Torah Weekly

For the week ending 27 March 2004 / 5 Nisan 5764

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 korban olah, a burnt offering. The animal is brought to the Mishkan's entrance. For cattle, the one 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 burnt on the altar and part is eaten, can be either 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.


Starring In My Own Movie

"When a man from among you brings an offering to G-d"

I remember, as a child, walking home one night from the underground station. It was a long twenty-minute walk. The misty night and the yellowish-orange street lamps made those chill London streets a bit like something out of an old Ealing movie.

Over my shoulder, I could see my reflection shorten as I got nearer to each street lamp, and then begin to lengthen in front of me as I moved away from it. At some point in the middle, the competing light from both lamps would extinguish my shadow altogether for a second or two. The sound of my shoes clicking on the concrete echoed through the empty streets. I was quite alone.

I thought to myself the only person who can see me is me. I began to imagine myself in a film. I was the cast, the crew, the writer and the director all rolled into one.

I suppose that most of us at some point have had a similar daydream, the feeling that our existence is perceived by no one but ourselves.

The nature of a child is that he sees himself as the center of existence. The minimum definition of adulthood is that I no longer see myself as the center of all things. I know that G-d is the center. (According to this definition, not too many of us escape puberty.)

At the center of our lives there is a battle, a battle between the ego on the one hand, that sees itself as the essential existence around which all else revolves, and the neshama, the soul, that knows that it is a piece of G-dliness, of holiness from on High.

This is the essential battle of our lives: to wean ourselves away from ourselves and return ourselves to the One, to the true Center of all.

"When a man from among you brings an offering to G-d"

The only true offering that we can bring to G-d is us ourselves, our egos. That is the offering that is truly "from among you".

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