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Vayikra ~ 5774 ~ ויקרא
These verses outline the rituals and requirements for an Israelite bringing an offering to G-d of his own volition. This included the “placing of hands”, the actual slaughtering, dashing of blood on the Altar and the burning of the actual pieces. In the second Aliyah, the details of the sacrifice of fowls are given, as well as the method of bringing a “meal offering” (flour, wheat or barley). A cooked, meal-cake offering was partially burnt on the Altar but the remainder was given to the priest. This offering could never be made of Chametz; first fruits could be brought, but not burned. All meat offerings had to be “salted”. First fruit offerings of corn were offered “parched” on the ear. The peace offering is brought out of gratitude on occasions of joy. Unlike the burnt offering, the animal could be male or female and it was only partially burnt up on the altar. The priests receive a portion of the offering and the rest is eaten by the offerer at an appropriate feast. The “Sin Offering” was brought as atonement for sins of both the laymen and the High Priest; by the community or by a secular leader. The Priest ritually dashed the blood about the altar and then burnt the sacrifice. A commoner brings only female sin sacrifices. People who had seen a crime but did not testify, one who failed to comply with the laws of defilement and purification, and one who didn’t fulfill a vow, would confess their guilt and bring this sacrifice. The “Guilt Offering” was brought for transgressions that required restitution which had to be done before the sacrifice could be offered. Two specific situations are given: the accidental withholding of ‘Holy Things of the L-rd’ (i.e.: tithers or dues of the priests) and the falsely retaining a fellow’s property. In each case, the transgressor (after confessing their guilt) must restore the property to its rightful owner with an additional 20% fine. Then, and only then, can atonement be made via the sacrifice.
MAFTIR Leviticus 5:24—26 ~ page 423
HAFTORAH Isaiah 43:21—44:23 ~ page 424
The Haftarah contains two kinds of rebuke to the people who have been exiled. First, although not “burdened” with the sacrifices (they are in exile and without a Holy Temple), they do not even pray or repent their ways. Additionally, the people did not sacrifice properly—sometimes to idols, sometimes insincerely to G-d—when they had the opportunity. Albeit G-d does and will favor and redeem us, even when we don’t deserve it.
Parashah Study Questions
1. Why is the Book of Esther in the Bible but the Book of the Maccabees is not?
2. What was Esther’s relationship with G-d?
3. What happened to Haman’s wife Zeresh in the Book of Esther?
4. What is a “Purim moon”? What is a “Minhag shel Shtut” מנהג של שטות?
5. Did Queen Esther have any children?