Sedra of the Week: Vayikra

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Sedra of the Week: Vayikra

Rabbi Garry Wayland looks ahead to the forthcoming portion of the Torah

Rabbi Garry Wayland

Vayikra brings about a real change of tone and pace in the Torah: from the individual lives of the forefathers in Bereshit to the trials and tribulations of the nascent Jewish nation in Shemot, Vayikra is largely timeless. 

Covering the laws of the Mishkan, the sanctuary at the centre of the 40-year Jewish encampment in the desert, as well as details of interpersonal conduct, personal sanctity and the festivals, the book makes almost no reference to historical events – save for the tragic demise of Aaron’s sons Nadav and Avihu at the inauguration of the sanctuary. 

The parsha begins: ‘When a man from among you brings a sacrifice to God…’ The word ‘man’ (Adam) is linguistically unnecessary with Rashi saying it specifically refers to Adam, the first person. “Just as Adam did not offer any sacrifices from stolen property – everything was his! – so too you shall not offer from that which is stolen.”

Rashi teaches us the foundation of the sanctuary had to be built upon ‘kosher’ money: “I am God: I love justice, I hate theft with a sacrifice.” 

A shochet once told famed Rabbi Yisrael Salanter he was retiring to go into business, as the responsibilities of ensuring kashrut were too much for him. The rabbi rebuked: “If you are prepared to stop slaughtering, in which you know the laws, for fear of sinning, how much more so should you fear sinning in business, in which you have no expertise!” 

The Temple served as the site of both the altar and the Sanhedrin, the greatest court in the land. Divine connection and human justice were intrinsically linked. 

May God help us make the appropriate sacrifices to live lives of integrity and have the integrity to make sacrifices to Him with a full heart.

  • Rabbi Garry Wayland is a teacher and educator for US Living and Learning

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