Vayikra: The Book of Leviticus

16 Items


Creation, Israel, and Humility

On the Torah’s first verse, Rashi makes the following comment: “Rabbi Yitzhak said: ‘The Torah should have started with ‘this month will be for you the first of the months,’ because this was the first mitzvah commanded to Israel.” In essence Rabbi Yitzchak seems to be stating that the Torah should not have begun with […]

Repentance and the Small Alef

The small alef, a symbol of humility, teaches us many things about the nature of teshuvah, whether we understand the term in its narrow sense as repentance or in its broader sense as a return to God. The wisdom and secrets concerning the setting up of the Jewish calendar given to the Jewish people on […]


Sacrifice in the Third Temple

Given the efficacy of prayer and the contemporary aversion to animal sacrifices, much thought has been given to whether animal sacrifice will be reinstated in the Third Temple. Although there are many differing opinions regarding what form the service will take, let there be no doubt that the Temple as a central unifying force and […]

The Bush that Burns Yet is Not Consumed

In Tzav’s six opening verses, the Torah sets down the laws about the elevation offering brought by the cohanim each morning on the Tabernacle and Temple altars. Over a span of only six verses, the word fire occurs four times and the admonition not to let the fire on the altar be extinguished is repeated […]


Persistent Seeking

The exact middle point of the number of letters in the Torah falls between the words derosh and derash (inquired insistently) in the verse quoted in the previous section: “Moses inquired insistently….” (Leviticus 10:16). In Hebrew these two words are spelled the same, only their vowels are different. When we discussed the four-tiered system of […]

To Everything there is a Season

Moses inquired insistently about the he-goat of the sin offering, for behold, it had been burned. And he was angry with Elazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s remaining sons, saying: “Why did you not eat the sin offering in a holy place, for it is most holy; and He gave it to you to gain forgiveness for […]


Giving Birth to Redemption

In the previous two sections we discussed two different concepts that are alluded to in the portion of Tazria: the spiritual roots of disease and the Messianic redemption. Although both have the theme of purity and impurity in common, there does not seem to be any other link between them. In this section we will […]


Context and Perspective

Until this point, we have focused on tzara’at’s manifestation as a skin disease; however, in the two portions of Tazria and Metzora, tzara’at actually manifests in three different ways: on the human body as a skin disease, on clothes, and on houses. The Talmud provides an interesting explanation for why there were three different types […]

The Laws of Family Purity

Towards the end of Metzora (Leviticus 19:15-24) the basic laws relating to menstruating women and the obligation of husband and wife to separate during menstruation are detailed. These laws, known as the laws of family purity, dictate the rhythm and cycle of marital relations and are considered the foundation of Jewish married life and a […]

Achrei Mot

Do Not Judge Your Fellow Man Until You Have Been in His Position

With this shall Aaron come into the Sanctuary – with a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. He shall put on a sacred linen tunic; linen breeches shall be upon his flesh, he shall gird himself with a linen sash, and cover his head with a linen turban; […]

The Jewish Model for Holiness

“With this shall Aaron come into the Sanctuary: with a young bullock for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering” (Leviticus 16:3). The phrase “with this” (bezot) is written in the feminine form even though it clearly refers to the bullock and the ram mentioned later in the verse, which are both […]


Defining and Achieving Holiness

Having established the centrality of holiness in Judaism, it behooves us to try to define this abstract concept. Perhaps, the easiest way to define it is by exploring how holiness is attained. Within a legal context, kedushah (holiness or sanctity) is usually attained through separation, self-discipline, and refinement. By distancing ourselves from evil, impurity, and […]


Pushing Aside the Veil of Lies

The word the Torah uses to describe the physical blemish that would disqualify a cohen is “moom.” This word appears exactly five times in the Torah section discussed in the previous section. This is significant because according to Kabbalah and Chassidut there are five levels of the soul and five worlds. Furthermore, the numerical value […]


Seven Cycles of Seven

As we have discussed in the previous section, the most fundamental of all cycles are those based on the number seven. Whether counting days, weeks, months, years, series of years, or millenia the cycle of seven appears again and again in the Jewish tradition. In fact, there are seven such time periods. The first cycle […]


The Enigma of Jewish History

As discussed at the beginning of Bechukotai, the word “chok” denotes a decree that defies normative logic. Significantly, in the very portion that presents the Jewish people with the choices they have to make regarding their future history, the word “chok” is employed. Jewish history truly transcends all precedent and highlights the ability of a […]

The Paradigm of Seven Times Seven

The forty-nine “curses” mentioned in Bechukotai are clearly connected to the mitzvah to count forty-nine days between Pesach and Shavuot, when we celebrate the giving of the Torah at Sinai. A beautiful allusion to this is the fact that Bechukotai is read before the holiday of Shavuot every year. Demonstrating another link between the two, […]