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Torah Commentary Blog

Parashat Vayikra (March 19, 2016)
by Missy Bell

VAYIKRA IS THE FIRST PORTION in the book of Leviticus, also known as Vayikra. The building of the Tabernacle, or Mishkan, has just been completed at the end of Exodus, and the Israelites are left wondering about the purpose of the space. We find out the answer pretty quickly in the first chapters of Leviticus: making sacrifices to God. Vayikra outlines five different types of sacrifices: the burnt offering, the meal offering, the sacrifice of well-being, the sin offering and the penalty offering. Each of these sacrifices involves the priests burning a food item, such as an animal or flour, on the altar and then offering it to God on behalf of the person making the sacrifice. The Hebrew word for sacrifice, korban, comes from the same root as karov, meaning “near.” It is thought that the purpose of these sacrifices was to bring the Israelites closer to God.

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