Vayikra (Leviticus 1:1 – 5:26)

Most people do not react kindly when you say “Leviticus.”  Granted, it does contain some descriptions and prescriptions that are yucky or offensive or both, but there is also lot of good stuff we can relate to concerning ethical behavior.  Yet even the instructions concerning sacrifices also contain valuable lessons for us.  By the way, rather than “sacrifice,” a more useful word is “offering,” which has a more positive connotation and doesn’t call up an image of blood and guts quite as intensely.  Offerings were given back then for reasons similar to donations today: to honor someone, to support the synagogue, as thanksgiving, to celebrate, to show you’re sorry, etc.

This week’s portion is largely a how-to manual for priests concerning offerings: what is to be offered, why, when, by whom, is it obligatory or voluntary, what is the fate of the offering (Totally burned? Partly eaten? If so, by whom?), and so on.  In ArtScroll’s Stone edition of the Torah readings, there are tables in the back organizing all this concisely.  A summary of the offerings found in this week’s portion is provided in a d’var Torah by Robert Tornberg (thanks, Stanley) at (abridged)

  • The olah, “burnt offering” (Leviticus 1:1-17): This voluntary korban (“sacrifice,” coming from the root “to bring close”) was the most common offering, bringing the donor closer to God. It was slaughtered and fully burned, that is, sent up to God. Hence olah, which means “goes up.”
  • The minchah, “meal offering” (Leviticus 2:1-16): Generally also a voluntary offering, the minchah consisted of flour and oil (unleavened), cooked or uncooked… , often given by those too poor to afford an animal for the olah (see Vayikra Rabbah 3:1)
  • The zevach sh’lamim, “offering of well-being,” sometimes called a “peace offering” (Leviticus 3:1-17): This offering of thanks or gratitude was not completely burned. A prescribed portion was burned on the altar, part was given to the priests, and the rest was eaten as a festive meal shared by the donor and guests.
  • The chatat, “purgation or sin offering” (Leviticus 4:1-35; 5:1-13) was given to atone for an unintentional sin (related to the word, chet – sin, denoting “missing the mark”), individual or communal.
  • The asham, “reparation or guilt offering” (Leviticus 5:14-26) was handled in the same way as the chatat except that it was required to be a ram. It was usually offered by someone who had stolen property. The offender also had to restore what was taken plus a fifth.

Why are we all subjected to all of this?  More precisely, why does the Lord call upon Moses in Lev. 1:1-2 to tell all this to all the Children of Israel, even the details of rituals which are only carried out by priests?  Tornberg (op cit.) provides one answer: “(I)f only the priests knew what happened during the rituals, not only would the general population be behind a screen of smoke, but they also would be in total darkness. The Torah ensures that Judaism is not a secret religion run by priests who know more “truth” than anyone else. It is, instead, open and accessible.”  It’s all there, for anyone who cares to learn it.

Shabbat shalom,


[excerpt] [from 2006, dead link]

Rules for Cats

GUILT. Cats have no guilt. Owners have guilt. Jewish owners have cornered the market on guilt but they sometimes will share. Guilt in owners equals treats for kitty. Guilt can be invoked in many ways such as giving your owner a pathetic look when s/he returns from work related travel or after your owner has shouted at you for having practiced an exercise in hampering.

HAMPERING: If one of your humans is engaged in some close activity and the other is idle, stay with the busy one. This is called “helping”, otherwise known as “hampering”. Following are the rules for “hampering”:  [excerpt]

a) When supervising cooking, sit just behind the left heel of the cook. You cannot be seen and thereby stand a better chance of being stepped on and then picked up and comforted. [guilt!]

d) For people paying bills (monthly activity) or working on income taxes, keep in mind the aim — to hamper! First, sit on the paper being worked on. When dislodged, watch sadly from the side of the table.[guilt!]  When activity proceeds nicely, roll around on the papers, scattering them to the best of your ability. After being removed for the second time, push pens, pencils, and erasers off the table, one at a time.

e) When a human is holding the newspaper in front of him/her, be sure to jump on the back of the paper. They love to jump.


“The sacrifice which causes sorrow to the doer of the sacrifice is no sacrifice. Real sacrifice lightens the mind of the doer and gives him a sense of peace and joy.    Mahatma Gandhi 


If Ikea Made Instructions for Everything

From Susanna Wolff and Caldwell Tanner on November 12, 2010

tph ikea


The wager with the butcher

A bloke walks into a butchers and says to the butcher “are you a betting man?”
“Yes” replied the butcher.
“Well I bet you a tenner you can’t reach those pieces of meat up on that wall”
“I’m not taking that on” says the butcher
“I thought you were a betting man” says the bloke
“I am,… but the steaks are too high!”


tph david-sipress-i-feel-like-i-need-you-less-and-less-mom-now-that-i-can-make-myself-fee-new-yorker-cartoon


Church Life Humor (excerpts)


If you are traveling soon, consider Lutheran Air, the no-frills airline. You’re all in the same boat on Lutheran Air, where flying is an uplifting experience.  Everyone is responsible for his or her own baggage.  All fares are by freewill offering and the plane will not land until the budget is met.

Everybody knew the roof was leaking, but the church kept putting off replacement. Finally some areas of the ceiling in the sanctuary began to sag. They called a congregational meeting. A very wealthy member rose and pledged $300 toward fixing the roof. Just then a small piece of the ceiling fell and hit him on the head. Somebody in the back of the church said, “Hit him again, Lord!”

Has the heaviness of you old fashioned church got you weighted down? Try us! We are the New and Improved Lite Church of the Valley. Studies have shown we have 24% fewer commitments. We  trim off guilt as we are Low-Cal… low Calvin, that is. We feature a 7.5% tithe, a 35 minute worship service with 7 minute sermons.


 tph thank-you-burnt-offering-prayer-300x231


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1 Response to Vayikra (Leviticus 1:1 – 5:26)

  1. Sarah Brennan says:

    Thanks, I. The cats rules are especially funny –and so true.
    Love, Sar

    Sarah M. Brennan
    McCausland Keen & Buckman
    259 N. Radnor-Chester Road
    Suite 160
    Radnor, PA 19087-5257
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