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Parashat Vayikra - 5775

My friends,

This is a very special Shabbat. If you should attend services, you will note that we read from three Sifrei Torah. From the first Torah we read the portion of the week, Vayikra, from Leviticus. From the second Torah we read a passage that deals with Rosh Hodesh, being that this is the first day in the month of Nissan, from the book of Numbers. From the third Torah we read a passage from the Book of Exodus, where the Israelites are commanded to begin their religious calendar with the month of Nissan, because this is the month when they will be liberated from slavery.

Last week we completed the Book of Exodus, and now we begin reading from the third book of the Torah, known as Vayikra, or Leviticus. It is also known as Torah Kohanim, the Laws of the Priests, because many rules deal with the role of the priest in the religious life of the community and the various acrifices that the people may bring to the Temple.

There are several types of offerings. One might chose to sacrifice an animal, or a grain offering, a peace offering, a thanksgiving offering, a sin offering, etc. In chapter four it details the kind of offerings that are presented to ask forgiveness for having unwittingly committed a wrong.

If the anointed priest incurs a wrong, thus causing the community to sin , there is a process in the offering he presents.

If the community unwittingly commits a wrong, it details the offering the community presents to be forgiven.

If any individual commits a wrong unwittingly, there is a description of the offering he/she brings to be forgiven.

When the head of the people (the Nasi, or president) commits a wrong unwittingly, the Torah describes what he must do to be forgiven.

It is interesting to note that for the priest, community and individual, each paragraph begins with the word "if". Because it is possible that a person , priest or community , may live a life where they do not commit any wrongs and, even if they do, they might not affect others. For the Nasi, however - the president, the ruler, the one who occupies a political position, a position of power - the paragraph does not begin with the word "if" but it begins with the word "when". It is telling us that power corrupts. It is assumed that the ruler will err. It is not a question of "if" but just a question of "when". The Nasi's errors have impacts on his/her subjects.

We are going through some difficult times. We hope and pray that our leaders' errors do not cause long-lasting harm to our community.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram