Parashat Vayikra (And He Called)
Vayikra (Leviticus) 1:1–5:26
Haftarah: Isaiah 43:21–44:23
This week, we begin reading from the Book of Leviticus. I was talking to a good friend of mine about it, and he rightly said that it will be a challenge to write about this book as it is full of nuance regarding all the different laws pertaining to the sacrificial system, which in turn, reveals the level of holiness that God requires. My reply to my friend was that yes, this is a challenging text, but the greater the challenge, the greater the reward!
I encourage you, reader, not to give up when you encounter something from God’s Word that is difficult to understand; instead, dig deeper into the meaning and purpose of it. I personally believe that the more we will do so, the more the Holy Spirit will reveal new things to us in order to build and train us in His ways.
In our Parasha this week, we find the instructions that God gave to Moses, which were intended for the children of Israel. These instructions are in relation to different types of sacrifices that the children of Israel were to make in order to approach God and receive temporary forgiveness of sin. The sacrifices are divided into the more voluntary types such as burnt (Leviticus 1), grain (Leviticus 2), and peace offerings (Leviticus 3), and the required types such as sin and guilt offerings (Leviticus 4 & 5). As we will continue to read the entire book of Leviticus, we will find even more fine details of God’s requirements, which makes me wonder, "How can anyone meet these requirments in the way God desires them to be met?"
This brings me to the Haftara portion, which opens with Isaiah 43:21:
The people whom I formed for Myself will declare My praise.
God formed Israel in order to declare His praise. Yet, as we know, we failed to do the task that we were called to do.
Yet you have not called on Me, Jacob; but you have become weary of Me, Israel. You have not brought to Me the sheep of your burnt offerings, nor have you honored Me with your sacrifices. I have not burdened you with offerings, nor wearied you with incense. You have not bought Me sweet cane with money, nor have you satisfied Me with the fat of your sacrifices; rather, you have burdened Me with your sins, you have wearied Me with your wrongdoings.
As we can read from this passage from Isaiah, Israel failed to honor God with their sacrifices. While these verses do not speak to why Israel failed to make the sacrifices, I believe the people of Israel simply refused to honor God out of selfishness, rather than honor Him with a pure heart. Yet, the next verse gives me great hope, not just for Israel and myself, but also the entire universe:
I, I alone, am the one who wipes out your evil doings (crimes) for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.
In the same way God provided Adam and Eve with sacrificial garments of skin after they sinned (Genesis 3:21), so He did for Israel by providing a sacrifice in the image of His Son as atonement for sin. This He has done not just for our sake, but for His own namesake!
I would like to close with a beautiful passage from Isaiah 44:1-3:
But now listen, Jacob, My servant, and Israel, whom I have chosen: This is what the LORD says, He who made you and formed you from the womb, who will help you: ‘Do not fear, Jacob My servant, and Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring, and My blessing on your descendants...
The term “Jeshurun” is yet another reference for Israel, which contains the root in Hebrew "ישר" which means to go straight. This could be read as a call for Israel to walk straight in the ways of the LORD and, as we read, God promises to pour out His Holy Spirit on Israel’s offspring. When we connect everything together, it is only after one accepts the sacrifice that God has provided that one can receive the gift of the Holy Spirit in their lives, who will guide him or her to walk straight in the ways of the LORD.
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