Beth Shifra will help you with Book III Torah Portion Vayikra –ALRIGHT >>>LET”S CRACK OPEN BOOK NUMBER THREE……..
1) What is the name of this week’s parsha? What does it mean?
A: Vayikra “and He called (Moshe)”.
I heard a nice vort from Rabbi Yitzchak Bernstein zt”l, (father of one of my teachers from my former yeshiva Ateres Yisrael), that Hashem called to Moshe three times in life: First by the burning bush, then at Mount Sinai, and now here at the inauguration of the Mishkan. It seems these correspond to three stages in our life . First at our Briss – the inception of our life as a Jew. Then at our Bar/Bas Mitzvah – when our tour of duty begins. Finally at our chuppah, (our final calling to our eternal home notwithstanding,) when we build a home and take up residence together – the gemarra says that when a husband and wife have shalom bayis, the shechina comes and rests in their home (from the letter yud in the word Ish for man, and the letter Hey in Isha, the word for woman, spell one of God’s names. If not, the gemarra says, the shechina leaves and they are left with Aish – the remaining letters in the names Ish and Isha – which means fire.) – For that is what the book of Vayikra is all about – the marriage has happened (at Sinai) and now we are begin the process of living together and building a home.
2) Why is this opener/phrase different than others we have seen? Why? What does this reveal about the book of Vayikra/Leviticus as a whole? (Bonus -how many times is the word ‘light’ used in creation (way back at the beginning) – how does this correspond to the chumash as a whole, and to Vayikra in particular?)
A: We are used to the opening ‘and Hashem told Moshe, to say..”, but here the parsha begins with a personal calling to Moshe; an intimate summoning that was not a’propos until now.
The Midrash explains this anomaly, namely we have just finished the book of Shmos (Exodus), the final half of which deals primarily with the commandments and realization of the Mishkan. All of the Jewish nation, men and women, simple folk and nobles, all participated in contributing to the donations for the glorious and majestic house of The Lord, all that is, except for Moshe. (Moshe even had to just vindicate himself in the last parsha that he did not profit in any way from their contributions.)
We often overlook the very human side of the Torah, but Hashem, who sees into the heart of man, knew and cared for Moshe’s feelings. And so He called him by name, which is always an endearing way to relate to another, to acknowledge their unique identity. Hashem told Moshe that most precious in this world, beyond money and jewels, is a heart of understanding and lips of wisdom, and so Moshe’s intimate and profound relationship to Him is the greatest nachas of all.
We don’t need Dale Carnegie to tell us that people like it when we call them by name, or remember the details of their lives. When the boss/king asks of you a favour, it feels very different when you are drawn out of the group like a fish being caught or like a number, versus when you are called by name and told that you have been carefully chosen to head this important task. We all want to be wanted, and we all deserve to be recognized for our personal potentials, so we should try to avoid the former and develop our involvement in the latter. Especially in regard to immediate family members, who may do a great deal for one another on a regular basis, we musn’t let each other feel that we or they are a some promoted type-of-live-in-maid, but rather our and their favours and efforts are special and sought after.
We also see from here that ‘the best things in life are free’ – in other words, relationships are build by understanding and faithfulness and giving of oneself, much more than material contributions that lack thought and feeling. Happiness and fulfillment are found within, not from without, and Hashem was showing Moshe that you have so much to cheer about that you needn’t worry about the pretty wrappers and décor, and what you have you can take with you.
(We’ll save the thesis on the five books, five fingers and five expressions of light in creation, and how we learn the archetype for any creation from these five steps, for second year.)
An interesting and relevant halacha the gemarra learns from the word “to say” at the end of the phrase “Hashem spoke Moshe to say” that Moshe needed this explicit permission to relate the discussion to others. So too, when somebody shares with us privileged information, we have to evaluate whether or not the speaker would want it to be publicized, and if not we must keep it to ourselves – (barring an exceptional circumstance which the halacha would permit). And we ought to know that if we share it with one person, it will probably get around, and thus sharing it at all is usually as good as publicizing.
3) Who traditionally started their learning with the book Vayikra? Why?
A: This is the book we used to start children on, at the beginning of their learning (-some places continue this tradition today). The phrase used by the sages to explain this is ‘let the pure ones learn of purities’. In other words, the Sefer (book) Vaykira, deals primarily with laws of offerings (korban), and laws regarding what is and causes impurity, and how that is rectified, as well as forbidden foods, relations and various forbidden practices of a more occult nature, concluded by promises of blessings or curses. Since children are yet untainted by sin (until Bar Mitzvah one is not fully obligated in mitzvos), they are more attuned to ideas of purity, as a person always resonates according to his internal nature. As well, there a many many statutes in Vayikra, for which we struggle to grasp palatable reasons, thus an adult with a developed mind, will be inclined to do what he appreciates the most (like in Eden, the snake used reason to corrupt Adam and Eve from going along the straight and narrow), a child will more readily accept the less rationalistic mitzvos alongside the more rationalistic ones, since his service as a Jew is not based on his reason. We will see many characters, like Korach, and Lot, and the Hellenestic Jews, and King Saul, Jonah, and so many others get themselves in knots because they let their own set of reason override or contort the plain Word of Hashem.
Another nice reason I heard from Shraga Rosenberg zt”l (the father of Alexander zt”l, who began the OU, and the grandfather of Yakov zt”l who helped begin Ohr Somayach, and later pioneered Machon Shlomo) which is quite germane to good foundations in chinuch (usually translated as education – but maybe next Channukah – same root – we’ll discuss why this is also a very poor translation). Most religions posit their deity to be so great and overwhelming, that if one is not utterly paralyzed by it, one will at least feel much too small and insignificant to achieve greatness. Judaism, as usual walks the tightrope, by portraying a dichotomous picture: on one hand we cannot limit the awesomeness of the Creator and Sustainer of all worlds, quite the opposite, we have a duty to recognize, understand, praise and serve the Almighty, but this is exactly the segue into the other half of the picture, namely, the man is made in the image of the Creator, and the whole world was made just for one person, and we have unbelievable importance and power in the Universe. This is precisely why Hashem asks us to serve Him, for the King does not summon the shleppers to serve in the palace.
The book Vayikra is based on the temple service of our nation and human sanctity, – how perfect a commencement to the education and nurturing of a fresh young spirit, to see how precious can be his deeds and how he can become pure and radiant like the ministering angels.
4) What are the basic different types offerings and why are each brought?
OLAH –is entirely burned up – brought for sins in thought or transgressing positive mitzvos – it can also be brought voluntarily to come closer to Hashem.
CHATAS – Sin offering, for transgressing negative commands. Part burnt, part eaten by Cohens
SHLAMIM/TODAH – Peace and thanksgiving offerings, Part burnt, part to Cohens, part to owner, and (especially the Thanksgiving Koran which is quite large and had to be consumed in one day) by friends of the owner. Peace and complete are the same word, for it is complete in that everybody gets a share, and thus fosters peace. Brought for gratitude over good tidings or a salvation, or voluntarily, and on various other occasions.
ASHAM – guilt offering, for uncertain——————————-
5) With which ingredient did Hashem make a covenant, and is required on every offering? Why? How do we bring this principle home?
A: SALT – Which is the same letters as bread. – The gemattria of salt (MeLaCH) is 78 – 3 X 26 (26 is the gemattria of Hashem’s essential, four letter name). The number 3 correlates to the fact that both salt and bread bring completion on our 3 fundamental levels – Body, Heart/feelings, and mind/spirit.
The Shulchan Aruch says that we should have salt whenever we have bread. This is not haphazard, rather the halacha is emphazing a very deep idea, and paying us a grand compliment too. Namely, we don’t just leave the sacred tasks to the holy priests, and divine service is not merely a spectator’s sport, rather we are all expected to try to eat as if we are serving in Hashem’s Holy Temple, and to not only eat to satisfy our stomachs, but to have awareness that our sustenance is directed from Heaven, and we ought to use our material blessings for higher purposes (e.g. to have energy to help others, or to have the peace of mind to learn well, or to be able to take care of guests, etc, etc.). Especially on Shabbos, and Yontiff, when we are free the busyness and mundanity of the week, every Jewish home should strive to make their table like an altar, encompassed by the sweet aroma of nice songs, uplifting stories, educational discussions and good deeds.
There are different opinions of whether it is sufficient to have salt on the table, or we need to actually dip the bread in the salt. Others say that salt mainly comes to enhance the taste and digestion of the food (it causes activates the salivary glands, which help connect you to your food – the Hebrew word for ‘sweet’/tasty, is the same word as for mixed/mesh), thus one can dip into other things as well as salt. Others, especially from a kabalistic perspective claim that the requirement for salt is particular, and that dipping the bread into salt parallels bringing mercy into strict justice, and other ideas beyond us right now. The Mishna Brura (the Chafetz Chaim’s monumental update of the Shulchan Aruch), says that nowadays that bread is usually baked with salts, we technically do not require additional salt, but the custom is to ideally have additional salt.
6. Where is there more material for Bubbie Barb’s fledgling talk on honesty and integrity in one’s service as a Jew?
A: I am sure there are dozens of fantastic sources just in this parsha alone, however I will share a couple on this theme that struck me.
The parsha opens discussing bringing voluntary offerings, and says “When a person will bring” – but uses the word Adam for person, not the usual word. Rashi brings the midrash which says, “Just as Adam only brought offerings from what belonged to him (since the whole world was given over to man, and Adam as of yet had nobody to share with – Eve and him are one entity) – “so too must only bring offerings from what you rightfully own, [and anything with a trace of theft will be rejected]”.
The end of the parsha discusses the bringing of sin offerings. One’s offering depends on one financial circumstances – something significant relative to the owner. A poor man brings two birds, and even though the offering is not very sizeable, compared to the sheep or cow, nevertheless, only by the birds is there a requirement to remove the innards from being offered along with the rest of the animal on the altar. The reason for this, the midrash says, is because unlike the livestock which only eat from their owner’s feed, the birds fly around and take whatever they happen upon. This trace of theft is so contradictory to the whole process of coming closer to Hashem, and humbling oneself to His service, that, even though the poor man saved up for his meager offering, that tainted part must be discarded, and that will be a good, hard lesson for all.
The theme of maintaining integrity in one’s mitzvos, and not having the ends justify the means is central, and not lacking in examples. I can recall a couple nice stories from our son’s namesake Rabbi Yisrael Salanter (19th Century), who revolutionized the mussar (ethics) movement among our people, and was the greatest sage and leader of his generation. He was once lodging at an inn, and the innkeeper saw that the distinguished Rav was using the water very sparsely for washing his hands. He told him that he should feel comfortable to use as much water as he liked. Rabbi Yisrael replied, that he saw on his way in, that the water had to brought from a well at the bottom of the hill, and it he certainly did not want to beautify his mitzvos at the pain of the poor girl who had to shlep it. One year before Pesach, Rabbi Yisrael had to travel, and couldn’t join in on the annual matza baking, which was so important and dear to him. His students who would make on his behalf, asked him if he had any particular stringencies he wanted them to observe for his matzos (as Pesach is the time when everybody has their special customs and stringencies). Yes, he replied, if they could be particular to be extra kind to the lady who cleans the bowls, for she is a widow. I could go on, with so many great stories, but you can add your own.
We await all your ‘offerings’ and insights!