BOOK OF LEVITICUS
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.
Behar begins with the laws of the Sabbatical year and the Jubilee year. During the Sabbatical year, which occurs every seventh year, the land must lie fallow, as an acknowledgment of God as the Creator and owner of all. After every 49 years (seven cycles of seven years), there is a 'Jubilee' year, in which slaves go free, certain debts are canceled, and land returns to its original titleholders. As the portion continues, further laws are given pertaining to debts and property: one must help people avoid debt-servitude, and one must help people to avoid losing their property. Interest and oppressive financial practices are prohibited. Behar ends with a general reminder to keep God's laws, especially Shabbat and the prohibition on idolatry.
Copyright: Kolel, The Adult Centre for Liberal Jewish Learning.
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.