Saturday, March 08, 2008

Vayikra Summary

The book of Vayikra (literally ‘He called’, known as Leviticus in English), is primarily concerned with the Cohanim (Priests) and the Mishkan (Tabernacle). In this week's portion, G-d instructs Moshe to tell the people about korbanot (sacrifices). The different types of korbanot are listed and explained. The first group of korbanot mentioned are the olot (singular olah), or burnt offerings. The type of korban that one brings depends on one's wealth, either an animal, a dove, or a meal offering.

After being slaughtered and prepared, each of these is completely burnt on the altar.
Another type of korban is that of the first grain, bikurim. This is to be brought as soon as the grains have ripened on the stalk. A shlamim (peace offering) is a voluntary sacrifice of either a cow, a sheep or a goat. After it has been slaughtered, parts of it are burnt on the altar, and the meat is eaten by the person who brought it. The next group of korbanot are the chatot (sin offering, singular chatat) which were brought after inadvertently committing certain sins. The Torah lists different types of chatat which would be brought by the Cohen Gadol (High Priest), the entire community, a Prince of a tribe, or a regular person.

Another korban is the guilt offering, asham,which includes the korban oleh v’yored (varying sacrifice). It is brought if a person who has witnessed an event refuses to testify. It is also brought if a person makes a verbal oath and forgets about it, or if someone becomes tamei (impure) and enters the Temple. A fixed asham is brought if a person accidentally derives benefit from something dedicated to the Temple. It is also brought when someone is unsure whether they transgressed certain prohibitions for which they should bring a chatat, or if he takes a false oath, denying possession of a deposit or a found object.

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