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Parshat Vayikra - Vayikra (Leviticus) 1:1 - 5:26

He Called to Moshe

We ended Shemot (Exodus) with the completion of the building of the Tent of Meeting (Mishkan), the dwelling place for the Shechinah (HaShem’s Presence).

Now this dwelling for HaShem among His people is ready to function and fulfill its purpose as a true set apart Meeting Place between HaShem and the peoples via the various types of sacrificial offerings (korbanot). The opening verses of Leviticus begins the detailing of those sacrifices, their purpose and how they must be carried out.

The first offering mentioned by HaShem is the olah, or burnt offering, also commonly referred to as the elevation offering. It must be an unblemished male of the herd or flock. The one who voluntarily brings it to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting lays his hand(s) on the head of the beast and he himself slaughters it there to make atonement.

After he slaughters the sacrifice in a most humane manner causing little to no pain to it (Shechitah) the kohanim (priests) step in and get directly involved with the process. The blood is collected in a set apart vessel and it is carried to the altar where he splashes or throws the blood upon the lower half of the walls of the altar.

The sacrifice is skinned, divided in a precise way according to the instructions of HaShem to Moshe. (SEE: Tractate Tamid)

The kohain then take the divided pieces and offers them up on the fire of the altar. As the name of the korban indicates the smoke must rise in a column — thus, the ascending or elevation offering to Adonai.

If one cannot afford an offering from the herd or flock then turtledoves or a pigeon is acceptable. However, the method of slaughter for fowl differs from that of shechitah (cutting of the throat). Fowl are slaughtered by means of melikah — a swift breaking and pulling away of the head beginning at the base of the bird’s neck. Like the offering of the herd or flock the blood of the fowl is splashed on the altar walls, defeathered and the meat placed on the altar and burned.

The next sacrificial offering detailed by HaShem is the Meal or Grain Offering. Called menachot this offering consists of finely ground wheat flour with oil, frankincense and water mixed in. There are several ways this offering can be delivered before HaShem:

[1] Raw

[2] Baked

[3] Pan Fired, and

[4] Deep Fried

Regardless of the method the menachot cannot contain even a trace of leaven or honey of any type. It must, however, always be seasoned with salt, as do all the sacrifices upon the altar. The kohain pinches (three middle fingers) off a portion for the offering upon the altar before HaShem, while the remaining portion belongs to the kohanim.

Why no honey of any type? Honey and the juices from fruit (fruit-honey), according to some of our Sages of Blessed Memory symbolizes an obsession with the pursuit of fleshly pleasure over the joys of living for and serving the Holy G-d of Israel. (Rambam on Chinuch).

Another Meal Offering given is the Omer or minchat bikkurim which is provided as a first fruits offering from the first barley harvest on the second day of Pesach. Prepared as the other grain offerings it however must be roasted first then ground into flour before being made into unleavened cakes or loaves for the altar and kohanim.

Next mentioned is the Shelamim, also known as the Peace Offering. Like the olah it must be a voluntary offering from one who wishes to show their gratitude and thanksgiving to HaShem and their love for Him. This sacrifice may be of a male or female — unblemished — of the herd or flock. As with the olah, the shelamim is brought to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting where the bringer of the sacrifice lays his hand(s) on the head and slaughters it. The blood is taken by the kohain and splashed on the walls of the altar, certain organs removed with their fat portions and all are burnt upon the altar.

Following the Peace Offering HaShem now details the sacrifices of obligation. Up until this point in Leviticus all the offerings were voluntary.

The first is the chatat, or Sin Offering. These sacrifices cannot give atonement for intentional sin — only unintentional sins — not willful, premeditated and rebellious sin. Only prayer, confession before HaShem and repentance, which may require some form of restitution, will atone for intentional sins, transgressions, iniquities.

Sins done in ignorance, carelessness, accidentally and without malicious intent are atoned via the chatat - sin offering. Depending on the stature of the offender the types of sacrifices outlined by HaShem in this portion of Vayikra are prescribed. The lists of offenders include:

[1] The Kohanim

[2] The Sanhedrin (members of the legal court)

[3] The King

[4] The Entire Nation (congregation) of Israel

[5] The Individual Jew

The type of offering and manner of sacrificial rite is detailed for each in this parsha.

For some types of unintentional sin; for example — unintentional or accidental desecration or misuse of Tabernacle (Temple or Mishkan) property — vestments, utensils of holy items; someone feeling guilty over a perceived infraction of the Law of Moshe that may or may not have occurred; one who has betrayed or defrauded or bore false testimony against his fellow human being. The offering for these types of sins is called asham — the Guilt Offering. The requirements and types of acceptable sacrifice are spelled out in Leviticus Chapter 5 verses 1-26.

In all cases of unintentional sin HaShem provided a means of atonement before Him.

The question that remains however — what is Hashem's method of forgiveness and atonement when there is no Temple, no altar, no kohanim and no blood sacrifice according to HaShem’s Torah, as was the case for 70 years during the Babylonian exile and for the last 2000 years since the destruction of the Second Temple by Rome in 70 CE?

Like all things HaShem has provided His answer to that as well. Please see the teaching on our website for His method of atonement to this very important question.

Link to: Shmu’s Views Torah Observant Judaism

Until next time — Shalom.

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