VaYikra (Leviticus)The Book of Leviticus, or Levites, is concerned with the ritual laws and the sacrificial cult. It describes the details of offering sacrifices. The book's emphasis is on purity and holiness. Even though the sacrificial system was abandoned with the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70 CE, Leviticus continued to be an important influence on Jewish life: nearly half of the 613 commandments are found in it and much of the Talmud is based on it. In Europe, it was traditional for children beginning their Jewish learning to start with the book of Va-Yikra. There are twenty-seven chapters, divided into ten parashiyot. The parashiyot of Va-Yikra are: VaYikra, Tzav, Shemini, Tazria, Metzora, Achare Mot, Kedoshim, Emor, Behar, and Bechukotai.


Behar-Behukotai: God is both Israel's hope and the source for Divine purification.

Behukotai takes on a different form. The opening verses describe all the blessings and rewards that will benefit Israel as long as they uphold the covenant and follow God's commands. However, following this list of great benefits is a passage which our tradition identifies as the tochechah - 'rebuke' or 'reproof'. It is a much longer list of the curses and terrible punishments that will befall the people of Israel if they do not follow the mitzvot. The portion concludes with additional teachings about vows, tithes and gifts.

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These summaries and introductions are used with permission of Kolel: The Adult Centre for Liberal Jewish Learning in Toronto, Canada. Kolel is a dynamic, pluralistic, egalitarian institution where men and women engage in Jewish learning which values both traditional and liberal interpretations. Kolel is a gateway into a richer expression of Judaism for each individual, wherever their journey of Jewish discovery may take them.