VAYIKRA, LEV. 1:1- 5:26: -- a summary
Vayikra, Leviticus, opens with God's Call of Love to Moshe and goes on to detailed laws of sacrifices in the Tabernacle-- they're to bring both active and passive animal elements in man, "the lamb and the bull", close to God, via burnt, peace, and sin offerings. Leviticus also explains how to RETAIN and RESTORE the ritual purity of the Tabernacle (15:31, 16:16,33). The Cohanim are in charge of the Tabernacle-- thus this book is called Toras Cohanim, Laws of the Priests, per Ramban. The Septuagint calls it Leviticus, the laws of the Levites and priests. Much of the book, however, does not relate to priests or sacrifices (e.g. Chs. 18-20). It contains 247 of the 613 biblical commandments (Rashi).
Thus Rav David Hoffman claims that Torat Cohanim is the Code guiding the entire Jewish people, called God's "kingdom of priests and holy nation"; they bless and teach Mankind, guiding Everyman back to a renewed Edenic earth (Ex. 19:6, Gen. 12:3, 18:18). Israel's detailed priestly intimate contact with God as a "kingdom of priests" (in Lev. 1-17) is to shine through all aspects of their full and normal, yet sanctified, national life (via the laws in Lev. 18-20); they're to become a model holy nation, permeated with integrity, efficiency, and ethical holiness. The Tabernacle furnishings represent sanctification of all realms of life, e.g. the table of wealth and power and the menora of learning. This, in turn, reinforces Israel's intimacy with God.
THE HAFTORA, ISAIAH 43, tells Israel that prayer and repentance can bring return to God, when sacrifices cannot be brought; indeed, sacrifices are worthless and a Divine disgrace, unless they bring one closer to God. So Isaiah 1 describes unions of observant Jews, who persecute others-- MY SOUL HATES YOUR HOLIDAYS AND NEW MOONS. I CANNOT BEAR SIN AND ASSEMBLY.
FOR MAFTIR, when Vayikra is Parshat HaChodesh, we read Ex. 12:1-20, God's first commandment to Israel-- to make a lunar holiday calendar beginning with Nissan, the month of Exodus. THE HAFTORA is Ezekial 45:16-46:18, where the prophet balances rights and duties of the princes and the folk in the Temple service and land division.
If Shabbat Vayikra is Rosh Chodesh Nissan, we also read the sacrifices for Rosh Chodesh, Num. 28:9-15.
Nissan has a special mitzva, a prelude to Pesach:
HE WHO GOES OUT IN THE DAYS OF NISAN AND SEES TREES FLOWERING IS TO BLESS: "YOU'RE THE SOURCE OF BLESSINGS, GOD, OUR LORD, KING OF THE UNIVERSE, WHO HAS LEFT NOTHING LACKING IN HIS UNIVERSE, WHO HAS CREATED IN IT GOOD CREATURES AND GOOD TREES, SO THAT THE SONS OF ADAM ENJOY THEM" (Based on Rav Yehudah, Tal. Ber. 43b; R.H. 11a; O.H. 226; Yad 10:13). "This is a periodic experience of (constant world) renewal-- man sees dried out trees which God again makes flower"-- P'kudat Haleviim . As the Jews were "dried out" and in the depths of degradation in Egypt, so God made them beautifully flower in Exodus, amidst many miracles. Just as flowers quickly die and have fleeting benefit, so Exodus was only a wedding, a glorious joyous celebration of future glory; it would soon dissipate into kvetching about water! Yet flowers herald the EVENTUAL arrival of fruit-- so the preliminary redemption of Egypt is a model for the eventual redemption of the entire universe, thru the Jewish people (Torah Ohr, Exodus). Tho some only make the blessing on fruit trees, we may not do so once the tree has fruit! To be Jewish is to patiently wait so that something of infinite worth will eventually emerge-- yet we need the "flower- signs" from time to time, to believe that life sustaining fruit is on the way (e.g. Purim, Chanukah, Pesach, 1967, Saddam's Purim downfall).
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