Weekly Parashah

Parashat Vayikra

3 Nisan 5783 \ March 25, 2023

By Bob Barrett


This Week’s Reading’s

Torah: Leviticus 1:1-5:26

Haftarah: Isaiah 43:21-44:23

Brit Chadashah: Hebrews 10:1-11, 16-18


There are many times in my life that I wish I could go back sixty years and return to the synagogue I attended as a child. Devar Emet has many qualities that surpass the old shul, but you never forget your first love. One of the things I miss most was the wonderful cantor. Not that our rabbis don’t do an excellent job of singing the Torah and Haftarah, but this man could have been an opera singer. And you really get a good feel for the musicality  of the Torah in this week’s portion.


The Torah Portion is all about the sacrificial system. Much like an opera’s songs, phrases are repeated throughout. We are told the one making the offering should place his hands on the head of the animal, it’s blood should be splashed around the alter, it should be burned and the smoke should rise as a soothing aroma to ADONAI. I suggest everyone read this portion to appreciate the rhythm of the writing.


The Hebrew word for offering is korban, from the root karav, to come, to be near. This is exactly what the sacrifices should do, it should draw us nearer to G-d. Remember the whole purpose of the Exodus: to bring the Children of Israel out of Egypt so they could worship G-d, to be close to Him.When we sin, we are choosing our will, our desirers, over G-d’s. We are saying what we want matters more than what He wants. Imagine that! We are choosing ourselves over the creator of the universe. At the moment of our sin, we are saying we are more important than G-d.


Several types of offerings are described in this section—the burnt offering, grain offering, peace offering, sin offering, and guilt offering. Bulls, goats, sheep, even turtledoves and pigeons are sacrificed, depending on what the person making the sacrifice could afford. The offerer places his hands on the head of the animal as it’s throat is being slit and its blood poured out. The one exception is you do not place your hands on the head of the bird, probably because it will peck a hole in your palm. The kohen is to wring off its head. The animals of the field, herd, and flock are peaceful animals, they graze. They are consumed by their desires and impulses of the moment. They have no plans for the future, they are controlled by their emotions. They are ruled by instant gratification. The sins of man usually fulfill instant gratification. 


The meat of the peace offering is eaten by the person who brought it and the kohens. This is true except for the birds. In researching this drash I read a commentary prepared by Christian scholars. They assumed the birds were not eaten because they were too small to be divided among the person making the offering and the kohen. Wrong! These scholars did not know Judaism or read the Bible very carefully. The birds were not eaten because their necks were broken instead of slit, making them unclean. This section also discusses a grain offering. Apropos of the coming Passover, it says the offering should be made without leaven. 


The Haftarah portion has G-d speaking. He ridicules Jacob and Israel for their idolatry. He tells how man raises trees and uses half of it to build a fire to roast meat and for warmth. But the other half is used to build an idol. The same material used for practical purposes is used to create a god. It is foolishness to worship a god that could just as easily been a fire. But G-d tells Jacob and Israel He will redeem them.


G-d says you have not honored me with your sacrifices. Here we see the purpose of the sacrifice is to honor G-d. He points out how the people have abandoned the sacrificial system. Here, in verse 26, he alludes to the judgment of the dead when He says, “Remind me, when we argue our case together, state your case so that you may be proved right.”


In the Brit Chadashah portion, the author points the offerings cannot remove sin for all time. Only Yeshua can. The sacrificial system is a shadow of Messiah. The offering— year after year—is a reminder of sin. In the sacrifice of Yeshua we are made holy once and for all. But have we really made this sacrifice our own? Have we approached the new altar, the cross? Have we placed our hands on the head of Yeshua? Have we accepted his sacrifice as our atonement? Or do we make a mockery of his shed blood by continuing to sin; or do we try to live a life without sin, a life full of obedience and the knowledge of G-d?


Are we saved by our faith, and going forth and sinning no more?