Parshas Vayikra - The Longing Soul

By Rabbi Yosef Tropper

Posted on 03/17/18

Introduction to Sefer Vayikra

Let’s begin with Ramban’s  introduction to encapsulate what Vayikra is all about. Hashem took the Jews out of Mitzrayim, gave them the Torah, they built the mishkan, which is the final geulah as far as geulas Mitzrayim, getting out of Egypt. Now, they have a way to serve Hashem and they’re a nation. Vayikra tells us the laws about how the korbanos are brought.

1) Continuation of Hashem’s Shechinah From Sinai

Ramban states the reason the Jews were not allowed in the area of the mishkan if they were tamei. Just like Hashem appeared on Har Sinai, with His holy presence there and therefore, it was prohibited for the Jews to be on Har Sinai, so too the mishkan is a continuation of Hashem’s holiness. Thus, it’s a place where the Jewish people are prohibited to just assent there either with tumah or without specific reason to do the avodah. The mishkan is the place the reveals Hashem’s hidden presence and brings it out to the forefront, reviving the revelation of Sinai.

Betzalel’s Purpose

Betzalel is the one who lead the entire mishkan project. He was the one who was in charge of it all and his name means ‘b’tzeil Keil’, in the shadow of G-d. What’s a shadow?  Gam ki eilech b’gei tzalmaves, When I walk in a shadow.  A shadow is where the sun is not shining.  It’s present; but it’s casting a shadow. Betzalel’s entire purpose was to bring Hashem into the area where there is a shadow, where G-d is remiss and not visible there. Betzalel invites God’s presence.

When life challenges us, we rise to the occasion and strive to be the greatest people we could be. That’s exactly where the shechinah comes down and that’s where Hashem appears to us, “v’Shachanti b’socham”.  He wants us to invite Him inside. The shechinah at Har Sinai was very public, but the Shechinah in the Beis HaMikdash, in the mishkan, was a private shechinah inside all of our hearts, waiting for us to reveal it through the darkness.

On a deeper level, according to many, the mishkan was built as a forgiveness for the sin of the Eigel. This once again shows, that Hashem becomes revealed through mistakes and darkness.  

2) Olah Offering

The Torah talks about the olah (Vayikrah 1:3-4). It was brought for things that people did wrong.  Ramban explains the reason it’s called an ‘olah’. The simple understanding that that it means ‘to go up’, because it was burnt. Ramban adds that since it’s mechapeir on bad thoughts that a person has, it is a play on words: ha’oleh al ruchacham, means that which you are thinking.  Thus, it is the thought cleansing sacrifice. Only Hashem knows the aveirah that one did because it’s in your heart, therefore, it’s totally burned to Hashem.

3) Man’s Deepest Desire

Ksav Sofer (1815 - 1871) shares a fascinating thought. The Chasam Sofer (1762 - 1839), his father, often explained the words of Ramban by opening up with a kasha on his words. Ksav Sofer often took over from where his father left off. Ramban asks that we find when the Torah describes the olah it says (Vayikrah 1:3): Im olah karbano min habakar, you should bring it from cattle.... He should bring it, v’yakriv oso liritzono lifnei Hashem, he should bring it willingly, before Hashem. Ramban asks: What does this word, “liritzono lifnei Hashem.”  Willingly before G-d. Chasam Sofer writes about this Ramban and how to understand it.

Deep Within

Ksav Sofer suggests a beautiful p’shat which I think is so relevant to us.  He quotes the famous words of the Rambam “makin oso ad she’omeir rotzeh ani.”  You can hit the gett refuser to make him do the mitzvah until he says, “I want.” The mefarshim ask that if the gett has to be given l’ratzon, willingly, why are you hitting him? The p’shat is that every single Jew wants to do what’s right in his heart. Any time a Jew does an aveirah, he doesn’t want to do that aveirah.  He doesn’t want to be mechaleil Shabbos.  He doesn’t want to speak lashon harah.  He doesn’t want to hurt someone else, etc.  But, the Yeitzer Harah got the best of him.  But, Hashem is aware that l’ritzono, says the Ksav Sofer, your deepest, deepest desire is to do what’s right, and when a person is aware that my deepest, deepest desire is to do what’s right, then he could be open to teshuva.  Then, he could get in touch with his deepest, deepest desire and recognize that Hahsem himself respects him and knows that he wants to do what’s right, and this is such a powerful lesson to know that l’ritzono l’fnei Hashem.  

A person must always know that you might have messed up, and you did an aveirah and you did something wrong. You could always do teshuva and you could always repent because Hashem knows l’retzono that you’re deepest want is to do what’s right and to never to do anything that’s wrong. This is such an important lesson in life.

4) Kohen Eats and Owner Forgiven

Ramban (Vayikrah 1:9) explains why is it that the kohanim were given parts to eat from the korban. We know Chazal explain that it’s as if you’re giving G-d a portion, but we also know that the mizbeach burns plenty of  things as well.  So, what’s the p’shat? The kohanim were the tzaddikim and the gedolei hador and the leaders of the generation and when they would eat your korban that you brought they would daven for you and they would pray for you that you would do teshuva and that your teshuva should be miskabeil and that you should become a better person because remember that the korbanos, mostly, were for people that did aveiros.  Some of them were to say thanks, but even in the thanks, for example that the woman brings after childbirth, the birds that she brings when she gives birth it’s because she swore she would never do it again and maybe she said nasty things to Hashem because of her pain.  But, most of the korbanos are to make up for sins. 

Therefore, it’s important that people should daven for us.  We find that gedolim daven for us.  The gemara tells us in many places if someone is sick in their house they should go to the gedolim to daven.  They’re not just people that learn Torah.  They’re people that uphold our nation.

Dovid Hamelech’s Request

Berachos (3b) says that Dovid was nimlach b’Sanhedrin and Rashi there says that he asked them to daven that my battles should be successful. You always want gedolim to be davening for you.  And, this is the idea of why the kohanim partake of some of the food that they get from the korbanos.  Obviously we support them also because they are the bnei Torah that supported the entire nation.

5) Faithful Birds

Ramban states that people bring Torim, doves, so why does the Torah call for them formany of the korbanos? There’s a lesson to be learned from all the animals, but, specifically, from the torim, from the doves you could learn that they are very faithful to their spouses, and Hashem appreciates this faithfulness. Klal Yisrael are nimshal to the dove. There is a certain faithfulness there. The korbanos are trying to reestablish that faithfulness between the Jews and Hashem.  They are not meant to make us feel like we’re bad people.  They’re trying to make us a way to reconnect to Hashem after doing an aveirah and to get back up again.  It’s true you went out of Mitzrayim, you became a nation, you built a nation, but everyone makes mistakes.  Even the Jews served the Eigel.  The korbanos show that a person could always fix whatever he did.  Say: I’m sorry.  You did something wrong.  Make amends and move on in life.  That’s the lessons of all these parshios


Rabbi Yosef Tropper is a rav and psychotherapist. Learn more and subscribe at ParshaThemes.com