Parashat Vayikra / פרשת וַיִּקְרָא
Read in the Diaspora on 20 March 2021 (7 Nisan 5781).
Parashat Vayikra is the 24th weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading.
Torah Portion: Leviticus 1:1-5:26
The book of Leviticus (Vayikra) opens with a discussion of various types of sacrifices. The first of the offerings (Korban)is the elevation offering. This is for people who have committed a sin for which there is no punishment, failed to perform positive commandment, or sinful thoughts. It is a voluntary offering for someone who wants to get closer to G-d. They would first lean their hands on the head of the animal (smittah) while confessing sins using an animal from their herd, flocks and birds, whatever is affordable. In this offering, the whole animal is burnt. A meal offering of fine flour, with oil and frankincense, unleavened, salted is used for those of very limited means.
Salt is used as a metaphor to preserve Israel. The minchah is from the first grain to Hashem (i.e., the Omer, as started at the 2nd day of Pesach, first grain, before which no other grain offered.)
The peace-offering is brought voluntarily by people who are moved to express love for Hashem, as a tribute. This expresses a sense of wholeness (shalem which is also the word for “peace”). Only parts of the animal is burnt and the rest is used for a feast.
Sin-offerings or Hattat are for unintentional sins. However, if a sin is committed accidentally and without intent, no offering is needed. These are also performed for community sin and when a ruler sins. The animal used for the sacrifice depends on whether the sin was committed by the congregation (bull) or a ruler (he-goat).
There are offerings to atone for someone who has contaminated the sanctuary or violated a spoken oath. There are guilt offerings for someone who sins unintentionally against Hashem or committed a sin for which he was unaware at the time. Finally, there is a sin-offering for theft or swearing falsely and then wanting to repent.