Torah Portion: Vayikra (And He Called) Lev. 1-5

HafTorah: Isaiah 43:21-44:23

Tonight we begin the third book of Moses. In English we read Leviticus which is a Greek word meaning relating to the Levites. At the time of Yeshua it would have been called Torath Ha Kohanim. It is basically the laws and rules dealing with sacrifices and the duties of the priests.

An interesting point is that in the time of Messiah even up until today, when a Jewish boy begins studying in a religious school this is the first book studied. This is the book that would have been Messiah’s first formal exposure to the Torah. Why this book? Why not begin with Genesis? This book teaches us of the love of G-d, that He provided a way for us to come into His presence and be able to fellowship with Him. Especially for us as believers its should help us understand more deeply what Yeshua did for us when He, through His death and the covering of His blood, died for us.

Speaking of G-d’s love, the very first word of this book gives us a hint of the Father’s love for His people. Vayikra is two Hebrew words meaning, “and He called.” This is how G-d, speaking with Moses, is introduced. What hint might we see in this, “and He called?” Notice only after He called did He speak to Moses. This is like a friend calling to a friend, a loving way to start a meeting. This word is spelled with four Hebrew letters, yod, kaf, resh and aleph. It is nteresting to look at another meeting between G-d and another man in Numbers 23:4. Here we see G-d meeting Balam on the mountain. In this verse, the word for meet is yod, kaf, resh. The pronunciation is very close to the word used to call Moses but with a letter missing. This word with Balam in English is met, not called. It is more like a chance meeting with a stranger or casual acquaintance. It portrays none of the closeness of G-d calling to Moses in Lev. 1:1 of our reading. If we look back to G-d’s calling to us in our salvation did it have this warm intimate feeling of the call to Moses or was it the more distant call as to Balam. G-d speaks to us with that same loving call as He did Moses, inviting us into His presence.

I also asked you to look at the sacrifices (Korban) listed in this Torah section. They also are an expression of G-d’s love for His children. If an Israelite wished to go into the temple or Mishkan was it possible to just approach the Father in their flesh, so to speak? Or did they go through some presentation first? G-d here in these sacrifices was providing a way for unclean people to come into the presence of a perfect Holy G-d and not be destroyed. The sacrifices provided that way.

For whatever reason the person wanted to approach G-d in His house he had to be completely clean in a ritual sense. These sacrifices were never meant to cover a person’s sin but rather to provide a way for him to approach the Father and there, one on one bring his petitions before G-d.

So let us look at these sacrifices mentioned:

Burnt Offering (Olah) Lev. 1:1-17 what does this mean, Olah? It means to rise. This was an offering used to demonstrate a person’s complete and utter surrender to G-d. Nothing was kept back. Everything was consumed on the altar. Usually these were brought with great joy. (Psalms 27:6) This offering was done with the person laying his hands on the head of the animal – this is my animal and it represents me on the altar. This was not an offering for sin but complete surrender to G-d. The sacrifice did not bring salvation or forgiveness (Heb 10:4) but they allowed the person to approach G-d.

Peace Offering: (Shalom)This was a voluntary offering. The person kept some of the offered animal for a meal between him, the priests and G-d. It also was not brought for a sin offering. This was the only offering where a person could partake.

Sin Offering: This was brought when a person inadvertently broke a law of G-d. This was a purification offering. (Lev. 14:49, Num. 3120, Num. 19:12) It made it possible for the person or object to be made clean after becoming unclean from something.   No offering could be brought for intentional sin. The only thing a person could do for an intentional sin was to repent and seek the mercy of G-d.

Guilt Offering (ashem) Lev 5, was used when G-d’s property or G-d’s name were misused. The person must make reparations for their breaking of trust. It could only be made after reparations and repentance had occurred. Failure to testify in court, breaking a vow are some examples of when a guilt offering would have been brought. It did not take away the sin but offered a way to come into G-d’s presence and repent after setting things straight.

Grain Offering: Lev 2:1 This offering was brought by someone who could not afford an animal Minchah (means gift). No blood was involved. Bread represented life. Bread and wine gave the picture of the altar as G-d’s table. Priests offered part and kept part for themselves.

As we can see all these offerings were to be used as a way to come into G-d’s presence not for forgiveness of sin. Yeshua now performs that service for each of us – providing a way to the Father.