore
remember that our relationship with G-d is, in actuality, dependent only
on our initiative. Once that initiative is taken, nothing can stand in
the way of communion between man and G-d.
(Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch)
"When a person offers from you an offering." (1:2)
When the Holy Temple still functioned, a person who sinned could bring
a sheep of his own as an offering and gain atonement. Today, a person
has to bring from himself an offering to G-d-by giving of his own fat
and blood through eating less, and in general reducing in the pleasures
of the world.
(Rabbi Chaim Vital -translated from Sichat HaShavuah 427)
"If the burnt offering is taken from cattle..." (Lev.
The verse mentions three different kinds of korbonei oleh (elevating offerings):
cattle, sheep and birds. The rich person, who has a lot of self-confidence
and pride, tends to sin more then others-he has to bring the biggest offering,
"from cattle." The average person, who sins less, can bring
a sheep or goat. A poor person, who is usually broken and humble and therefore
sins least of all, it is enough when he brings only a bird.
(based on the Zohar -translated from Sichat HaShavuah 118)
"If his offering be an ascending sacrifice (olah)...of his own
voluntary will, before G-d." (1:3)
The root of the Hebrew word "olah" means "height"
or "elevation," teaching us that if a person truly desires to
lift himself up and draw near to G-d, he must sacrifice "his own
voluntary will," as our Sages said (Avot 2:3), "Nullify your
will before His."
(Magid of Mezeritch)
"If one's offering is a burnt-offering from cattle." (1:3)
The service of the sin-offering is performed before the service of the
ascending-offering, but the Torah mentions them in the opposite order.
This is because the ascending-offering is an atonement for sinful thoughts
or ideas, which precede the actual wrongdoing, for which the sin- offering
is an atonement.
"He shall slaughter the bull before G-d." (1:5)
As explained in the Talmud (Chulin 30), "And he shall slaughter"
implies drawing or pulling. The act of slaughtering (according to Torah
law) "draws" the animal or bird upward, rendering it capable
of being elevated from the realm of the animal kingdom to the realm of
man, when it is ingested and transformed into the blood and flesh of the
person who partakes of it. The animal soul of man must likewise be "slaughtered,"
by drawing and elevating it upward until it is subsumed in the holiness
of the G-dly soul.
"They shall throw the blood on the altar all around...and the
fats." (1:5, 8)
Both the blood and the fat are offered on the altar. This teaches us how
to properly carry out the mitzvot. Blood symbolizes excitement, speed,
and activity. Fat symbolizes laziness and inactivity. When performing
a mitzva, one should do so with excitement and speed. But if one is, G-d
forbid, tempted to sin, one should respond by being "lazy" and
(Sha'ar Beit Rabim)
"The sons of Aaron the priest shall
put fire on the altar."(1:7)
Even though a heavenly fire descended
from on High to consume the offerings, the priests were still required
to bring ordinary fire as well, to the altar. We learn from this that
one may not rely solely on the "fire that descends from on high"--the
natural, innate love of G-d which is present in the soul of every Jew.
Each of us must also bring an "ordinary fire," kindle that innate
love of G-d by taking the initiative and contemplating His greatness,
to further nurture that inner spark.
"He shall kill it on the side of
the altar, northward, before G-d." (1:11)
The person bringing the offering
must be willing to sacrifice his own wants and desires for a higher cause.
The offering is only a symbol of our willingness for self-sacrifice. This
is alluded to in the Hebrew word for "north," which is related
to the word meaning "hidden." Even our hidden thoughts and feelings
must be dedicated to G-dliness.
"If you bring a meal-offering baked in the oven." (2:4)
In order to become closer to G-d, a person should arouse his innate, fiery
love of Him by contemplating the greatness of the Creator. For in the
same way that an oven's heat causes the liquid to separate from the dough,
so too does a burning love of G-d separate a person from his attraction
to material things and strengthen his connection with the infinite.
"You shall burn no leaven-chametz, nor any honey, in any offering
of the L-rd made by fire."(2:11)
"Leaven" is symbolic of the kind of person who is angry at the
world. Morning or evening, Shabbat or a regular weekday, he is always
sour - "chamutz," (from the same Hebrew root as chametz).
"Honey," by contrast, alludes to a person who is affable by
nature. No matter what happens, he remains buoyant. The Torah teaches,
however, that a person must learn to control his emotions, even positive
ones. For there are times when it is appropriate to be "leaven,"
and times when it is appropriate to be "honey."
(Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch)
"....you may not sacrifice anything fermented or sweet..."
"Fermented (sour) and sweet" are by nature two opposite extremes.
The Torah lets us know that extremes are harmful, and it is worthwhile
for a person to distance himself from both and to go the middle way, the
(from Rabbi Yosef Shaul Natanson -translated from Sichat
"With all your sacrifices you shall offer salt." (2:13)
The sacrifice symbolizes the revealed part of the Torah, which is likened
to meat. The salt symbolizes the hidden aspects of Torah which are more
spiritual and abstract. This is why each sacrifice had to be brought with
salt. In the same way that salt preserves meat from spoiling, so do the
inner, esoteric explanations of Torah preserve the revealed part of Torah.
(Likutei Torah) (from L'Chaim #813)
"If an individual commits an inadvertent sin from among the commandments
of G'd...and did one of them" (Lev. 4:2)
"And did one of them", can mean that even the keeping of the
mitzvot of the Torah can be considered a sin. How so? If a person did
a mitzvah and knows he did a mitzvah, and he is proud of himself and convinced
that by doing so he did a big favor to the Creator of the world, that
in itself is a sin!
(from Kedushat Levi-the teachings of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchov
-translated from Sichat HaShavuah 118 )
"If a person should sin...by doing one of the commandments of
G-d, concerning things which ought not to be done." (4:27)
Two disciples of the Maggid of Mezeritch once chanced upon each other.
Naturally, the conversation soon turned to matters of Torah. "Oy,"
sighed the first. "What will be with us after 120 years? How will
we be able to face our Maker, having committed so many transgressions
during our lifetimes?" "I'm not worried about my sins,"
replied the second. "We have been granted the path of teshuva [repentance]
to take care of those. What concerns me is our mitzvot. How will we be
able to appear before G-d and defend such paltry mitzvot as we have to
(from L'Chaim #963)
"If any person sin, because he hears the voice of adjuration."
If a Jew sees someone committing a certain transgression, it is a sure
sign that the same sin exists within him. The reason G-d caused him to
witness this is so that he will be able to correct his own flaw.
(The Baal Shem Tov)
"If a person sins...and is not sure, he shall bear guilt."(5:17)
The Torah is even stricter, in terms of bringing sacrifices, with one
who is not even sure if he has sinned. The sacrifice when one is uncertain
if he sinned cost more than the sacrifice which was brought as an atonement
for a known sin! If a person knows clearly that he has done something
wrong, he will regret it and feel bad. However, if he is not sure, he
may convince himself that he really did not sin. Then, he will not repent.
Thus, he has to bring a costlier sacrifice which will cause him to be
(Rabbeinu Yona) (from L'Chaim #862)
"It shall be that when he has sinned and is conscious of his
guilt, he shall restore that which he took by robbery." (5:23)
Our Sages note that whenever the Torah uses the phrase "And it shall
be," it indicates joy and happiness. But what possible joy can there
be in a discussion of robbery? Rather, the positive point in this verse
is that the robber "is conscious of his guilt." It is a good
thing that he recognizes the need to repent of his sin and bring an offering
to atone for his misdeed.
The month of Nissan has a special relationship to the Redemption, as
our Sages tell us (Midrash Rabbah Shemot 15:11): "When G-d chose
His world He established within it new moons and years; and when He chose
Jacob and his sons, He established in it a new moon of redemption, for
in [this month, Nissan] the Jewish people were redeemed from Egypt, and
in this month they will be redeemed in the future, as the verse says (Michah
15:7): 'As in the days of your going out of Egypt I will show you wonders'
( From L'Chaim #813)
The weekly reading of Vaykira is unique in that it opens with the words,
"He called to Moshe," yet does not specify who is calling. Name
implies external manifestation. You only use your name when you interact
with others. When you are alone, there is no need for a name. Through
Moshe, G-d exposed Himself to the Jewish people in a very personal way,
a part of Himself that no name could possibly describe. This special quality
of G-d Himself will be revealed and accessible in the Messianic era.
(From MWire on Shluchim.org)
"And he called out to Moses; and G-d spoke to him from the Tent
of Meeting" (1:1)
As explained by Rashi, G-d prefaced each exchange with Moses by calling
out to him, indicative of His great love. This love between G-d and Moses
is symbolic of the open and loving relationship enjoyed by the Jewish
people when the Holy Temple still stood and the Divine Presence rested
in the Holy of Holies. This love has not diminished any during the exile;
it only became less open and revealed. The way to restore the relationship
with G-d to its former glory is by expressing unconditional love for our
fellow Jew. If the Jewish people will be united in brotherhood and unity,
G-d's love for Moses will once again be fully expressed when the dead
are resurrected and the Third Holy Temple is rebuilt.
(Likutei Sichot -The Lubavitcher Rebbe)[Reprinted with
permission from L'Chaim Magazine (www.lchaim.org).]
"They [your descendants] will grow and multiply as though they
were among grass that sprouts quickly and abundantly, and like willows
that flourish by streams of water" (Isaiah 44:4)
This verse refers to the era of techiyas hamaisim, the revival
of the dead. At that time G-d will bless Yisrael and multiply them until
they fill the world.
(Bereishit Rabati, dav 7)
From The Midrash Says on the Weekly Haftaros.