This week’s portion begins with the word “Vayikra” which means “And (He) called.”  In Hebrew this word is spelled out as “V Y K R A.” Notice that the “A— aleph” is smaller than the rest of the letters in the word. This is the way it is written in the Torah scroll. Rabbi Menachem Weiman writes that while “French may be the best language for romance [and] German may be a great language for philosophy. Hebrew is the language of Godliness.” God created the entire Universe using the Hebrew letters as the building blocks, or blueprint as it were, for creation. So when there is an oddity in the Torah, such as an unusually sized letter, it begs for further research.

Rabbis throughout the centuries have been puzzled as to why this letter was recorded differently when compared to the rest of the Torah. You see, the letter “A— aleph” wasn’t necessary in the first place. Without the letter aleph the first word of this portion would have been “Vayiker” instead of “Vayikra.” The term “Vayiker” is used in a later portion when it says “God vayikermet Balaam” in Numbers 23. The term Vayiker could also be translated as “encountered, happened upon, or befell.” Why did God vayiker—encounter Balaam, and vayikra—call to Moses?

The term vayiker according to Rav Frand connotes the idea of happenstance while the term vayikra is a word of endearment. God showed His favor to Moses when He called Moses in this first chapter of Leviticus. This does not mean that God suddenly “happened upon” Balaam, rather, it means that Balaam related to God like a whack-a-mole game (here there, gone there); Moses, on the other hand was constantly connected to God.
The Stone Chumash describes the moment God told Moses to write Vayikra as the first word of Leviticus. It says, “In his monumental humility, Moses wished to describe God’s revelation to him with the same uncomplimentary word used for Balaam – without an A– but God instructed him to include the A (aleph) as an expression of affection. Too humble to do so wholeheartedly, Moses wrote a small A.” The humility of Moses is given as a big reason as to why the letter aleph is small in the word Vayikra.

However, there is another reason, which helps to tie this idea together.In the book of 1 Chronicles chapter 1, verse 1 in the very 1st word there is an enlarged aleph. The word is in fact the name of someone, “Adam HaRishon—The first Man.” Adam, whose sin brought about the need for the Torah of Moses; it is his name which begins with an enlarged “aleph.” There is an enlarged aleph and a smaller aleph in the TaNaCH (Hebrew Scriptures), one to equalize the other out. What are these two alephs telling us?
Adam, whose name begins with the enlarged aleph, viewed himself as the pinnacle of creation. His self-esteem and pride led to his ultimate downfall. Moses, in response to the sin of Adam, recognized that the only way to rectify the relationship between God and humanity was to come before God in a state of humility and sincere repentance; this is why Moses wrote an undersized aleph.
The pride and arrogance of Adam needed to be counteracted by the humility and meekness of Moses. Not just by writing a small aleph alone, but also by following the instructions written in the book of Vayikra (with a small aleph), which leads humanity to a restored connection to God.The book of Leviticus—though some find this book to be the most uninteresting in the Torah—is in fact the ultimate response to counter the sin of Adam. Leviticus pointed the Israelites to the components necessary to bring reconciliation between Heaven and earth.Today, in our modern era we have lost the Temple and the ability to offer sacrifices, so what do we have to offer God? We can offer our submissive hearts to God’s will and accept His authority in our daily life.

Now Christianity today would say that the Torah is divided up into ceremonial laws versus moral laws. But this is a foreign idea to Judaism (whether it be 1st century or modern day Judaism). Who decides what laws are moral or ceremonial?
God never listed His laws in categories to regard to disregard depending on one’s definition of a moral and ceremonial law. I find it interesting that many Christian will openly declare, “Yeshua fulfilled the sacrifices.” Here is why I think this declaration is absurd (in the words of First Fruits of Zion), “of what value is it for us to profess that the Messiah fulfills the sacrifices when we know virtually nothing about those same sacrifices? To simply dismiss it all by saying, ‘Yeshua fulfilled the sacrifices,’ does a great disservice to the text and to the Master Himself.” The Torah gives many explicit and intricate details concerning the service of the sacrificial system, but because the idea of sacrifice seems barbaric and backwards to our modern society, everything is dismissed by using the convenient statement “Yeshua fulfilled the sacrifices.” End of Discussion… Period.

But first, is there clear evidence that Yeshua replaced the sacrificial system? And second, even if Yeshua replaced the sacrificial system shouldn’t we at least attempt to understand what He replaced? Too often I hear people stating cliché straw men in an attempt to defend complicated theological issues. Myself included. But one should not use straw men arguments unless they have a stone castle with a moat to back them up.Yeshua Himself said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” The Greek word used here (Matthew 5:17) for fulfill is the root word “Pleres.” It can mean, “to accomplish, complete or increase.” The meaning I really liked is a common gaming term. The Greek term “pleres” can mean, “to level up.” Yeshua came and “leveled up” the Torah by giving us new instructions concerning the Law of Moses. He told the people “You’ve heard it said…Do not murder …Do not commit adultery…But I tell you…Do not hate or lust in your heart” (paraphrased). Yeshua was teaching the people the Torah of the Messiah. The Torah of Moses deals with the physical actions of mankind, the Torah of the Messiah deals with the heart of the matter—the heart of humanity.Since we live in a world unfamiliar to the sacrificial system, much of what we read in Leviticus seems perplexing and outdated. However, I would like to write on some the verses from Leviticus 2 and see what we can learn practically for today’s times. In Leviticus 2:11 & 13 we read, “You shall burn no leaven nor any honey in any offering to the Lord made by fire…[But] with all your offerings you shall offer salt.” 

No leaven or honey, but salt in every offering? What can we learn from this?
When one makes an offering to God, say people offer their life, proceeds or actions to God. It is then that these verses come into play. When a person offers something to God, how are they offering it? As the Stone Chumash commentary notes, “The prohibition against offerings of leaven and fruit-honey conveys a moral lesson regarding the full range of man’s service of God. Man should not be sluggish, as symbolized by the slow process of leavening; nor should he be obsessed with the pursuit of pleasures, as symbolized by the sweetness of honey (Chinuch).” Leavening represents laziness (It can also represent Pride). Honey represents selfish pleasure seeking. Neither of these is acceptable when making an offering to God. The Book “Growth through Torah” mentions that, “Yeast makes the dough rise higher, but it is an external additive. Honey makes things taste sweet, but it is also an external additive.” Leaven causes distortion and false growth while honey is sweetness borrowed from an outside source.
Our offerings to God should not contain either of these characteristics. Instead our offerings should contain salt. Why salt? Going back to the Book “Growth through Torah” it says, “Salt…brings out the flavor of the food, but only the flavor that is already there…[meaning one should] utilize all the abilities and talents that you have to serve Him (God).” Salt brings out/draws attention to what already exists. Salt is a preservative that safeguards what exists. Yeshua told His disciples (going back to Matthew 13), “You are the salt of the earth.” He didn’t say, “You are the Sweet N Low” or “Insta-Yeast of the world.” He called us to be (as we read in Romans 12), “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” whose “speech [should] always be with grace, seasoned with salt…” 

Salt is a seasoning. It is not something to be dumped into every relationship and action. Too much salt kills plants and soil. We ought to sprinkle salt into our daily offerings to God. Remember; allow your service, talents and abilities to shine, but not for self-glorification, instead, let it all be for the glory of God!
The last thing I wanted to note about this portion is a verse from Leviticus 1. It says, “When any one of you brings an offering to the Lord…” In this verse it uses the Tetragrammaton, which is God’s 4-letter name. This name represents God’s attribute of Mercy while the name Elokim represents God’s name for Judgment. This is interesting. Some assume that the sacrificial system was an unfortunate necessity demanded by a wrathful, avenging, bloodthirsty God.

If this is the case then why when it comes to the sacrifices in the Torah does it always invoke God’s name of Mercy? The Stone Chumash explains, “The Torah teaches us that offerings are a means to draw closer to Hashem – the Merciful God (R’Hirsch).” In fact the Hebrew word “KorBaN—Sacrifice” comes from the Hebrew root word “KaRoV” which means “Closeness or Nearness.” The sacrifices are what allowed a person to come near to the all-Merciful God. If the idea of sacrifices turns you off then what are your thoughts on factory-farm slaughterhouses?

If you eat meat, then the sacrifices were a much more considerate form of slaughter; think about it, the meat is dedicated to God rather than turned into cash to coat the pockets of some cruel animal farm. Besides, animal cruelty is forbidden in the Torah, but it’s okay on factory farms (just a consideration for those of us who are meat eaters). For those of you out there who are vegetarian, I don’t understand, but I admire you! I write all of this to say that we have a lot of work ahead in order to accomplish the work set out for us as believers! The question is where do we start? I believe 1 Corinthians 10 has the answer,“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God!”

Grace and Peace from God’s Bondservant,
Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel
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A book I would highly suggest is called “What about the Sacrifices?”Please check it out as well as the other resources available. “First Fruits of Zion” has an amazing array of teaching material that is well thought out, studied, documented and highly recommended!

38 thoughts on “Parsha Vayikra Leviticus 1:1-5:26

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