“And he called [vayikra] to Moses, and he, HaShem, spoke to him” (Lv 1:1).
ויקרא אל משה וידבר יי אליו
When you read this portion in a Torah scroll, you’ll notice that the letter alef – א in the word “Vayikra” is smaller than the other letters. One may wonder why did Moses reduce the size of a letter, especially the letter ‘Alef’, which stands for “Alufo shel Olam” (the Ruler of the Universe) and His oneness. One might be proud to write about himself: “God called me and spoke to me, and this is what he said”. But Moses didn’t want to exalt himself over anyone. When a young man informed Moses that two men were prophesying on the camp, Moses said: “Don’t be jealous for me, I’d wish all the people were prophets” (Nm 11:29). When people turned against Moses and Aaron, Moses said: “We are what?” (Ex 16:7). And in this portion, the first verse in the volume of Leviticus, which opens which these powerful words: “God called to Moses and spoke to him”, Moses decided to write smaller the Divine Alef in the word “To call”. It’s as if Moses didn’t want to write those words. He would think: Master of the Universe, the people know that I wrote this book. Don’t make me write this, use different words. It was his nature to think: Yes, God called me, but I wish He could call everyone else. It seems he wanted to write: Vayikar which is a cold (קר) happening or imposition, like when God came (vaYikar) to the wicked Bilaam (Nm 23:4).
But God didn’t want him to alter the text not one bit. He wanted the phrase exactly as it’s written in the Torah, so that the Gematria and the hidden secrets and teachings concealed in those words won’t be altered. The permutation of Vayikra ויקרא forms the word: Okir (אוקיר), which means: ‘hold dear’, or ‘cherished’, for Moses was dear to God, as it’s written: “Moses is not so… with him I speak mouth to mouth” (Nm 12:7-8; cf. Zohar Vayikra). God allowed him, nevertheless, to diminish the Alef. This small Alef indicates the extraordinary humility of Moses, of whom the Torah says: “The man Moses was very humble, more so than any other person on the face of the earth” (cf. Nm 12:3).
There’s a concealed aspect of the messianic era, because as Moses was considered precious (okir) by God, it’s written: ‘I will make man more precious (Okir) than fine gold’ (Is 13:12). The intent of the call (Vayikra), is to reveal the presence of God, so it makes sense the Alef at the end, and its reduced size implies that this call is to stir us awake and realize it’s God’s calling.
Moses’ humility and self-negation is brought in the very first verse of this portion because that’s the underlying concept of sacrifices, the central theme of this week’s portion.
“When any person of you will bring near an offering (korban) to HaShem..” (Lv 1:2).
It’s written: “Adam ki yakriv mikem Korban l’HaShem” (Lv 1:2).
The first that comes to my mind are the words: “ki yakriv” (when/that/if bring near), which implies that for the most part sacrifices were voluntary acts; Israel’s choice. This is mentioned in the verse: ‘I have not burdened you with a meal-offering nor wearied you with frankincense’ (Is 43:23). This is not to be taken as an absolute though; certain sacrifices were obligatory. However this implies that God makes the call, but it is us who must answer the call and approach to him.
Our sages realized there’s a small oddity in the wording of our phrase (i.e Lv 1:2). First, instead of the common “Ish” (person), the text uses the word for human being: “Adam”.
Second, it should be written: “Adam mikem ki yakriv” (the human among you who brings near… etc). But in the manner it’s written, a literal interpretation of the verse would be: “The human that wants to draw close [to God], make of yourself an offering to HaShem”.
The verse can thus be understood to speak of a man who seeks to draw near to God. This is in light of what we have already learned in the previous lessons, that each one of us is a Sanctuary for the Divine Presence (cf. Ex 25:8, parashat Terumah). Therefore, all the components and services of the Temple are included in our spiritual inner Sanctuary, which is our personal daily service, and this of course, includes the sacrifices.
If you had to offer a sacrifice at the Temple, what would you bring?
If you were to offer a cow, God wouldn’t want “a random cow”. He wants a strong and spotless one, one that gives good milk, that could feed your family for many years, that could make a good stake or could be sold for a high price. The cow that is Perfect (tamim; Lv 1:3). That, giving it with pure heart, would be a pleasant fragrance for him. If you gave something less than that, He would make as with Kain; ignore you.
In the physical sacrifices, the worshiper had to lay his hands on the animal’s head (Semikha), so that the weigh of the man (his identity) would be transferred to the animal, implying that: ‘This animal should be me’ (cf. Lv 1:4).
When we think of a “Sacrifice” we think of killing something for our benefit. But a ‘sacrifice’ is not something that suffers for you. A ‘sacrifice’ is when YOU negate yourself and offer to God a part of you. As the saying goes, a sacrifice is that which costs you something; that’s the meaning of the words: “mikem Korban” (a sacrifice from yourselves). In the Bible, when people offered sacrifices that cost them nothing, but did it for a religious schedule, God said their offerings gave him nausea (cf. Is 1:11-12). So the concept of “Sacrifice” equals “Self-negation”.
The word “Offering”, in Hebrew “Korban” comes from the root: Karav, which means to ‘bring near’, to ‘come closer’. The Korbanot in the Temple had the purpose to bring near the person to the Divine Presence resting on the Holy of Holies.
The Bahir develops the etymology of Korban as follows:
“Why is [a sacrifice] called Korban but because it brings the obscure forms of holiness closer? As it’s written: And bring them near (veKarav otem) one to another into one tree, and they will become one in your hands (Ez 37:17). And why is it called a ‘pleasant fragrance’ (Reiakh nikhoakh)? There’s no fragrance but in the nose. And there’s no breathing that could smell but in the nose. Nikhoakh (ניחוח, pleasant) means nothing but ‘descending’, as it’s written: ‘And he descended’ (Lv 9:22), and in the Targumim: “veNakhit” (ונחית) [also Reiakh – fragrance derives from the word Ruakh – breath, or Spirit.
Therefore the mystical meaning of theKorban’s Reiakh Nikhoakh is that] The Ruakh [הרוח, – ie. the spirit] descends and unifies itself with those forms of holiness. And it brings itself close through the Korban”
Just as the animal is brought close to God, so does the person that offers the sacrifice. That’s the Spiritual communion. Just as the animal is brought near the Holy of Holies, and the smoke of the offering ascends to Heaven, Holiness descends to man causing closeness with the Creator.
“Adam…. Mikem Korban l’HaShem” (Lv 1:2)
Literally: “Human…. Of you be the offering to HaShem”. In other words; You must offer yourselves in sacrifice.
‘Mikem’ – from yourselves – represents the Divine soul of Adam (nefesh elokit). This is because Adam was bestowed with the Divine Soul, as it’s written: ‘God breathed into his nostrils’ (Gn 2:7), that is, God breathed of his own being (nefesh) into Adam.
“Offering to HaShem from the animal” – Korban l’HaSHem min Behema (Lv 1:2).
This speaks of the animal within man’s heart, that is, his animal soul (nefesh bahamit), which is the object that needs to be sacrificed. For according to the verse: ‘let the earth bring forth living animals’ (Gn 1:24) it’s also written: “and the man became a Nefesh Haya (a living animal)” (Gn 2:7).
So our verse enumerates the two different levels of the animal soul, called: Herd and Flock; ‘Bakar’ and ‘Tzeon’.
“herd”, that is, the gross animal soul that resemble the ox.
“Flock” that is, the docile animal soul that resemble the sheep.
“From the herd and from the flock you all must bring your offering” (Lv 1:2).
“You all must bring your offering.” For each individual has his unique challenge of self-refinement (cf. Kuntres haTefila 8).
Checking your Soul
The first step before the sacrifice is the careful examination of the animal ‘condition’, to check that is a blameless one. The same principle applies in the spiritual world. Before offering our animal soul we are to exanimate it. The beginning of God’s service is therefore our self examination. This includes thoughts, feelings, deeds and the intention of the heart, in order to find any undesirable aspect and correct it. This is the first rule of Repentance (Tshuva), to have the intention to change; otherwise the prayer is simply empty words.
This is true even concerning the physical sacrifices at the Temple. Not for many bulls offered (ie. not for many words in your prayer) God would pay more attention to you. Repentance is required, as it’s written: “Though you offer me burnt-offerings… I won’t accept them… take away from me the noise of your song… but let justice well up as waters and righteousness as a mighty stream” (Amos 5:21).
Self examination in our daily service is mentioned in the verse: “My sin is before me always” (Psal 51:3). The Prophet Isaiah explains the perfect Sacrifice before God:
“When you make many prayers I will not hear [if you are evil]…. Wash, make yourselves clean, put away the evil of your doings out of my sight, stop doing wrong, learn to do right; seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come then, and let us reason together, says HaShem. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Is 1:15-18).
Once the animal is Kosher for sacrifice, it is slaughtered, its blood is removed, and his body is consumed in the fire of the altar.
This speaks of the process of purification. Once we have done Repentance (Tshuva), our animal soul is slaughtered and its vital power removed, so that the Divine soul within will overcome it. Then the animal soul is offered in the Divine Fire; that is, the Divine Spark within us, as it’s written: “[Love’s] coals are coals of fire, the flame of God” (Son 8:6). This is the soul’s love for God, a love that cannot be quenched, for it’s written: “Great waters cannot quench the love, nor can rivers drown it” (Son 8:7).
The animal soul will be so consumed in the Divine fire that it will be transformed. It will change and work to the service of God’s Love, as it’s written: “Love God with all your heart” (Dt 6:5). It’s not written: “Livkha” (your heart) but “Levavkha” (your hearts), implying that ultimately the two souls, Divine and Animal, and the two inclinations – the good and the bad – will be surrendered to God’s service (cf. Berakhot 54a).
Therefore, when the animal has been slaughtered and dismembered, it looks red as scarlet. But when is consumed in the altar, the fire burns it, and ascends to Heaven transformed into smoke, white like the snow, which is called “pleasant fragrance”.
The Four Sin Offerings
There are four levels of sin offerings for unintentional sin. The level of the anointed priest, the level of the whole congregation, then the level of the prince, and finally the level of an individual soul from the land. The verses are as follow.
“If the anointed priest sins (Lv 4:3)”
“If the whole congregation makes a mistake” (Lv 4:13).
“When a ruler sins” (Lv 4:22).
“And if an individual soul sin through error” (Lv 4:27).
However, right before these four levels there’s a verse that says: “If a soul sin through error” (Lv 4:2) “A Soul”; this implies the nefesh (soul) of each one of us. This means that these four levels of unintentional sin are within each one of us. In our soul there’s an aspect of a priest, there’s a Sanhedrin, there’s a prince and there’s an individual soul.
The Gematria of “If the anointed priest sins” is 512 – which is two times: “Aaron”.
Aaron is the paradigm of the high priest. Every high priest is called Aaron. There’s an original Aaron and an Aaron in every generation.
If we put together the “Nefesh” + “the anointed priest” + “all the congregation of Israel” + “the prince” + “the individual soul from the land”, we get the Gematria of 3584.
הכהן המשיח +
כל עדת ישראל +
נפש אחת מעם הארץ =
This number equals seven times “If the anointed priest sins” (512).
7 represents completeness as mentioned before. Therefore the number equals 14 times Aaron.
אהרן = 256 *14 = 3584
What is 14? 14 is David. This sin equals “Aaron” times “David”.
דוד = 14
Aaron and David are the anointed priest and the prince mentioned in the text. Both of them were tremendously great souls, and both of them are known for their sin. Aaron with the Golden Calf and David with Bath-Sheva.
The intermediate level is called: “all the congregation of Israel”, and this corresponds to Moses, since Moses equals all Israel (cf. Mekhilta Yitro 1:1) as it’s written: “Be you for people before God” (Ex 18:19). Moses equals all the Jewish souls.
Moses is the head of the Supreme Court, and the context implies the guilt is on the judicial system of Israel; that is, the Sanhedrin, as it’s written: “The elders of the congregation will lay their hands on the head of the bullock” (implying it’s their fault) (cf. Lv 4:15). About the priest and the prince it says they sin, but about the whole congregation it’s stated: they commit a mistake. This means an error of judgement, such as allowing things not allowed in the Torah.
Finally there’s the level of the “individual soul from the land”. Who is this? This is the King Messiah, for it’s written: “[He will grow up as a tender plant before him as a root] from the land” (Is 53:2).
So the four levels correspond to: Aaron, Moses, David and Messiah.
What does it mean that there’s a sinning high priest in me? The high priest is the one who is set apart to God, inspired (anointed) to teach and to intercede for the people. If there’s not this in me, my inner high priest fails. Because God wants a kingdom of priests (Ex 19:6).
What does it mean that there’s a Moses in me who made a mistake? It means that there can be the case of miss-judgment, that you pervert judgment by allowing something you shouldn’t allow. A mistake of not knowing what is right and what is wrong.
What does it mean there’s a sinner David in me? This is my fail in bringing the kingdom of God to the nation. My fail as a leader. We all are to be light for others; our spiritual journey was never meant for us alone. If I lead myself or others in a wrong way my prince within me has sinned.
What does it mean that our inner Messiah sin? This is, because Messiah is the individual soul that equals all the three souls above. We all have a spark of the soul of Messiah in all of us.
•Messiah is King David as it’s written: “I will raise to David a righteous shoot” (Jer 23:5) and also: “My servant David will be their prince forever” (Ez 37:25).
•Messiah is Moses as we have learned that Moses is the first and last redeemer and in Gematria Moses equals: ‘Shilo’ (Gn 49:10).
•Messiah is Aaron as it’s hinted in the title used in the text: “the anointed priest” – haKohen haMashiakh – the priest Messiah. As it’s written: “Behold the man whose name is the branch… and he becomes a priest on his throne [vehaya Kohen al Kiso]” (Zech 6:12-13). Even though on earth he is not a priest, he acts as a heavenly priest in the Heavenly realms, as it’s written: “You are a priest for the world [to come] on the style of the king of justice [or ‘Malki-Tzedek’]” (Psal 110:4) [the verses 6 and 7 of this Psalm hints to the soul of Messiah, ‘Messiah ben Yosef’ by acronym; cf. Kol haTor 2:61].
Messiah is the one who writes the Torah for himself and read it and teach it and perform it (Dt 17:18-20). Don’t let your fails quench the sparks of Messiah.