Torah Weekly

For the week ending 23 March 2024 / 13 Adar Bet 5784

Parshat Vayikra

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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The Book of Vayikra (Leviticus), also known as Torat Kohanim — the Laws of the Priests — deals largely with the korbanot (offerings) brought in the Mishkan (Tent of Meeting). The first group of offerings is called a korban olah, a burnt-offering. The animal is brought to the Mishkan's entrance. For cattle, the person bringing the offering sets his hands on the animal. Afterwards, it is slaughtered, and the kohen sprinkles its blood on the Altar. The animal is skinned and cut into pieces. The pieces are arranged, washed and burned on the Altar.

A similar process is described involving burnt-offerings of other animals and birds. The various meal-offerings are described. Part of the meal-offering is burned on the Altar, and the remaining part is eaten by the kohanim. Mixing leaven or honey into the offerings is prohibited. The peace-offering, part of which is burned on the Altar and part eaten, can be from cattle, sheep or goats.

The Torah prohibits eating blood or chelev (certain fats in animals). The offerings that atone for inadvertent sins committed by the Kohen Gadol, by the entire community, by the Prince and by the average citizen, are detailed. Laws of the guilt-offering, which atones for certain verbal transgressions and for transgressing laws of ritual purity, are listed. The meal-offering for those who cannot afford the normal guilt-offering — the offering to atone for misusing sanctified property, laws of the "questionable guilt" offering, and offerings for dishonesty — are detailed.


An Offering You Can’t Refuse

“’When a person among you brings a korban to Hashem…’” (1:1)

You can see who someone really wants to be by the way they dress up on Purim.

One year, I went to Meah Shearim and bought a completely authentic Chassidic outfit: knee britches with white knee-length socks, the classic unique shoes, the shirt with wide cuffs and the buttons that do up the other way round. The only thing I stopped short of was a shtreimel, which would have set me back a few thousand dollars. There is just so much you can do for accuracy…

At the beginning of Megillat Esther, Achashverosh throws a party to end all parties. His party costume was the vestments of the High Priest. Was Achashverosh poking fun at the Jewish People and their prophecies of the end of his all-mighty kingdom? Or maybe there was something deeper?

The Torah hints to four mighty empires who will subjugate the Jewish People. Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome. Each of these empires successively snatched world domination one from the other. Eventually, the last of those empires, Rome and its cultural heirs, the Western world, will return the dominion to the Jewish People. When that happens, the prophet Yeshayahu, Isaiah, foresees that, “The lost ones will come from the land of Ashur…" and the final exile will end. The name Ashur is related to the Hebrew word "ishur." An ishur is a certification. Each nation that takes the kingship from the Jewish People seeks to "certify" itself as being the true and final recipient of the crown of the world. But they can only do this by proclaiming themselves as the true heirs. They each claim to be the "New Israel."

They claim that the testament of faith of the Jewish People is old and that they have a new one. That, in essence, was what Achashverosh was attempting to do at his millennial party. He was certifying himself as the New Israel. His party was a grotesque replication of the Temple service. He took out the holy vessels of the Temple and used them at his party of inauguration. He was dressed as the Kohen Gadol, the high priest.

“’When a person among you brings a korban to Hashem…’”

He even went so far as to name his ministers after the offerings of the Holy Temple. Olah, Chatat, Shlamim. The vestments of the Kohen Gadol were made with deep kabbalistic powers. Achashverosh was trying to utilize those forces of holiness for his own means, to set his seal on world domination using the higher spiritual forces. This was no fancy-dress party.

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