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Home » Vayikra Parshah

Vayikra: Food for Thought for your Dinner Table

Submitted by on March 9, 2008 – 6:07 amNo Comment | 1,291 views

Sunday: It’s up to you

Our Torah portion delineates the laws of the sacrificial rite. The introductory verse reads, “A man who will bring a Karban (offering) to G-d from among you.” The syntax in this verse is curious. It should have read, “A man from among you, who will bring a Karban.”

Karban, Hebrew for offering, also means to draw near. “A man who will bring a Karban,” might be translated as, “A man who will want to draw closer to G-d.” “From among you,” should recognize that the ability to do so is already within.

We often want to draw closer to G-d, but are discouraged by our lack of piety. The torah encourages us to try anyway, because the desire to be holy is inherent to the Jewish condition. We are not likely reach the level of Abraham or Sarah, but we can improve on our current levels and draw at least somewhat closer to G-d. Likutei Torah

Monday: Meanings behind Gestures

“If a poor soul brings a meal offering.” This is the only offering that is described as brought by a soul; all other offerings are brought by people. Meal offerings are usually brought by the impoverished, who cannot afford a sheep or a bird. Meal offerings represent a greater sacrifice to the poor than more lavish offerings are to the wealthy. The torah therefore considers it as if they had offered up their very souls.

The size of a good deed is measured not only by its impact, but also its cost. Our sages taught that “reward is in accordance with the effort.” A small offering with heart can count for more than a large offering by rote. Taam Vodaas

Tuesday: Salt

Sacrifices in the temple were seasoned with salt. Today, it is our custom to dip bread into salt before eating. Since the destruction of the Temple, our tables have substituted for the Temple’s altar and our bread, for the sacrifices. Our bodies desire food out of hunger; our souls desire nourishment out of a desire to serve G-d. Eating for a G-dly purpose, rather than to fulfill our physical needs, is a virtual sacrifice of the body’s pleasure on the altar of the Divine. Our table and bread thus substitute the Temple’s altar and sacrifices. Hence it is our custom to dip bread into salt before eating. Shulchan Aruch

Wednesday: Prosperous and Excited

Blood and Chelev fat are forbidden by kosher dietary laws, but were part of every sacrifice in the temple. Blood and animal fat respectively represent heated passion and prosperity; two factors often associated with sin. At times we are attracted to sin out of passion and at times by laziness and haughtiness born of prosperity. We are forbidden to consume blood and chelev fat because the traits they represent are impediments to our spiritual development, but raised up on the altar they serve a Divine cause. When passion is directed toward the pursuit of spirituality, morality and justice, when prosperity is dedicated to the cause of goodness, they become powerful forces for good.

Nothing is absolutely good or bad; it depends on the function we choose for it. Abarbanel

Thursday: Communal responsibility

The Torah outlines the sin offerings that High Priests and Presidents of the Supreme Court brought when they committed inadvertent sins in public. The Torah assures the President that his sacrifice would secure his atonement, but such assurances were not advanced to the High Priest. This is because the public revered the High Priest and emulated his behaviour, which made him partly responsible for the sins they committed in emulation of his own. The Supreme Justice was not held in the same esteem; on the contrary, people often denounced the judges when they disagreed with their verdicts. The Supreme Justice could ensure his forgiveness by repenting, but the High Priest could not be fully forgiven until the public repented and thus could not be assured of forgiveness.

The High Priest could have absolved himself from responsibility for the public’s sins by arguing that the public should have emulated the President rather than himself, but the Torah does not accept this argument. People in positions of leadership must always remember the public nature of their positions and take responsibility for the impressions their actions create. Kli Yakar

Friday: Sins of the Soul


The Torahs refers to inadvertent sins as sins of the soul. At first glance it appears that sins committed intentionally demonstrate a lack of piety and religious discipline, whereas sins committed inadvertently are matters of error that don’t reflect negatively on the soul, yet closer scrutiny yields a somewhat different perspective.

Sins that we commit knowingly are blatant; we cannot deny them or absolve ourselves from them and are therefore inclined to repent. Inadvertent sins are easy to deny; we can absolve ourselves of responsibility by claiming that we never intended the transgression. These sins are more difficult to recognize and more difficult to repent for, which leaves our souls marred by their lingering effect. Hence they are described in the Torah as sins of the soul. Likutei Sichos

Shabbat: A Fifth

A debtor who defaults on a loan must return the principle and then add a fifth. The additional fifth is a reimbursement to the creditor for the potential profit lost during the time the money was withheld. This fifth actually amounts to a quarter, that is to say, the thief returns the principle and adds twenty five percent; in total he pays out five quarters of the total sum. How do we arrive at this number?

A Jew who owns 200 zuz is not eligible for alms. Our sages taught that an active business person, in possession of 50 zuz, is also not eligible for alms because we assume that the 50 zuz will grow to 200 zuz, tripling in size over the course of a year. We now return to the loan: A sum that grows by 300 percent over the course of a year (50 into 200), grows by twenty-five percent (300 divided by 12) per month. In Talmudic days, most loans came due after thirty days. On average, the profit lost on a loan was twenty-five percent, which is the precise amount the debtor is required to add to the principle. Likutei sichos

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