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.


Tzav: Passover orients us towards that great day of redemption for all the world.

In Parashat Tzav, the various types of korbanot (sacrificial offerings) that were discussed in the previous portion are visited again. However this time Moses is speaking specifically to Aaron and his sons, the Cohanim or Priests, while last time Moses was addressing the entire people. Since he is now talking to the 'professionals,' the information has more detail and is geared more specifically to the responsibilities of Priestly service. These details discussed include the taking of the ashes from the altar out of the camp, what the priests are to wear, rules for who may eat the priestly portion of the sacrificial offerings and how it is to be eaten, and the importance of keeping the fire going on the altar. The parasha ends with a description of the consecration of the Tabernacle and the ordination of Aaron and his sons as priests. The Mishkan is now open for business.

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.

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