Parsha Thought – Vayikra

The National Sin Offering (illustration from the 1890 Holman Bible)
  • Vayikra/Leviticus 1:1–5:26
  • Yeshayahu/Isaiah 43:21–44:23
  • Ibrim/Hebrews 10:1–18

This week we begin a new book of the Torah, Vayikra. Vayikra, or “Leviticus” in English actually means “And He called”. Here Adonai calls Moshe to Himself to teach him the statutes regarding the temple sacrifices and offerings. As briefly touched on in last weeks Shabbat teaching, sacrifice or korban, in Hebrew, (קָרְבָּן) comes from the root word karav (קָרַב) meaning “to approach or to come near”. It’s important to note, however, that the very first thing given to Moshe is in regards to one who decides to give an “olah kerebano,” the ascending offering.

‘If one’s offering is an elevation-offering from the cattle, he shall offer and unblemished male; he shall bring it to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, voluntarily, before HaShem.

-Vayikra 1:3

The elevation offering was to be completely consumed on the altar. The one giving the offering had to do so on his own accord, without coercion or being asked. The giver needed to give the best of the herd with the understanding that they would not be able to partake in eating any of it, as one could with some of the other offerings.

The three offerings that could be made in this way were listed in this order: from the cattle, from the sheep or goats, and of fowl. The Torah often lists things in their order of stature and importance to signify to the reader what should take precedence in a listing. If you investigate, you will see that the fowl offering is called a “satisfying aroma” in the exact same way as with the cattle. What can we infer from this? I believe the following is what we should take away from this reading: If one can give an offering from the cattle, it is best that they do so, but if one only has the means to offer a bird, it is received just as if they had given an ox.

But since there is no standing Temple and the Torah outright forbids sacrificing an animal in our backyard, we are forbidden from doing such things now. The reader of this Parsha can be left with the question of how to apply this to themselves today. What could we possibly learn from such an “archaic and violent” practice? Let’s look past the initial text to examine the deeper understanding present. The very first chapter of this Parsha shows us that if you choose to draw near to HaShem, do it on your own free will and do it completely. These first olah offerings were not meant for sin atonement, but for the purpose of drawing near to Him simply for His goodness. HaShem predicates the weighty aspects of atonement with His desires to have us draw near to Him, not only in times of repentance, but in times of joy and thanksgiving.

Become, then, imitators of Elohim as beloved children. And walk in love, as Messiah also has loved us, and gave Himself for us, a gift and an offering to Elohim for a sweet-smelling fragrance.

-Ephesians 5:2

We need to remember that when we live according to His mitzvot, we are imitating Him and living out our lives in submission to His will. But when we miss that mark, when we don’t quite measure up to the Standard of Torah (which we will all fall short of in one way or another), Yeshua voluntarily offered up Himself so that we can draw near to Elohim. We are left with only one option left and it’s just as this week’s Parsha starts out:

Through Him [Yeshua] then, let us continually offer up a slaughter offering of praise to Elohim, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His Name.

-Ibrim/Hebrews 13:15

May we continually offer up the bulls of our lips in praise and make His name known to the ends of the Earth.

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