Hebrew Roots/Torah observance/Vayikra
Vayikra/Leviticus 1:1-5:6[6:7] Yeshayahu/Isaiah 43:1-44:3; Romans 8:1-13
Vayikra,"And He Called,” also the name of this book, begins “Leviticus,” commonly called such because of its continual reference to the functions of the Levites. Much of this book details the ordinances that God gave Israel to make them a set-apart people from the rest of the nations which they were going to live near in the Promised Land.
Another name for the book of Leviticus is the “Torah of the Priests.” This is the name given to it in the lexicon of the Talmudic Sages, because most of the book deals with the laws of the Temple service and other laws relating to the priests, their service and their responsibilities. (The Stone Edition Tanakh) As Israel is a “Kingdom of Priests,” this means all the people, not only the Levitical Priests, can learn about serving God and need to, so as to understand what is required of them in worshipping Yahweh and walking in righteousness with Him.
Jewish children begin their study of the Torah, not with the book of Genesis, but with the book of Leviticus. This is based on the fact that sin is the first thing we need to learn how to deal with in our walk as a believer. We will never maintain our relationship if we do not know the way to restore it when we violate His commandments. The Rabbis consideration is that in a child’s purity he will receive the purity of Yahweh’s sacrificial laws and thereby the need to be holy.
As Israel is a “Kingdom of Priests,” this means all the people, not only the Levitical Priests, can learn about serving God and need to, so as to understand what is required of them in worshipping Yahweh and walking in righteousness with Him. The question has been asked, “Why should we as ‘Messianic believers’ have to read about the priesthood?” Because we are to become a kingdom of priests (1 Peter 2 & Exodus 19:5,6 etc.), doing service to our God. How else will we know how to fulfill our responsibilities if we do not read the Torah? The benefit today in studying the sacrificial system and priesthood, when their is no standing Temple then, is the understanding of God’s principles that it gives.
The Purpose of the Sacrifices
Leviticus is the Book of Yahweh’s grace to man. Throughout the Torah only the name Yahweh, the name representing His attribute of Mercy, is used in connection with offerings and never the name God which represents His attribute of judgment. The ancient pagans and many Christian believe that the purpose of animal sacrifices were to appease an angry and wrathful God. Such a concept is foreign to Hebraic thought. The Old Testament is full of expressions of the mercy and grace of Yahweh, therefore, grace and mercy are not attributes of His character only delineated in the New Testament, contrary to popular belief.
Many perceive Vayikra/Leviticus as a book of staunch “rules and regulations,” but when viewed as a critical component of Israel’s “constitution,"just like the Bill of Rights is perceived as a critical component of a nation’s constitution, perhaps Vayikra/Leviticus is not as bad or “demanding” as commonly thought.
The reason for our aversion to Leviticus is largely based upon our revulsion at the thought of animal sacrifice. The laws of sacrifice and sacrificing animals disconcert us. We prefer to think that the sacrifices were only to teach the Israelites about Yeshua, and we comfort ourselves with the notion that the ‘New Testament’ abolishes sacrifice. But this reality of the need of sacrifice is integral to the fact of man’s sin. The mess of the blood and guts involved in the sacrifice is illustrative of the mess and disembowelling of life which our sin causes. The correction and reversal of the results of sin cannot be done with out blood-shedding. How merciful is our Father that He ordains an animal to die in our place and how much more careful we might be if we saw that a life was taken each time we committed a trespass.
Does God require our gifts to appease Him or assuage Him? “If you have acted righteously, what have you given Him?” (Job 35:7); God does not become enriched by man’s largess.’ (Tanach, Stone Edition, ArtScroll Series, Mesorah Publicaitons, p. 243) The sacrificing of an animal was a substitute for the “Lamb” who was to come and it was through faith in the atonement offered through Him, that sins and trespasses were forgiven.
When the smell of the burnt sacrifice ascended to Yahweh, He took pleasure in the aroma of it. That aroma of flesh that was sacrificed was pleasant to Him. How much more when we put to death our flesh and sacrifice our pleasures so that our life ascends to Him as a smell-smelling sacrifice, an aroma that savours those around us.
The Meaning of Sacrifice
Sacrifices did not begin with the Tabernacle. Adam, Able, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses all offered animal sacrifices before this. This indicates that there was an understanding of what was required before Sinai, going back all the way to Adam.
Here begins the requirements of ‘sacrifices’. The English language does not have a word that accurately expresses the concept of a ‘korban’. The word “sacrifice” implies that the person bringing it is expected to deprive himself of something valuable — but God finds no joy in His children’s anguish or deprivation. “Offering” is more positive and closer to the mark, but it too falls short of the Hebrew word ‘korban’.
The word “korbon” has the root ‘karov’ which means “to bring near”, hence a “drawing close.” The sacrifices and offerings are intended to be the means to draw us “closer” to God. Sin is the main hindrance in coming into intimate fellowship with God, so Yahweh in His mercy made it possible for the sinner to bring a sacrifice which “if offered in the right spirit, is the medium whereby man attains closer nearness to the divine..” (Rabbi Hertz - The Penteteuch and Haftarah p.410)
It is important to understand that in our world today, if one does not acknowledge or come to a realization that he/she has missed the mark of obedience to Yahweh ‘ ordinances and commandments, they will not come forth to ask for forgiveness. They would not see a need to come forward; they would not see themselves as having trespassed Yahweh’ commandments or having erred.
The Burnt Offering Leviticus Chapter 1
The Burnt Offering or “ascension offering” is “olah” which means “go up”, “rise up”, “climb”, “ascend”, “sprout”, “come forth”, That teaches us that the olah offering is an offering that ascends to heaven. It also lifts the one who makes the sacrifice. It must, therefore, be offered by fire. Fire is a form of energy. In order for an offering to be pleasing, it must be given with joy and with the passion of our love for Him in our hearts. When Israel’s offering was pure and acceptable to Him, He acknowledged it by fire and consumed the sacrifice. He will reciprocate the offering of our love by consuming us with the passion of His love.
All aspects of the ordained sacrifice are a prophetic shadow-picture of Messiah’s offering and what a believer must do in our relationship with Him. A lamb was offered twice daily (Ex. 28:38-42) picturing our need to come to our Father in Heaven each day through the shed blood of Yeshua and offer our lives afresh in thanks and praise to Him (Heb. 13:15; Rom. 12:1-2). In Lev. 1:9 Yahweh required the legs and inwards of the animal to be washed in the laver. What this represent spiritually in the Believer’s life is the need for our daily walk and our inward parts to be cleansed by obedience to His Word.
The Grain Offering Leviticus:-6
Believers are at times likened unto grain, or more specifically, that of the harvest, as Yeshua says “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech Yahweh of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Loukas/Luke 10:).
Hopefully, we compose the first fruits of a great harvest of Believers, as we are to present ourselves as “an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Ephesians 5: 2).
This admonition is in complete line with the instruction Yahweh gave in relation to the grain offering. If the grain was to be given unto Yahweh baked, it was to be in the form of “unleavened cakes” or “unleavened wafers.” It was to be broken, oil was to be poured upon it, and it was to be a sweet offering to God. We as Believers are to be as the grain offering of unleavened bread presented before Yahweh. We are to be without sin and crushed (self-life broken), ready to emanate a pleasant aroma to our Heavenly Father, able, willing and ready to accomplish His tasks.
In 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 Paul said, “Thoroughly clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, just as you are unleavened. For Messiah our Pesach also has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness,but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." Paul here admonishes the Corinthians to search their hearts for the “leaven” of sin and remove it and remember Messiah, Who is our Passover Lamb sacrificed. He asks us to celebrate the festival as a community of unleavened bread with sincerity and truth.
Let us be instructed from the example of the grain offering and take this to heart. The unleavened bread brought before Yahweh represents us as forgiven Believers. The broken unleavened bread as an offering likewise hopefully represents us, who are broken and willing vessels ready to fulfill the Father’s tasks. When we understand this level of Vayikra/Leviticus, it is not a codification of “strict rules and regulations” in the least. It is rather important instruction for all generations of Believers!
The Meal Offering was baked by fire. (see Isa. 53:5; Psa.22:15; Luke 56-24:1; John 6:63) It is the fire which transforms the crushed grain to become one whole loaf as a corporate Body presented before Him. (see Matt. 5:10-13; Jn.16:33; 2 Tim. 3:12). We have a choice, according to our spiritual resources, to offer the more costly sacrifice of complete dedication unto Him or to contribute our single grain to be mixed and made into a communal offering by His Spirit with the service of the rest of the Body.
Covenant of Salt Leviticus 2:13 – Brit Mehlach.
Rambam says (SEC pg. 553) that salt has 2 properties. It is destructive because it prevents plants from growing and can corrode most materials. And it is a preservative. The Covenant of Salt teaches that the Altar service preserves Israel.
Yahshua tells us in Matthew 5:13, we are to be the “salt of the earth” – we are to be the preservers of Yahweh’s covenant. If we followed this Covenant of Salt analogy, we, as the “salt of the earth” are to: Prevent from growing those things that are against Yahweh’s Torah. Corrode and ultimately destroy those things that are against Yahweh’s Torah. Preserve those things that are of and for Yahweh’s Torah.
Peace Offerings Leviticus chapter 3
The Peace Offering or Fellowship Offering was a voluntary offering brought by a person or a group of people where one desired fellowship or communion with Yahweh. The purpose of the peace offering is to show the person’s love toward Yahweh. It is also to show gratitude for Yahweh’s goodness and to draw the person closer to Yahweh. This offering may be called a peace offering or “shalamim” because it has the spiritual capacity to bring peace to the world.The person who brings a peace offering is not motivated by a need for atonement for sin. The person is motivated by a sense of wholeness or a desire for wholeness.
Only a part of the peace offering was given to the temple. The rest was eaten anywhere in the court or within the walls of Yerushalayim. Through this offering one could enjoy fellowship with the Eternal and dine with family and friends. This offering brings enjoyment to one’s intimate relationship with the Eternal. The Peace offering basically says: You are my joy and my enjoyment. I want to be near you together with my family and my friends, take time in your presence, worship you, and receive your blessings.
There can be no peace though between a man and his Creator until a man’s sin is first atoned for. Therefore, for the Peace Offering to occur one had to be in a spiritual state of peace, good health or balance before God with regard to sin. Only then can we have true fellowship with our Heavenly Father, and this occurs through the sacrificial work of Yeshua the Messiah and a man’s identification with or appropriation of that work to himself (of which immersion or baptism is a picture [see Rom. 6:3-6]). In this regard, read Ephesians 2:14; Philippians 3:10; 2:5-8; 4:2; 2:14. Yeshua is the Prince of Peace (see Isa. 9:6)
Sin Offering Leviticus Chapter Four
The Sin Offering was presented for unintentional or intentional sin for which no restitution was possible, but it had to be accompanied by repentance or divine forgiveness was withheld (Num. 15:30). The Trespass or Guilt Offering was for a inadvertent or careless sin of a lesser degree for which restitution could be made. According to Talmudic tradition based on Torah, a sin offering is not needed if a sin was committed accidentally and without intent. This could also be applied to someone who did not know about the sin. On the other hand, a sin offering is needed if the sin was committed – “inadvertently” – as a result of carelessness.
According to Rambam, an unintentional sin still blemishes the soul and it requires purification. If the sinner regarded Yahweh’s commands with more care, the unintentional sin would not have occurred. The concept is that people are careful about things that matter to them. However, they are careless about things that do not matter to them. Many people are careless about honoring Shabbat, if they honor it at all, because it does not matter to them. This even applies to the church’s, so called, “sabbath” of Sunday.
Sin in and of itself can never be forgiven. It is the person who sinned that can be forgiven. Sin can never be accepted by the Eternal. Sin must be removed from man in order for him to be completely forgiven and restored.
The Believer’s Access to Yahweh Though it was impossible that the blood of bulls and goats would take away sin, it was neither by the blood of goats or calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of the red heifer sprinkling the unclean sanctifies to the purifying of the flesh: then how much more shall the blood of Messiah Yeshua. Who through the eternal Ruach haKodesh offered Himself without spot to Yahweh, to purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living Yahweh. And for this cause, He is our mediator today of the renewed testament with the people of Yisrael, that by means of death for the redemption of transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of a testator.
For the instructions of sacrifice having a shadow of good things to come and not the very image of the things, could never with those sacrifices, which were offered year by year continually make those that came thereto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered?
We know that the substitutionary form of forgiveness found in Wayiqra was temporary and, of course, pointed to a greater promise of Messiah Yeshua. When you came forth with a sacrificial offering; it was an acknowledgement of sin as well as it presented an opportunity for the confession of that sin(s). It showed also a faith and belief that Yahweh was just and faithful in His promise to forgive. Yahweh’ voice, spoken then through the mouth of Moses and His preserved written words for us today, called us to repentance, then as well as today. But Yeshua’s sacrifice is wholly different, higher and greater, transcending the earthly sacrifices spoken of in Leviticus. Messiah “has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” (Hebrews 9:26) He loved us “and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” (Ephesians 5:2) He has made atonement by “better sacrifices than these,” (Hebrews 9:23) even by His own body and blood, “a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God.” (Romans 12:1)
Therefore, you can draw near to God “knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Messiah. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world.” (1 Peter 1:18–20)
Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Yeshua, by a new and living way which He has consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; and having a high priest over the house of Elohim; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for He is faithful that promised) Hebrews 10:19-23
The lesson to glean from this week’s Torah lesson is the depth and great lengths of the heavenly Father’s call for each of our lives. He is not, willing that any should perish, but that all should have everlasting life. The kohanim/priests were designated for the sole purpose of bringing restoration and reconciliation between the people of Yisrael and Yahweh. What a calling! Reconciling the Children of Yisrael back into a proper relationship with Yahweh.
Yahweh’s love and compassion is such that He reaches out to man to make it possible for all to come into relationship with Him. He made provisions so that even the poorest and most economically disadvantaged individuals in Yisrael could bring an offering. This is seen clearly from the fact that a burnt-offering (Chapter 1) could be fulfilled through bringing a bull, a goat, or a dove, depending on one’s means. See the offering for fowls, Leviticus 1:14. (Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? Yeshua said. Matthew 10:29). How wonderful is our God that no one is excluded or placed beyond His mercy and compassion if they will but come to repentance and exercise faith in His sacrificial work for atonement of sin.