929 Project: Leviticus 1-5; Parshat Vayikra.

Welcome to Days #91-95 out of 929! The audio podcast version reflecting on some of these sources can be found here.


Leviticus 1 (trans by TaggedTanakh)

1The Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying:

2Speak to the Israelite people, and say to them

11It shall be slaughtered before the Lord on the north side of the altar, and Aaron’s sons, the priests, shall dash its blood against all sides of the altar.

12When it has been cut up into sections, the priest shall lay them out, with the head and the suet, on the wood that is on the fire upon the altar.

13The entrails and the legs shall be washed with water; the priest shall offer up and turn the whole into smoke on the altar. It is a burnt offering, an offering by fire, of pleasing odor to the Lord.



This book of Torah is called Vayikra, And He called.

This language of being "called to do something" is not a very common idea in contemporary Judaism. Yet the idea behind the language does exist within our communities. In more secular communities there is a notion of "the universe is trying to tell me something." In Chabad circles the opportunity to serve as a shaliach, messenger, is not just an abstract concept is very much a real thing as each Chabadnik finds their passion and attempts to shine his or her light out into the world through whatever their calling may be.

Needless to say this idea but even more so this language exists in Christian communities where people that join the clergy talk about responding to "a call" to serve.

It can be tricky to say this thing and only this one this my mission in life. Instead, what does it feel like the universe is trying to tell you at this moment? What are you being called to bring forth into this world?


"If God only wanted the Israelites to sacrifice animals as sin offerings, why jump through multiple hoops to get the job done? Did God truly care about which side of the alter the animal was slaughtered on? Or that it was important to lean “forcefully” upon the head of the burnt offering? (Leviticus 1:4) Undoubtedly, just killing the animal would be much easier.

By mandating these time-consuming, manually intensive, emotional steps for animal sacrifice, God teaches that repenting of sin is not merely about checking off a to-do list."

-By Anna Calamaro, There is value in the Journey

(Link here)



Sometimes I have been to amusement parks and there were no lines there. Other times I waited for 3 hours for one ride. The anticipation and mental preparation that one does with a lengthy lead-up to an event do so much more to place ourselves psychologically and emotionally into the current moment than if we immediately just jumped right into the task.

This is such an important concept especially when one is requesting forgiveness or thanks on behalf of an entire community. Each action must feel weighty since the hopeful outcome should be real and weighty as well, rather than fleeting and flimsy.


Leviticus 2 (trans by TaggedTanakh)

9The priest shall remove the token portion from the meal offering and turn it into smoke on the altar as an offering by fire, of pleasing odor to the Lord.

10And the remainder of the meal offering shall be for Aaron and his sons, a most holy portion from the Lord’s offerings by fire.

11No meal offering that you offer to the Lord shall be made with leaven, for no leaven or honey may be turned into smoke as an offering by fire to the Lord.



Seems like it's Passover for God all year round - never anything that is leavened. And you thought eating matzah for 8 days was hard!


"An extreme example of the High Priest’s privilege is in the division of the showbread; he automatically receives half of the bread, while the other half is divided up among the other priests. The Tosefta (1:5) derives this practice from the verse (Lev. 2:10) “for Aaron and his sons” which presents Aaron – the original High Priest – on equal footing with the collective group of all his sons – the lay priests."

-By Jonathan Sacks, “And You Shall Hold Him Sacred”

(Link here)



Does your community maintain the aliyah to the torah hierarchical distinctions between kohanim, levites, and israel in a strict fashion? What do you think about it?


Leviticus 3 (trans by TaggedTanakh)

1If his offering is a sacrifice of well-being—If he offers of the herd, whether a male or a female, he shall bring before the Lord one without blemish.


"And if his offering be a sacrifice of peace-offerings . . ." (Leviticus 3:1)

"How far away You are, O Lord, how far
Away I've strayed from You, how far away
From paths I knew, for when I disobey
Your word, I find how far away You are.
How far away I've wandered from Your star
Whose light is gone, extinguished on the day
I turned my back on You; no words convey
How lost I feel, remote and insular.

Beyond, beyond, beyond all time and space
You live; how can a laggard leap to where
You dwell? But I have heard that contrite prayer
Constructs a sturdy bridge, a meeting-place
Where God and man may meet, for You declare
How near You are, my distant Lord, how near."

-By Yakov Azriel, The Peace-Offering



I can imagine this being the poem/song expressed by a character before they are ready to return. I wonder if they live in a world that would be ready to accept them back? Judaism attempted to answer that question with an affirmative yes. If you make teshuva, repentance, you may return to us - because you have most importantly returned to yourself first.


Leviticus 4 (trans by TaggedTanakh)

2Speak to the Israelite people thus:
When a person unwittingly incurs guilt in regard to any of the Lord’s commandments about things not to be done, and does one of them—

3If it is the anointed priest who has incurred guilt, so that blame falls upon the people, he shall offer for the sin of which he is guilty a bull of the herd without blemish as a sin offering to the Lord.


"Solomon said in Kohelet 1:18 that “the amount of [God’s] anger is determined by the degree of wisdom [of the sinner].”

The more wisdom one possesses the less forgivable is one’s sin. The best example in Scripture of the truth of this statement is Moses who was punished grievously for committing an error when striking the rock instead of speaking to it (Numbers 20:12)."

Rabbeinu Bahya on Lev 4:3



While this commentary makes it sound as though leaders should be held to a higher standard than everyone else, from a simple reading of the text it sounds as though leaders are only asked to pay the same price as all the others. Perhaps it just feels like more because one could have thought that a leader would have gotten a free pass altogether and would not have to pay at all. No one is above the law, the torah reminds us.


Leviticus 5 (trans by TaggedTanakh)

23when one has thus sinned and, realizing his guilt, would restore that which he got through robbery or fraud, or the deposit that was entrusted to him, or the lost thing that he found,

24or anything else about which he swore falsely, he shall repay the principal amount and add a fifth part to it. He shall pay it to its owner when he realizes his guilt.

25Then he shall bring to the priest, as his penalty to the Lord, a ram without blemish from the flock, or the equivalent, as a guilt offering.


"Leviticus 5:23-25 talks about an individual that unjustly took for himself the property of his fellow.

What is this man to do when he is ready to repent? He has to return the property to the owner, and he must also bring a sin-offering to the Temple for expiation.

It makes sense why the property needs to be returned to the aggrieved party, but why the necessity to also bring a sin offering on top of that?

As it is stated in Job: ‘A hypocrite shall not come before” God.

God cares about actions that demonstrate the heart of a person, not the words that are used to paper over their backsliding.

The book of Exodus dedicates half of its chapters to the Israelites building the Mishkan from scratch, the abode to house the presence of God.

Leviticus, on the other hand, focuses on the importance of the internal work that must be done, first and foremost, before one can even consider entering into that newly built presence of God."

By Misha Clebaner, God asks you to walk the walk



A person cannot just come sauntering back into the presence of God to chat and catch up without first having done a physical action to demonstrate that they had learned their lesson. In the time of the Temple that physical activity was a sacrifice; nowadays what is the action that we can do to prove that we understand the error of our ways? Movies make it seem as though it is flowers within marriage, ice cream for kids, and letters to our friends. Do you think these actions are good enough to indicate that you have begun the journey towards seeking real forgiveness?