Parashat Vayikra – Erev Shabbat 24 March 2023 (5783)
Week of 19-25 March 2023.
Torah portion: Leviticus 1:1-5:26 Haftarah: Isaiah 43:21-44:23
Theme: Pure as children
This week we begin the third book of the Torah, Vayikra, Leviticus, which unlike the epic stories of Genesis and Exodus, is distinctive because it is full of sacrificial law without many stories. The Parashah begins with God calling Moses to the Mishkan, where he will receive the commandments to be definitely passed on to his people. It also deals with the sacrifices that were brought before God due to sin (chatati) and guilt (asham).
The purpose of these sacrifices was to avoid eternal death, which is related to the soul. They were also to be a stimulus for an examination of conscience and a return to God (Teshuva), recognizing the mistake committed and sincerely reproving it, even in the face of acts that we commit involuntarily.
To recognize that we are weak and that we have sinned are steps towards being closer to God, because it is through this recognition that we are able to move forward and restart our conversion process, returning to our origins. In other words, Holiness is the central theme for all the subjects discussed in Leviticus.
Another important element in this week’s Parashah is humility, which is needed to recognize oneself as a sinner and perhaps this is the great difficulty we find in the book of Leviticus. The Talmud states that the Book of Vayikra is the most difficult book in the Torah, as it contains many, many laws. It is a normative book that presents a complex system of sacrifice. But it is the first book that children are taught: isn’t that a contradiction? Not really, if we seek holiness and it manifests itself through purity, then we must start with those who are still pure: children.
God’s unconditional love is expressed in children, who are pure, and thus, sacrifices would only be valid when presented by the truly repentant sinner. More than a book of rules, Vayikra is a book of love, as it shows the hand of God extended to humanity.
In today’s world where we are surrounded by arrogance, selfishness, and pride, Vayikra reminds us that God is manifested in small things. May we do our Teshuva daily, reminding ourselves that all things are fleeting, but that God’s mercy and love are eternal.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. What are the challenges to you concerning the reading of the first five chapters of Vayikra? 2. How would you present them to children?
Bibliography: McKenzie, J.L. Dictionary of the Bible (New York: 1965); Fernando Gross, O ciclo de leituras da Torah na Sinagoga: Judaismo e Cristianismo, (São Paulo: Loyola, 2014), 462.
This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Nayon Nigel Cezar, NDS, Israel, Bat Kol Contributor
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