SONSINO’S TORAH NOTES: VAYIKRA, Lev. 1:1-5:26
1. Vayikra is the first Torah portion of the Book of Leviticus which deals primarily with animal sacrifices. The book contains one of the most obscure and irrelevant (for our times) texts in the Hebrew Bible, while featuring some of the loftiest ethical passages, like Lev.19.
2. We do not know what was the original purpose of animal sacrifices in the Ancient Near East: some say, it was simply a means of feeding the gods; others stress the value of propitiation or reverence. When the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, a rabbinic “Mitzvah” system replaced the old sacrificial cult.
3. In the Hebrew word, VAYIKRA, the letter ALEF at the end, is often written in a smaller size than the other letters. The reason is not known. Rabbenu Asher ben Yehiel (14th cent. Toledo), in his commentary, states that the small size reflects the humility of Moses. If he was, we should be too.
4. “The Lord called to Moses” (Lev. 1:1): Rabbi Akiba taught: Better that they should call you to go up, than they should tell you to go down. That applies to all of us in life too (Lev. Rab. 1: 5-6).