Parsha of the week

Vayikra (and God called)

Leviticus 1:1-5:26

Vayikra is also the name of this 3rd Book of Moses, and contains a myriad of rules and laws by which to build society. God calls to Moses from the Tent of Meeting, and communicates to him the laws of the korbanot, the animal and meal offerings/sacrifices brought in the Sanctuary - no other place was allowed for these offerings. They were considered an expression of faith - the word korbanot means "to draw closer." These sacrifices include:

* The "ascending offering" (olah) that is wholly raised to God by the fire atop the altar; symbolizing a complete surrender to the will of God.

* Five varieties of "meal offering" (minchah) prepared with fine flour, olive oil and frankincense;

* The "peace offering" (shelamim), whose meat was eaten by the one bringing the offering, after parts are burned on the altar and parts are given to the kohanim (priests); a demonstration of gratitude to God for all of God's bounties;

* The different types of "sin offering" (chatat) brought to atone for transgressions committed erroneously by the high priest, the entire community, the king or the ordinary Jew; symbolic of regret and sorrow at having strayed from the way of God; and

* The "guilt offering" (asham) brought by one who has misappropriated property of the Sanctuary, who is in doubt as to whether he transgressed a divine prohibition, or who has committed a "betrayal against God" by swearing falsely to defraud a fellow man. The concept of "kol Yisrael aravim zeh ba zeh" - all of Israel is responsible for each other - takes seed in this Torah portion.

Rabbi Robbi