Parashat Vayikra (and He called) Leviticus 1:1-5:26)
Haftarah: Isaiah 43:21-44:23
This week we begin the third book of the Pentateuch- Leviticus. The main theme is the work that takes place at the Tabernacle or later on in the Temple. The primary aspect of this is the offerings and sacrifices. The prophetic reading opens up with a statement that Israel failed to take seriously enough her need for the sacrificial system that HaShem provided. In fact, G-d scolds them for growing weary of this work. What was the cause for this attitude and behavior? Isaiah says that the people forgot that it is only HaShem that can erase the sins of people,
“I, I am He (Who) wipes your transgressions for My sake and your sins I will not remember.”
In essence this passage deals with G-d’s displeasure with the people who take lightly the grace which He makes available to His people. This tendency is still very present within the believing community. We hear so much about this grace which brings about the forgiveness of sins that we often take it for granted. Chapter forty-three of Isaiah ends by informing the reader that such behavior will bring about HaShem’s severe punishment. Even though HaShem does discipline His people, notice how immediately after promising this judgment He moves to comfort the people in the opening verses of chapter 44 (see Isaiah 43:1-4). Yes G-d will judge His people and punish them harshly, Israel is the example of this, but one needs to remember that HaShem’s mercy and love will once more reach out to His people offering them forgiveness and redemption. It is very significant that in the next section of the haftarah that G-d is spoken of in the terms that He is,
“Thus says the L-rd, King of Israel, and His Redeemer-the L-rd of Hosts, I am the first and I am the Last, besides Me there are not any gods.” Isaiah 44:6
This verse raises an interesting question. If HaShem is the King of Israel, then just who is His Redeemer? The answer is Messiah. It is most significant that this Redeemer (Messiah) is also called the L-rd of Hosts. The rabbis are aware of this problem for them which speaks of the special unity between G-d and Messiah. This is a clear reference to the divinity of Messiah and the fact that Messiah must be included in the Godhead of G-d the Father, G-d the Son, and G-d the Holy Spirit.
In an effort to solve this difficulty some English translations of the Hebrew text translated by the rabbis such as the Stone Edition of the T’nach (Old Testament) translate the phrase “His Redeemer” (actually one word in Hebrew) as “its Redeemer“. This is an effort to say that the Redeemer mentioned in this verse is Israel’s Redeemer i.e. another reference to HaShem, rather than attributing this verse as a reference to Messiah. This is incorrect according to Hebrew grammar, which demands that that the verse is speaking of another one in addition to HaShem. This fact was recognized by John who in the book of Revelation referred to Yeshua three times as the Alpha and Omega (the first and the last).
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