Torah Weekly

For the week ending 28 March 2020 / 3 Nisan 5780

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 calledkorban 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 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.


A Special Calling

“And He called…” (1:1)

It’s been a while since I was in New York City. But whenever I go there, I always think of the verse in Tehillim, Psalms, that says,“And the land, He has given to the sons of man.” The avenues that stretch to the limit of vision, the feeling of the human dynamo that is New York. I was walking along Central Park East, just by 62nd Street, and I saw some road works and realized how they can build skyscrapers of more than a hundred stories. In London and in Jerusalem, dig into the ground and you will find soil with some rocks. In Manhattan, try and dig into the ground and your spade will bounce back with a hefty ring as it hits solid black granite. And it was that solid granite that has been hewn to form the two memorials to the nearly three thousand people who were murdered by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11th 2001.

As you approach the memorial you see all the names of all those who fell victim. Each name is engraved on a metal wall surrounding two vast chasms in the ground where the buildings stood; into those chasms pours an enormous and continual four-sided waterfall, and at that bottom of those chasms are smaller abysses into which the water pours, and of those you cannot see the bottom. It seems like a flood of tears constantly pouring into the depths of the world. What makes the monument so impressive is its sheer scale. I tried to take a video of it, but when I played it back it conveyed nothing of the feeling that I experienced. There are some things you just can’t film, you can’t video. Scale is not just size. It is the yardstick of my relationship to the creation. When you film something, you lose that point of reference, even if you include a human being to indicate scale.

In our world, the ultimate measurement is the measure of a man. So many of the measurements of the Torah and our Sages relate to the human being — the tefach — a hand’s-breadth; the amah — the distance from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger, the zeret — the length of the small finger. There is a way that Hashem speaks to us that is beyond language; there is a language of the emotions, the ‘still small voice’ that speaks to us as a language of connection, of chiba. As Rashi mentions when commenting on the first word in this week’s Parsha, Vayikra, ”And He called…” —‘an expression of affection.’ Rashi says that the angels call to each other using this phrase. But maybe the only creation to whom Hashem ‘calls’ — the only creation that is attuned to that special broadcast of the emotions — is Man.

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