Shabbat Vayikra - 5760
- Modesty and Restraint in the Mishkan
At the very
beginning of Sefer Vayikra, known also as Torat Kohanim, The Law of
the Priests, we find an unusual phenomenon.
The first word, Vayikra, spelled in Hebrew with an
Aleph at the end, is written with a small Aleph.
According to the Baal HaTurim, Moshe would have preferred the
spelling and the word used in the case of Hashems contacts with Bilaam,
the evil prophet of Midian, whose contacts with Hashem are described using
the word Vayiker, without an Aleph, a word connoting
randomness, chaos and lack of control. Whereas, Vayikra, with the Aleph, connotes care,
love and precision. The
compromise was the miniature Aleph.
Kohanim is also suggestive of the charge of G-d to Israel, VAtem
Tihu Li Mamlechet Kohanim VGoy Kadosh,
And you shall be for Me a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy
Nation (Shemot 19:6). Where holiness is in general associated with
separation from, or withdrawal from excess; the practice of discipline and
architecture of the Mishkan
itself was determined by the requirement of modesty.
A ramp, rather than steps, was one of the requirements to reach the
top of the Altar, so that your nakedness will not be uncovered upon
it. (Shemot 20:23) Likewise
was there concern for the morality of the proceedings within the Mishkan.
Idolatrous cults at that time featured immoral and orgiastic
ceremonies, while of our G-d it is said that He hates immorality!
important place in the Mishkan from the point of view of the actions of
Man was the Mizbeach, the Altar, upon which he brought sacrifices.
An interesting detail mentioned in this Parshah is that fruit-honey
is not to be included in the Minchah, the flour sacrifice, despite
the fact that the aroma created would be extremely delightful.
This is because we are not striving for the ultimate in sensual
pleasure, but rather to use the produce of the earth to show gratitude to
idea is mentioned in connection with the Ketoret, the incense, in
the description of which we find, If one adds to it any honey, he
invalidates it. Even
though with the honey as an ingredient, the aroma would be so delightful
that nobody could resist it, that is not the purpose of the incense.
purpose of many of the sacrifices was forgiveness and atonement for sin.
This determined the ingredients of the sacrifices.
It would not be seemly for a sin offering to include oil or
frankincense; they are therefore excluded.
Mishkan, there was a great emphasis placed on the Priests washing their
hands and their feet as they went through the steps of the Worship
Service. Although the purpose
of this washing, like our immersion in the Mikveh, goes far beyond
physical cleanliness, this requirement clearly indicates that physical
cleanliness is a prerequisite for spiritual cleanliness.
Part of the
meaning of the sacrifices is that there should be a degree of
financial sacrifice. However, the Torah does take into account the
different income levels within the Jewish People.
Thus, in the case of the Asham, the Guilt Offering, the Torah
allows three options: For the affluent - a sheep or goat; for the middle
class - a dove and a turtledove; for the indigent - a tenth-ephah of fine
The sprinkling of blood is an essential part of the Divine Worship; however, the eating of blood by the individual human being is prohibited by the Torah! Perhaps reflecting a vegetarian impulse in the Torah. For blood is the life; and it is forbidden to consume the life with the flesh.
the Holy Ark, which contained the Tablets of the Law had on its cover the
Keruvim. It was from
between the Keruvim that the voice of Hashem emanated when Hashem
spoke to Moshe. The
Aron was located in the Holy of Holies, the most hidden
section of the Mishkan.
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel
Rabbi Frankel is an Educational Coordinator at the OU