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Parshat Va-yikra


Welcome to the Book of Va-yikra (Leviticus), the third of the Five Books of Moses. (Va-yikra is the one Shabbat Mom fears the most because it is often hard to come up with a visual image to match near-constant talk about rules, regulations, and sacrifices!)

"The Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying, 'Speak to the Israelite people, and say to them:...'"

Some commentators believe that Moses may have been intimidated to enter the holy Tent and so G-d "called" to him so Moses would realize that from now on, this would be the place from which he would receive G-d's marching orders. And throughout this week's detailed parsha they sound something like this:

"''When any of you presents offering of cattle to the Lord, he shall choose his offering from the herd or from the flock. If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall make his offering a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, for acceptance in his behalf before the Lord. He shall lay his hand upon the head of the burnt offering, that it may be acceptable in his behalf, in expiation for him. The bull shall be slaughtered before the Lord; and Aaron's sons, the priests, shall offer the blood, dashing the blood against all sides of the altar which is at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. The burnt offering shall be flayed and cut up into sections. The sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar and lay out the wood upon the fire; and Aaron's sons, the priests, shall lay out the sections, with the head and the suet, on the wood that is on the fire upon the altar. Its entrails and legs shall be washed with water, and the priest shall turn the whole into smoke on the altar as a burnt offering, a gift of pleasing odor to the Lord."

Va-yikra continues with explications of every kind of sacrifice: "from the flock, of sheep or of goats"; "of birds...from turtledoves to pigeons"; "of grain...of choice flour...(with) oil (and)...frankincense on it". It also outlines what these many sacrifices are meant for: "well-being"; "unwittingly incur(ring) guilt in regard to any of the Lord's commandments"; "sin(ning) and commit(ting) a trespass against the Lord by dealing deceitfully with his fellow...or by defrauding his fellow".

While the rules related to ancient sacrifice may not seem particularly relevant to modern life, we should note that in the midst of these incredibly specific instructions, G-d, speaking through Moses, very clearly recognizes those who can't afford to make the appropriate reparations for their sins.

"But if his means do not suffice for a sheep, he shall bring to the Lord, as his penalty for that of which he is guilty, two turtledoves or two pigeons....And if his means do not suffice for two turtledoves or two pigeons, he shall bring...a tenth of an ephah of choice flour....Thus the priest shall make expiation on his behalf for whichever of these sins he is guilty, and he shall be forgiven.'"

This imbedded message is perhaps even more relevant now than it was then: G-d will forgive those who give with a full heart--no matter how much or what they give.

Shabbat Shalom!