Weekly Reading Insights: Vayikra  

Overview of the Weekly Reading

Torah: Leviticus 1:1-5:26;
Haftorah: Isaiah 43:21-44:23 (on the theme of sacrifices)



"And the L-rd called ("Vayikra") to Moses." (Lev.1:1)
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" (1:1)
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.
(Avnei Ezel)

"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. 1:3)
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.
(Korban Ha'ani)

"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.
(Likutei Sichot)

"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 inactive.
(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.
(Lubavitcher Rebbe)

"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.
(Chidushei Harim)

"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.
(Likutei Sichot)

"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..." (2:11)
"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 "golden path".
(from Rabbi Yosef Shaul Natanson -translated from Sichat HaShavuah #272)

"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 our credit?"
(from L'Chaim #963)

"If any person sin, because he hears the voice of adjuration." (5:1)
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 more introspective.
(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.
(Ilana D'Chayei)




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.

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