3. SHABBAT READINGS & COMMENTARY

Friday, March 31, 2006 | 
VaYikra (And He called): Leviticus 1:1–5:26; Isaiah 43:21–44:23

With this week’s portion VaYikra we begin the book Leviticus, “Torat HaCohenim” (the Law of the Priests). This book includes instructions for the priests’ ministry in the tabernacle and later the temple.

Many Christians skip over these dry chapters as many believe it doesn’t concern them. Yet, the Jew recites these fundamental texts every year. Let us not over skip those precious chapters, they are also God’s living Word – eternal and valid for today!

The burnt offering shall be from the herd or flock, and “male without a defect.” The poor, like Yeshua’s parents, were able to sacrifice the “turtledoves or from young pigeons” (1:14). Than came the grain offering in Chapter 2, it was more a gourmet with “fine flour, pour oil and frankincense.”

In verse 11 we read about a command saying: “…for you shall not offer up in smoke any leaven or any honey as an offering by fire to the LORD." Why? The Jewish sages asked themselves and came up with these reasons:

First, the leaven, which rises, is similar to pride and arrogance. Honey symbolizes food that arouses the (evil) drive in man. That’s why there is no place for leaven and honey in the sanctuary of God.

Second, Rambam claims it is because those two elements were used in idol sacrifices.

Also in the New Testament we find a hint of leaven, which should be removed from us – like during Passover – so that we can present ourselves worthy before a Holy God (1 Corinthians 5:7).

In these passages we find two other interesting verses: “Every grain offering of yours, moreover, you shall season with salt, so that the salt of the covenant of your God shall not be lacking from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.” (2:13) Every grain offering shall be seasoned with salt!

This is how Jews bless the bread on Shabbat. They season the broken bread with salt. The Jewish sages compare this with our house being a temple: our table shall be as an altar and our food shall be as a (grain) offering, brought to the table of the altar.

They go on to say that salt preserves the food. The salt on the offerings indicate its eternality as it was given as an atonement for our sins.

In the New Testament, in his sermon on the mount, Yeshua called the true believers the “salt of earth.” (Matthew 6)

Third, we find the command in chapter 3, “you shall not eat any blood!” (verse 17) because the “life is in the blood,” as we read about later in Deuteronomy 12:23. This applies also to strangers living among the Jews: “And any man from the house of Israel, or from the aliens who sojourn among them, who eats any blood, I will set My face against that person… For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.” (Leviticus 17:10-14)

The three commands mentioned have eternal value – as it is written – let us follow it even today!

In our portion from the prophets, we see that the people did not obey “Rather you have burdened Me with your sins” (v. 24). But the merciful God answers: “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins” (v.25). Hallelujah!
- Michael Schneider -

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