Parashat Va’yikra, the opening portion of Leviticus. Chapters 1:1 to 5  

The third book of the Torah is called Va’yikra, as is this first Torah portion. Va’yikra means “God called to Moses,” and the final letter of this verb is written in the Torah scroll in a miniature fashion. Any Torah letter that is written in large or smaller form implies that there are special, Midrashic understandings of this word. To find out about the deeper level of the form of the verb, you will have to join us for Torah study!  

These five chapters are a detailed description of the animal and vegetable sacrifices offered in the Jerusalem sanctuary. Some of the more famous sacrifices were the “olah,” which means to “go up,” which means that this was a burnt offering which the fire on the altar totally consumes. The “she’lameem,” the peace offering, which was an offering generally shared by the priests and the family bringing this sacrifice. Another essential sacrifice was the “minchah,” ( from the verb “to place down or deposit”) which was usually a vegetable, grain or oil sacrifice.

The Sages derived a moral from the opening three words, “the Lord called unto Moses….” Said the Rabbis, this is an example of Moses’ humility and self-effacement. God had to call Moses, had to chase him as it were, so that Moses would know that he is worthy of God’s mission. Said the Rabbis: “he who runs away from honor, honor pursues him.” Moses is the prophet who is running from God, so the Almighty has to “call” him.

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