Torah Reading Triennial Portion: Leviticus, Chapter 3, verse 1 through Chapter 4, verse 26.
The Parsha we read this week is from the first book of the third section of the five of Torah, Leviticus, ViYikrah. The entire book, not just this portion, concerns itself with sacrifices to be offered on the altar of the Mishkan, and later on the altar of the established Bais HaMikdash, the Holy Temple of Jerusalem. Since we no longer include the sacrificial rite as part of our worship of God, we must try to glean lessons from the text that can speak to us in our contemporary times.
"Vayikra el Moshe" –“He called to Moses” -- note that it does not say that God called to Moshe. The wording in the first verse of Vayikra points us back to the end of Pekudei, which directly leads to the opening verses of this new Book. The Mishkan was covered with The Cloud...and Moshe was (temporarily) incapable of communicating with God. Hence, this opening verse of Vayikra picks up where Shemot left off, with God calling to Moshe in order to reestablish their connection. Some commentaries also point out from this first verse that it was only Moshe to whom God spoke directly. Even when Aharon is around, and even when the Torah says: "And Hashem spoke to Moshe and Aharon," the method of his "hearing" vastly differed from the way Moshe heard God's voice.
The subject at hand is sacrifices, and the sacrifices played a very important role in allowing an individual to approach Hashem in a way where all his or her senses are affected by the ritual. The donor must perform the mitzvah of laying their hands on the head of the animal, and then performs Vidui, the confession of sins. Both of these are important aspects of the ritual itself of offering a sacrifice. The person bringing the sacrifice strongly felt the true importance in being able to approach Hashem in this way. This is the reason that some of our Siddurim include prayers that would allow us to return to these Temple services. Our services now have substituted prayer and meditation for the bringing of animals and grains for sacrifice. The goal of either ritual is to allow each individual the opportunity to feel closer to Hashem.
"If any man (Adam) brings an offering." (1:2). Rashi, relying on various Midrashim, says that the deliberate use of the word Adam here indicates that just as the first man did not offer a sacrifice of anything acquired by way of robbery (everything was his) so we, too, are commanded that we cannot bring a stolen item as an offering to God. Commentators have questioned the need for this commandment. It is as if to question who in the world would steal and bring the very stolen item to the Beit HaMikdash as an offering? However, it could be that a person stole a quite a bit of money or cattle and then decided to give a little bit to charity or for a sacrifice, with the thought that this will atone for all the rest which he or she has kept from the robbery. Here too, the gates of the Beit HaMikdash are closed to him. We have seen this phenomenon in our day. People who have stolen millions have, at times, donated a portion of their ill-gotten gains to schuls or religious institutions. A famous instance of this involved the Jewish Theological Seminary. When the source of the donation became clear, JTS rejected the donation and removed the donor’s name from its rolls.
Shabbat Shalom שבת שלום.
Rabbi David Grossman