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Parshat Va-yikra


Welcome to Va-yikra (Leviticus), the third of the Five Books of Moses. It's the one Shabbat Mom fears the most--it isn't easy coming up with cool photos to represent repetitive rules and regulations!

From now on, "(t)he Lord (calls) to Moses from the Tent of Meeting" to give Moses His marching orders. And throughout this week's highly-detailed parsha they go something like this:

"''When any of you presents an 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."

And it's not just bulls who take the hit for Israelite sins: "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 offerings 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 sacrificial playbook does not necessarily resonate for Shabbat Mom (who lives in Manhattan, not on a farm), she prefers to focus on the timeless social-justice message embedded in these passages.

G-d, speaking through Moses, instructs that those who can't afford appropriate reparations for their mistakes will not be left behind.

"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.'"

Shabbat Shalom!

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