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Vayikra (and he called)

Leviticus 1:1 to 5:26(6:7), Isaiah 43:21 to 44:23


Verses 5:21-22(6:2-3) says that "If a person sins and commits violation against Adonai—deceives a neighbor about something entrusted, or something left in his care or stolen; or he cheats his neighbor; or he finds lost property and lies about it; or he swears with a falsehood about one thing—form all man does to sin by them [sins]..." These verses show that the asham (guilt offering) can apply to any sin. But there is no chattat (sin offering) for an intentional sin, except what the High Priest does on Yom Kippur.

The minchah (gift offering) is solet (fine flour). In Genesis 18:6, Avraham uses solet to feed his three visitors. In Judges 6:19, Gideon, who was very poor, uses kemach (poor flour) to feed his visitor. In First Samuel 1:24, Hannah uses kemach improperly as a grain offering.

Hebrew has two words for "slaughter", shachat and tevach. These are used rarely. Most common in Leviticus is k'reev, "bring near".

Leviticus 5:5 commands a confession as part of the remedy for speaking wrongly (oaths or intentions), for hiding evidence, and for unknown uncleanness.

Only two types of offerings are called "holy of holies": the chattat (sin offering) (6:25) and the asham (guilt offering) (7:1 and 14:13). But what edible remains of any offering is called "holy of holies" in Numbers 18:9 (and many other places, for specific types of offerings). Numbers 18:10 says the edible remains should be eaten in a "holy of holies" place, which must be beside the altar, since the Tabernacle's innermost room was off limits.

Traditional Jewish Commentary

In the Torah scroll the word "Vayikra" is written with a small Alef. R'Isser'l explains this by noting the remaining letters look like the word that means "It was cold" and saying that Moshe's anxiety had cooled down after God came down to the completed Tabernacle. "When God cooled him with the gentle word Va'yikra—the word which angels use with one another [in Isaiah 6:3]—then his distress was cooled. He said to himself, 'Even though I am not a priest to serve in the Temple of this earth, I will serve in the Heavenly Temple as an angel does, for God has called me in the language of the angels.'"

Baal HaTurim disagrees. He says the small Alef was a token of Moshe's humility (Numbers 12:3), for Moshe did not want to write the word Va'yikra as it would appear in Isaiah 6:3 when spoken to an angel.

The Tz'enah Ur'enah explains that "A man sins in three ways: in thought, in speech, and in deed." It then elaborates how the animal sacrifices were mindful of each of these. The burning of internal organs corresponds to sins of internal thought, orally confessing sins over the animal corresponds to sins of speech, and the laying of hands on the animal corresponds to sins of deed.

The Tz'enah Ur'enah says the crop of a pigeon is removed (verse 1:16) because unlike livestock a pigeon steals grain to eat. Stolen property would be improper to burn on the altar. How much God despises theft if he even refuses stolen goods from a bird which has no understanding!

Rambam writes that no other nation includes salt with burnt sacrifices, so the salt helps set apart Israel.

The Tz'enah Ur'enah notes that verse 4:3 says "If the anointed priest shoud sin..." whereas verse 4:22 says "When a leader shall sin...". Part of the priest's duties is to be careful and do everything possible to avoid sin.