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עשה תורתך קבע – אמור מעט ועשה הרבה

Parshat Vayikra

Posted by rabbiart on April 21, 2008

Torah Reading: VaYikra 1:1 to 5:26 Haftorah Reading: Shmuel 1 15:1 to 34

At first glance, this is not an easy Parsha to love. On the one hand, the Mishkan is now completed, and the Israelites (us) have built a place for HaShem so that HaShem might dwell among us. On the other hand, we have five chapters of animal sacrifices for various occasions and reasons. And not just the specifications of what to bring, why to bring it, and when to bring it, but the details of how to kill the sacrifice, where to dash the blood, and what parts may be consumed by the priests and levites. Sound mighty accessible to me – perhaps.

Within this parshah we have descriptions for the burnt offering (olah; chapter 1), the meal offering (minchah; chapter 2), the peace offering (shlemaim; chapter 3), the mistake offering (het; chapter 4, usually translated as sin offering), and the guilt offering (asham; chapter 5). Finally, in the latter part of chapter five, we have some text about making restitution for acts of thievery or uttering falsehoods. What’s it all about? the payoff comes, at long last, in the final verse of the parshah.

“The priest shall make atonement for him before YHVH, and he shall be forgiven, concerning what he has done to cause himself guilt.” (Vayikra 5:26). I submit for your consideration that the entire parshah is about the beginning of individual responsibility. Through the end of Sefer Shemot the Israelites have been an undistinguished mob, with precious few exceptions. Failures, like the golden calf, or successes, like the completion of the portable tabernacle, were a product of the masses. Now the Torah turns her attention to individual behavior; signaled by the second verse. “When any person brings an offering.”

Perhaps the opening section of Vayikra is a response to Aaron’s failure in the incident of the Golden Calf. Not so much the making of it, but the failure to “man up” and take responsibility. Imagine reading not “they made me do it” but, “I’m the leader, I should have known better, I take full responsibility, and I offer my resignation”. Perhaps Vayikra is telling us to be responsible for our own actions! A lesson for our times? You decide.

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