Torah Portion: Vayikra Leviticus 1:1-5:26
HafTorah: Isaiah 43:21-44:23
Here we begin the third book of Torah known in English as Leviticus or pertaining to the priests. It is a hand book for the priests who served G-d and the people, in the Mishkan and later in the Temple. So why take the time to study a book concerned with instructions about a system that no longer exists? I pray that as a nation of priests (I Peter 2:9) we will be able to grasp what these verses say to us as believers today.
In this portion we cover sacrifices, when to bring them, what to bring and why to bring them. First let’s talk about why to bring them. What was G-d’s purpose in instituting this system? Did He need sacrifices? No, G-d had no such need. In fact we read in Hosea 6:6 where G-d says He desires our kindness rather than sacrifice. In Isaiah 1:11 He takes no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs. So why did He set up this system? To answer this question it is important to realize that sacrifices were not about Him but really about us. The word itself is Korban. Some of you in your answers talked about this. The word Korban has at its root Karov or “to draw near.” So the word gives us a clue. The sacrifice is to draw us near to the Father, to allow us into His presence physically and spiritually. Why is this important? The whole purpose of our existence is to become more and more like G-d, to take on, as far as possible, the character of G-d. We read two weeks ago about the attributes of G-d in Exodus 34:6-7. That gives us a picture of who we are to be. How do we come to take on those characteristics? We do this by being close to Him, by learning, listening, acting like Him. But why is this our goal in life? This should be our goal because this is the only way to bring light into the world. So the sacrifices are for us really and not so much for G-d.
When we look at the first sacrifice brought by man to G-d we get some idea of this purpose. In Genesis 4:2-8 we see Cain and Abel. It is interesting that Cain apparently was the first to have the idea of bringing sacrifices to G-d. However, he brought an inferior offering while Abel brought an offering that was accepted by G-d. What was Cain’s problem? We often hear it was because it was not a blood sacrifice. Maybe that is right or maybe it was because he did not bring the best he had.
Surely G-d didn’t need his best grain. But G-d does, not because He needs it for Himself, but because it is a symbol of how we see Him. Do we think, “well as long as I bring something it will be okay.” No, G-d expects us in our living sacrifice state to give Him our all, not the leftovers. Remember, this really is about us and our attitude toward the Father. As Cain found out, attitude can be a gateway to sin. G-d expects our best and our all. When we read about the offerings or sacrifices of an animal it tells us blood was put all around the altar, not just here and there but everywhere. This was to teach us, again, that we are to live fully for Him.
In the burnt offering we see this concept clearly. Everything was given nothing was held back – completely consumed. The offering was for us, to teach us the cost of not living our life correctly. The person put his hands on the head of the animal. A price was about to be paid. This is not something to be taken lightly but was serious, to teach us that our life is not our own but we are slaves (avadim) to G-d now. Our lives are to be lived for Him. Even an inadvertent sin was serious. Even if we missed it because we were careless or did not know that was no excuse. It teaches us how important this is, how we live, what we do. G-d expects the best from us.
These same principles are applicable today in our lives. Live for Him who made you.