Parashah Vayikra (He Called) Leviticus 1 – 5

This Shabbat Torah reading begins with the 3rd book of the Torah, Vayikra, or Leviticus.

God tells Moses the rules and procedures for presenting offerings before the Lord. He goes through each type of offering, which animals or substitutes are allowed, and which type of sin the offering is intended to absolve us from.

The 5 main offering are:

  1. Burnt Offering – represents total commitment where the entire animal is used
  2. Grain Offering – this offering can be either grain (never with any leavening) or first fruits. There is a memorial portion that is sacrificed, the rest going to the Cohen. All grain offerings must also include salt.
  3. Peace Offering – This offering is also a thanksgiving offering, and although not stated in this parashah, we are told that the entire animal is not burned and that the parts allowed to be eaten shall be eaten there, in the presence of the Lord (Chapter 22); we are also reminded here that the fat and the blood are the Lord’s and we are never to eat them.
  4. Sin Offering – when someone sins unintentionally and then is made aware of it or realizes it, they must make this offering. This is covered for the entire community, leaders, commoners, and even allows for the poor by allowing lesser items of value to be offered if someone cannot afford the animal from the flock or herd.
  5. Guilt Offering – this seems, at this juncture, to be the same as the sin offering, assuming that the sin was unintentional. As we get further into this chapter we realize that the guilt offering is more for unintentional sins and the sin offering is for sins that were more from volition and forethought than accidental.

These are pretty much cut-and-dried chapters. What I find interesting is that God assumes that the sins we are making restitution for are unintentional. You would think He knew better, right? He sees our heart and knows our thoughts, desires and wants. He just has to understand that we do, often, sin on purpose. Yet, in His forgiving, compassionate way He instructs Moses and the people about restitution for sin by stating that when you sin unintentionally. I can understand one reason why God might take this approach: He’s God! Who would ever expect anyone to purposefully try to piss Him off? Especially after seeing and hearing Him at Mt. Sinai, in all His glory, majesty and awe! Really- who would want to mess with God by sinning on purpose?

I guess the answer to that is: everyone. I mean, that’s what happened, right? Just about everyone sinned; Moses (at Mirabah), Aaron (the golden calf), Miriam (with Aaron, again, in Numbers 12), Dathan, Abiram, Aaron’s oldest sons, the guy who picked up sticks on Shabbat, the people who gathered extra Manna….everyone!

Later on we get more details about the sacrificial system. I think it helps to understand these different sacrifices so that we can better understand the Bible. For instance, when we sacrificed the lamb for Passover it was, by definition, a peace/thanksgiving offering, not a sin offering. Yet, although Yeshua’s sacrificial death was a sin offering, He is called the Pesach Lamb. The Pesach (Passover) lamb was not a sin offering, so why do we call Jesus’s death a peace offering when it was a sin offering?

Good question. I think it might simply be an association without understanding- He died on Passover and the lamb was killed on Passover, ergo: Pesach lamb.

On the other hand, it might be from a deeper understanding of what He did and what it allowed to happen. He died for our sins: clearly, that is a sin sacrifice. However, with His death the parochet (curtain) in the Temple was torn, top to bottom, representing that the separation between God and people was removed. When two beings are separated, then they are allowed to come together, doesn’t that promote peaceful relations?  Isn’t that something we should be thankful for?

Yeshua’s death was more than a sin sacrifice, it was a total sacrifice, a combination of all the offerings in one. His entire body was given up (burnt offering), He was without leaven and His blood was the salt of the covenant promised in Jeremiah 31:31 (grain), He was a lamb without blemish (peace) and although sinless, he took on all the sins, known and unknown, of all the people, everywhere and for all time (sin and guilt.)

Understanding the (seemingly) minute details of the sacrificial system help us to understand the broader impact of Yeshua’s sacrifice.

Some things in the Bible seem minute, unimportant and even obsessively recorded, yet there is always purpose in what God has told us. Faithful reading of every word in the Word is worthy of your time and energy- you never know what the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) will reveal to you.

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