Aliya-by-Aliya Parshat Vayikra 5762

Numbers in [square brackets] are the mitzva-count of the Sefer HaChinuch

Kohen - First Aliya - 13 p'sukim - 1:1-13

G-d calls to Moshe from OHEL MOED and sets down the general rules of korbanot (sacrifices).

[SDT] Note that it does not say "And G-d called to Moshe", but rather "And He called..." Vayikra is not a fresh beginning; it is the continuation of P'kudei. At the end of P'kudei, Moshe was temporarily out of touch (so to speak) with G-d. Here G-d reestablishes contact with Moshe by calling to him and then speaking to him.

Notice the unique wording in this first pasuk of Vayikra; the method by which G-d communicated with Moshe was different from the prophets and all others.

First among the korbanot that the Torah presents is the OLAH (of a bull), the offering that is completely (almost, but not quite - the skins of most OLOT were a gift to the kohanim) consumed on the Mizbei'ach. A common procedure in the bringing of many korbanot is leaning upon the animal before it is slaughtered. Many details of korbanot have psychological effects upon the one who brings the korban. The contact with the animal gives the korban-bringer a sober realization of the tenuousness of life (his own, not just the animal's).

After slaughter, the blood of Sh'chita is collected in a sacred vessel and is then brought to the Mizbei'ach to be poured on it. This procedure is essential for (all) korbanot. The OLAH is skinned (the skin is a gift to the kohanim, as mentioned earlier) and cut into pieces which are placed on the fire of the Mizbei'ach and there completely consumed (meaning, no one eats the meat).

Male sheep and goats can also be brought as OLAH. The procedures are similar, but not identical.

[SDT] Sacrifices from the cow family are considered to be atonements for the Sin of the Golden Calf. That with which the People sinned can now be used for sacred purposes as a redemption, atonement and Tikun - repair. We often find that the bull is the first presented, discussed, offered, etc. This lends credence to its roll as atonement for the Golden Calf. It is the father trying to clean up his son's mess.

[SDT] The OLAH is considered by the Talmud to be an atonement for improper thoughts. The CHATAT - sin offering - is brought for (some) improper deeds. The Olah is presented first because it is most often the case that improper thoughts precede (and lead to) improper deeds, rather than the other way around.

[SDT] The opening command concerning Korbanot is, "A person (singular) who offers from among you a sacrifice... they (plural) shall offer their sacrifice." Toldot Yitzchak (a Torah commentary written by R. Yitzchak Caro, uncle of the M'chabeir and the one who raised him) suggests that since an individual doing a mitzva can have a positive effect on all of Klal Yisrael and the whole world, then his individual sacrifice is really ours, hence the switch to plural. Furthermore, there are aspects of Korbanot that relate to the community, even if the korban at issue is a private one. The wood for the fire, the salt of each korban, the kohanim performing the Avoda - these are all communal aspects that make one's korban, our korban.

[SDT] The Ba'al HaTanya explains the wording, "A person who brings from you a korban to HaShem, from the animal..." as the requirement of a korban-bringer to sacrifice the animal within himself upon the Mizbei'ach. The act of a Korban must be personalized and internalized for it to have the effect of bringing us closer(this is the root meaning of KORBAN-KAROV) to G-d.

Baal HaTurim says that G-d put Moshe's name before His own in the opening pasuk of Vayikra, to tell us all of the close personal relationship that He had with him.

Daat Z'keinim says that the fact that animal sacrifices are from domesticated mammals (B'HEIMOT) rather than from wild animals (CHAYOT), shows us G-d's concern for His people - that He spared us the extra bother of hunting and trapping that would be necessary if CHAYOT were among the korbanot. Similarly, bird-korbanot come only from two domesticated types of dove.

Levi - Second Aliya - 10 p'sukim - 1:14-2:6

OLAH can also be from birds, specifically, two types of doves. The unique procedures for bird offerings are described. These three categories of OLAH - large animal (B'HEIMA GASA), small animals (B'HEIMA DAKA), birds (OFOT) - are counted as one positive command [115].

[SDT] Note that the bird offering is called OLAH LA'SHEM, a Burnt Offering to G-d. Although no one eats from an animal OLAH, the skin is a given to a kohen as one of his gifts. The dove is completely consumed on the Mizbei'ach. It is the only korban that is COMPLETELY to HaShem.

The Torah next describes the MINCHA (not to be confused with our afternoon davening), a meal offering. It consists of flour and oil with a bit of frankincense (L'vona) and differing amounts of water. (Water as an ingredient is not mentioned in the Written Word, but is part of our Oral Tradition.) Three types of MENACHOT are described in this portion. They differ in the method of preparation - baking, pan frying, etc. - but all contain the same ingredients.

[SDT] Until this point in Vayikra, the Torah has described four different types of voluntary offerings, each one less expensive than the one before it. The bull is most costly, sheep and goat cost less, but more than a dove. And a flour and oil offering is the least expensive. The person who brings the korban is referred to as ADAM, a human, the first time, and then with the pronoun he, him, his (she, her, hers). Only with the flour & oil offering is the bringer referred to as NEFESH, a soul. This, says Rashi, refers to the poor person, who is the one who would most likely bring the Mincha. It might not cost a lot, but the poor person puts his soul into his modest korban.

Shlishi - Third Aliya - 10 p'sukim - 2:7-16

A fourth type of MINCHA is described. All meal offerings constitute one positive mitzva [116]. With meal offerings, only a small portion is put on the Mizbei'ach, the bulk of the offering is shared by the kohanim on duty in the Mikdash. MENACHOT may not be Chametz (the ones described here; there are other types that are Chametz), nor may they be prepared with leavening or honey [117].


The Sefer HaChinuch hesitates to offer reasons for the prohibition of honey on a korban. He considers this mitzva to be highly enigmatic. He then does suggest that both leavening and honey represent loftiness and arrogance, an inappropriate accompaniment for an experience that must humble the person who brings the korban. On the other hand, others suggest that this is one of the mitzvot which say to us: Don't think you can figure everything out. There are some mitzvot which defy our limited, finite knowledge and understanding. This is one of those mitzvot. We might think that honey should be put on a korban in order to enhance it. We'd be wrong with that logic. We must realize that we are to do mitzvot - all mitzvot - just because the Torah says so. This is so for all mitzvot, not just the ones that defy our logic.

No korban may be offered without salt [118]; every korban must be salted [119].

(An example - there are others - of a commandment being given in the positive form as well as a prohibition. Fast on Yom Kippur. Don't eat or drink. Do not offer anything without salt. Salt all offerings. Each form of the mitzva - the ASEI and the LO TA'ASEI - teach us something different and affect the attitude and kavanot of the particular mitzva.

A fifth type of MINCHA is next described. This one is made in a deep vessel, sort of like deep frying.

[SDT] Our table is like the Mizbei'ach. A famous saying with many different manifestations. We salt our HaMotzi bread because we are expected to add an element of spirituality to an otherwise very mundane act of eating. Salt is a preservative and salt does not spoil. As such, it represents an element of the eternal in this temporal world. This explanation is borrowed from that which is written about the korban, but it applies well to our everyday minhag regarding salt.

R'vi'i - Fourth Aliya - 17 p'sukim - 3:1-17

The next type of korban presented in the Torah is the SH'LAMIM, known in English as a Peace Offering or Complete Offering. Both names are based on a play on the word SHALOM or SHALEM. The element of completeness that is special to the Sh'lamim in that part of the korban is burned on the Mizbei'ach, part is given to the kohen as one of his gifts, and part is returned to the korban's owner for him and his family to eat. "Everyone" benefits from a Sh'lamim. In that respect, it is the complete korban. Sh'lamim can be brought from male and female animals, of cow, goat, or sheep. The Torah outlines the procedures for SH'LAMIM, which are basically similar, but with some differences from animal to animal.

Sometimes, goats and sheep are lumped together as TZON, animals of the flock. They are referred to as B'HEIMA DAKA, the smaller livestock, as opposed to CATTLE. In the case of Korbanot, there are differences between the two and therefore, they are treated separately.

Chamishi - Fifth Aliya - 26 p'sukim - 4:1-26

The next category of korban presented by the Torah is the CHATAT, the Sin Offering. There are different sub-categories. A Kohen Gadol who inadvertently caused the people to sin (certain sins) is required to bring a bull as an atoning sacrifice. Similarly (but with differences), if the Sanhedrin errs in a decision which causes wide-spread sinning (again, of certain sins), then the leaders of the people are to bring a bull as a sacrifice [120] (and not each person who acted upon the pronouncement of the Sanhedrin).

A leader of the people brings a male goat as his CHATAT. In all cases, the CHATAT is brought for SHOGEG (inadvertent) violations with some level of negligence on the sinner's part that resulted in the sin. A CHATAT is NOT brought for intentional violations. Nor is a CHATAT brought for all sins - only for those whose intentional violation is a capital offense.

For example... A person is basically Shomer Shabbat, but never knew that you cannot water grass on Shabbat. Nice hot summer Shabbat afternoon, the person "has mercy" on his yellowing lawn and turns on his sprinklers. When he learns of his mistake, he is required to bring a Korban Chatat (in the time of the Beit HaMikdash).

[SDT] When a leader of the people shall sin... ASHER NASI YECHETA. The initials of this phase spell ANI (I, me!) What is likely to lead a leader astray? His focusing on himself and his losing sight of his responsibilities to the community he leads.

Shishi - Sixth Aliya - 19 p'sukim - 4:27-5:10

The final sub-category of CHATAT is for the individual who inadvertently violates certain types of prohibitions [121]. For example, a Jew who violates a Torah prohibition of Shabbat because he is unaware that the particular act is forbidden (see "for example" above) or because he forgot that it was Shabbat - this requires the bringing of a Korban CHATAT. The CHATAT of an individual is a female sheep or goat.

Clarification... If a person sees brown leaves on a house plant and pinches them off to enhance the growth of the plant on Shabbat, he has violated a Rabbinic prohibition. (This Rabbinic prohibition is based on the fact that the act is essentially the same as, and for the same purpose as, pruning leaves on a bush growing in the ground. Pruning is a Torah prohibition. The ban on doing the same with house plants is one of many protective measures of the Sages to protect the Torah from violation.) When the person learns of his error, no Korban is required because the act was not a Torah violation. But doing the same with one's rose bushes in the back yard IS a Torah violation and would require a CHATAT.

Another category of sacrifice is the KORBAN OLEH V'YORED [123], a sliding-scale guilt offering. An example of a sin requiring this korban is suppression of testimony or lying under oath about it. Testifying is an obligation [122]. The form that the korban takes depends upon the financial means of the sinner - goat/sheep or doves. With birds, the kohen must be careful not to sever the head when he performs M'LIKA, the bird-korban equivalent of Sh'chita [124].

[SDT] The main animal for a communal CHATAT (as in the Musaf of Rosh Chodesh and Chagim) or an individual CHATAT, is the goat. This brings to mind the use of the goat by Yosef's brothers to deceive their father by dipping Yosef's coat into goat's blood. The CHATAT for all times contains a reminder of the terrible behavior of brother to brother. (The goat was also used by Yaakov to deceive his father, when he posed as Eisav to receive the bracha.)

Sh'vi'i - Seventh Aliya - 16 p'sukim - 5:11-26

For those who cannot afford doves, the ASHAM (guilt offering) is to be brought from flour. In this case (as opposed to MENACHOT), no oil [125] or spice [126] are used.

The ASHAM for sacrilege is a ram. In addition, the violator, who has used the sacred for his own benefit, must make restitution and add one-fifth of the value as a penalty [127].

(Actually, one fourth is added, that amount that becomes one fifth of the total amount - 100 worth of use + 25 penalty = 125 total payment, the addition of 25 being one fifth of the 125. This is how the penalty called CHOMESH is calculated.)

A variation of the ASHAM is brought when one is not sure if he violated the particular prohibition or not. The Conditional Asham is a ram [128].

[SDT] S'forno raises the problem of bringing an ASHAM if one did not actually commit the sin in question. Is that not offering a non-korban animal in the courtyard of the Mikdash, which is a serious offence? He answers that the fact that there is a doubt in one's mind as to whether he sinned or not indicates a carelessness that is also something to atone for. He learns this from ASHOM ASHAM LASHEM.

The thief is commanded to return that which he stole [130].

The bringing of the ASHAM for all the specific types of violations is a positive mitzva [129].

Thus the Torah ends its introduction to the different types of korbanot.

Haftara - 31 p'sukim -Yeshayahu 43:21-44:21

From the sedra, we receive our first introduction to korbanot (sacrifices). The haftara contains two kinds of rebuke to the people, who have been exiled. First, that even when not "burdened" by the various korbanot (since they are in exile and without a Beit HaMikdash), they do not properly pray or repent their ways. Secondly (which really comes first) the people had not offered korbanot properly - sometimes to idolatry, sometimes insincerely to G-d - when they had the opportunity.

G-d does and will favor us and redeem us, even when we don't deserve it. (Although this is so, it is far better to act in such a way as to be worthy of G-d's love of us and His many acts of kindness on our behalf, for His own sake.)