Weekly Reading Insights: Vayikra 5766


Overview of the Weekly Reading: Vayikra

To be read on 3 Nissan 5766 (March 31-April 1)

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

Vayikra is the 1st Reading out of 10 in Leviticus and 24th overall, and 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 holy Zohar, teachings of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Z:2466/Vayikra)

Why is the alef of "vayikra" [Hebrew for "He called"] smaller [than regular letters?] Because Moses' being called was incomplete. For what reason? Because it was only in the Tabernacle [a temporary structure, unlike the permanent structure of the Holy Temple]. Also, because it was in another land [not in the Holy Land], for completeness is to be found only in the Holy Land.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From the holy Ari, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Safed (A:2466/Vayikra)

The reason we must not offer these two [i.e. chametz and honey] is that they are identified with all the states of severe judgment of the immature and mature stages of development [of the partzufim, respectively].

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From Rabbi Moshe Alshich (O:2466/Vayikra)

The fire on the Altar destroys the spiritually negative forces created by the sin for which atonement is sought. The presence of heavenly fire also is the guarantee that repentance has been accepted by G-d. Besides, in order to destroy man-made spiritually negative forces, something stronger is required than what man can create himself; hence the Heavenly Fire.

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"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)


from the Chabad Master series, produced by Rabbi Yosef Marcus for

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.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 (from L'Chaim #310)

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:2466/Vayikra)

Just as we are commanded to remove all of the leavening - in Hebrew, "chametz"- from our possession and sight by the 15th of the Hebrew month of Nissan, there is also an aspect of chametz in ourselves that we have to try to eradicate. This is the pride and false perspectives of self that block our ability to serve G-d properly, and which often disrupt our relationships as well.

This week's Torah portion, Vayikra, is often read just before Pesach. In the first word of the portion, "vayikra" (meaning, "And He called [to Moses]"), is a hint to how we can effectively begin this cleansing. We are required to write the letter alef in the word "vayikra" smaller than the other letters in the Torah. The Midrash tells us that this is a hint to Moses' special quality of being more humble than any other person. This is not the only off-sized alef in the Torah, for Chronicles includes an oversized alef in the word "Adam"; this is a reference to Adam who, as the direct handiwork of G-d, was conscious of his greatness.

The great majority of the letters in the Torah are not large or small, rather intermediate. This is appropriate seeing that the Torah is our guide to living. We are generally not supposed to be one extreme or the other, but rather take the middle path. Yet, the Torah is our guide, and we must also learn lessons from the larger or smaller letters.

The Midrash (on Gen. 17:4) says that G-d testified that Adam was wiser even than the angels. The big alef of Adam, represents the greatness of Adam, and teaches us that a person should not only recognize his or her faults - we should also recognize our own qualities and talents that G-d has given us. However, Adam reminds us of failure, because of his sin of the Tree of Knowledge. The lesson from this is that a person who only acknowledges his or her superior qualities is in serious danger of sinning. To balance this, we also have to be cognizant of our deficiencies, bringing out our sense of limitation and humility. This is the lesson from the small alef of "vayikra".
This does not mean that Moses did not recognize his qualities as the greatest prophet of all time. Moses knew what qualities he had. He also understood that these qualities were given as a gift from Above, and therefore not something in which to take pride. Moses genuinely believed that someone else given the same chances could have reached an even higher level than himself. This attitude is what made Moses the most humble of men.

Every Jew has both a portion of the soul of Adam and a spark of the soul of Moses. Therefore, each of us must take a personal lesson from them, just as we would learn from our parents' and grandparents' experiences and attributes. As a Jew who is not only descended from Adam, but also from the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, each of us is capable of learning Torah and performing its commandments - of being holy. We innately have that potential.

We can be great, both in physical and spiritual challenges. On the other hand, we also have to remember that we did not work to acquire these qualities; they are a gift from G-d. Therefore, we have to see ourselves as being lowly and not fall into false pride. This is the way to merit a closer relationship to G-d, as did Moses, and the true path to physical and spiritual wholeness.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

P.S. Please also read my weekly Shabbat Law, below.)

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