Weekly Reading Insights

VaYikrah 5763


Overview of the Weekly Reading: VaYikra, Shabbat Zachor, Purim
To be read on 11 Adar Beit 5763 (March 15)

Torah: Lev. 1:1-5:26, Maftir: Deut. 25:17-19;
Haftorah: Samuel I 5:1-34 (pre-Purim)
Stats: VaYikra 1st Reading out of 10 in Leviticus and 24th overall, contains 11 positive mitzvot and 5 prohibitive mitzvot. It is written on 215 lines in a parchment Torah scroll, 19th out of 54 in overall length.

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. 

FROM THE CHASSIDIC REBBES (V:24-63 VaYikra / Zachor)


"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)


"G-d maintains war against Amalek from generation to generation." (Ex. 17:16)

After the Jews left Egypt, they were on the highest level of faith in G-d. Amalek's attack on the Jewish people was not merely intended to destroy them physically, but to detach them from G-d spiritually, by putting doubts in their mind about G-d. Whenever a Jew has doubts about Judaism, Amalek is at work. G-d is so angry at Amalek that He wants to wipe out his remembrance entirely.

(Keter Shem Tov)


"One who reads the Megila backwards has not fulfilled his obligation." (Mishna, Megila)

A person must not view the story of Purim as just a historical narrative, something that happened long ago in another time and place. The purpose of reading the Megila on Purim is to ensure that these days are remembered and kept throughout the generations. The events of Purim are not only relevant to the present time, but each detail of the story contains lessons to be applied in our daily lives.

(Baal Shem Tov)

A MYSTICAL CHASSIDIC DISCOURSE (M:24-63 VaYikra) (M:24b63 Zachor)


Selected with permission and adapted from the three-volume English edition of Shney Luchot HaBrit -- the Sh'lah, as translated, condensed, and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (1565-1630), known as the 'Sh'lah' - an acronym of the title, was born in Prague. A scholar of outstanding reputation, he served as chief Rabbi of Cracow, and more famously, of Frankfort (1610-1620). After his first wife passed away, he remarried and moved to Israel in 1621, where he became the first Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Jerusalem. He later moved to Tiberias, where he is buried, near the tomb of the Rambam.

Remember that if Adam had not sinned the whole concept of areas that are sanctified and areas that are not would not have existed. The whole earth would have been like The Garden of Eden, and every place on earth would have enjoyed the status of sanctity. A return to such a situation is forecast in Jeremiah 3,16-17 where the prophet says: “In those days – declares the Lord – men shall no longer speak of the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord, nor shall it come to mind. They shall not mention it nor miss it, or make another.” Rashi comments on this that this means that G-d promises that “all your entrances will be holy and I shall dwell therein as though it were the Ark of the Covenant.”

There similarly would not have been people specially selected to perform the service in the Sanctuary since the whole of mankind would have been a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Neither would certain times have been singled out as especially suitable for festivals or as times for atonement, etc. Every single day would have enjoyed the same high status of holiness. Every day would have exuded the atmosphere of the Sabbath as promised for the future after the arrival of the messianic ate.

For the above-mentioned reasons this book commences with Adam; this is why the Torah writes: “Adam ki yakriv” – “for when a man shall offer…” an allusion to Adam HaRishon, first man. We can therefore view the whole of this book, Torat Cohanim, as the Tikun HaAdam, the rehabilitation of Adam—mankind. The entire laws pertaining to sacrifices as well as those pertaining to rehabilitation from different skin diseases people are afflicted with from time to time, are all reminders of the first sin committed by Adam and the resultant diminution of man’s stature in the universe.

(adapted from Torat Moshe - the 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech of Zefat on the Torah, as translated and condensed in the English version of Eliyahu Munk)

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

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(W:24-63 VaYikra)

On Rosh Hashannah, during the repetition of the musaf service, we call out to G-d: "Teshuvah (repentance), Tefillah (prayer), and Tzedakah (charity) divert the negative decree!" Above these first three words in most prayer books is written, "tzom (fasting), kol (voice), and mammon (money)". This encourages every Jew to fulfill these three physical and direct ways to connect to G-d. Fasting corresponds to teshuvah because sinning is about forgetting G-d. When we fast, we constantly are reminded of G-d's presence because of our hunger. Voice is connected to prayer because obviously we pray with our voices. On another level, when Yaacov impersonated Eisav, Yitzchok said to him 'The voice is the voice of Yaacov but the arms are the arms of Eisav'. This is an eternal reminder that while others use their arms whether for work or war, the Jewish people, the children of Yaacov, have their voice, the voice of prayer to connect to G-d. Money corresponds to tzedakah. While a person can donate time, primarily the commandment of charity is done through giving money to the needy.

Interestingly, the numerical value of each of these three words-fasting (tzom), voice (kol) and money (mammon)-is 136. Another word which also has the numerical value of 136 is the word sulam-ladder. This is to remind us that on the High Holidays in particular, but certainly all year round also, when a person fasts, prays and gives charity he or she climbs the spiritual ladder, drawing closer to G-d. This does not only apply to the holiday season, but to every day of the year. We can turn all decrees into positive ones if we dedicate ourselves in these three avenues of service.

This week's Torah portion, begins the 3rd book of the Torah, Vayikra, which deals extensively with the Tabernacle (and later, the Temple) offerings. In the beginning of the portion, the verse says, "A person when he makes an offering from himself to G-d". The portion continues to describe the different animals and how they are offered. How do we make offerings to G-d today when we have no holy Temple and are forbidden to bring animal offerings? The Torah tells us through these same three foundations: fasting, voice and money. Each is likened to an offering. Fasting, because by not eating we literally give our flesh to G-d as an offering. Prayer, because with the Temple's destruction, each of the daily prayers are in place of the daily offerings. Money, because just as an offering in the Temple required an outlay of money, when we use our income for spiritual purposes, it is akin to bringing an offering in the Temple.

In the Sefer Oren Adath, the author brings us a very beautiful hint to connect these three foundations to the idea of an offering. The numerical values of the three words together, tzom 136+ kol 136+ mamon 136, equals 408. This is exactly the numerical value of the words 'korban l'havaya'-an offering to G-d (yud-kai-vav-kai).

May G-d immediately accept our tshuvah, teffilah, and tzedakah and through the merit of the Jewish people immediately bring back the third Temple and Mashiach.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul Leiter

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