It's the sacrifice season; the Chumash aptly described/summarised by my friend as 'give it to the kohen and he'll offer it up!' But jokes aside, the fact that the parasha is called Vayikra is very interesting. Now apparently a sedra is named after its first significant word (and presumably this is true of a first sedra in a chumash too). Thus, parshas Korach is called Korach despite its first word being 'vayikach' because vayikach is seemingly too common to head and describe a sedra. Taking all this into account, why is our parasha called Vayikra (lit. ‘and He called’); there are surely many times when HaShem called to people - why should this word be significant enough to entitle the parsha?

Next question; let’s name the topics which are contained in our sedra and simply ask what is the connection between them; sacrifices (olah, minchah, shlamim, korbanos for sinning unintentionally, korban chatas), testifying in court, oaths, using Beis Hamikdash property (kodshim) inappropriately, theft. Is there any connection between these seemingly disparate topics? [Here too, there is an assumption in the question that there is one theme running throughout a sedra which might not necessarily be true; in Eretz Yisrael in the days of the gemarra they used to finish leining the Torah only once every three years, and thus the sedras were presumably split up differently too. But nevertheless, in Bavel they finished the Torah once a year like we all do nowadays, and it makes sense that the topics in a sedra would/should be connected.]

Maybe to try and answer these questions we should go back in time...to last week's double sedra Vayakhel-Pekudei where we learnt that Shabbes overrides the building of the mishkan; no work for the mishkan is to be done on Shabbes. Why is this so; surely the mishkan is the microcosm of our goal in this world; to bring down HaShem's Presence on this earth; why should Shabbes override this? Explains Rav Munk that the mishkan symbolises the dimension of space, whilst Shabbes represents that of time. Space is by nature physical, given that we can essentially create/fashion it. Time, however, is more spiritual in essence (devoid of physicality; you can't touch time) in that HaShem dictates it; He decides when Shabbes is ['Mekadesh HaShabbes'], and He devolves to us the power to declare Yom Tov - but it was given by Him. After all, we cannot fashion nor create more time. Thus, given that the dimension of time is at a higher spiritual point than that of space, so too does Shabbes supersede the building of the mishkan.

After the mishkan is built and HaShem Rests there (very end of parshas Pekudei) we feel the closeness between us and HaShem, He rests within our camp, so to speak. This might be the theme running throughout the sedra; the proximity between us and HaShem. For example, giving witness (5;1) is where us humans are relied upon to fix truth of an event in the eyes of Beis Din to establish what the Torah view is on any given case; this establishing of truth is a role of HaShem, and establishing the Torah view essentially means establishing what HaShem‘s View is on any given case. So too, the using of kodshim (property of the mikdash) for one's own benefit (5; 15) is an abuse of our ability to use physical things (sacrifices, etc) to bring ourselves close to HaShem; hence the korbanos in the parsha too. Theft might also demonstrate this nicely; what is wrong with stealing? If everything belongs to HaShem, I am not stealing from you because it belongs to HaShem, not you! Thus, for HaShem to give an object to someone it must be that He has trusted us to own His things. And this is real ownership to the extent that stealing from them is theft. Another show of the seeming proximity/a relationship between man and HaShem.

But with this ‘utopian’ proximity there is a certain danger of Bnei Yisrael feeling above and beyond where they really are. I'm not talking about ga'avah (pride/haughtiness) but a feeling of being closer to HaShem than one really is, when one misjudges their own level spiritually. It could be that this is another reason the mishkan construction had to stop on Shabbes; to remind us that HaShem, Controller of time, is still 'way above us;' and so there is a day where everything has to stop - even construction of the mishkan - so we can realise that HaShem is the Creator and Master of the World.

This is perhaps where the name of the parasha comes in. The reason that this word Vayikra is deemed so important as to be able to entitle the sedra is the small Alef at the very end of the word Vayikra. The midrash learns out from the word ‘vayikra' the greatness of a tzaddik over angels, but (Ba’al Haturim) Moshe wanted the aleph removed so the word would be read as ‘Vayikar,' which would mean that HaShem chanced upon Moshe, I.e. the transient way the Torah describes how HaShem appears to non-Jewish prophets e.g. Bilam. Moshe did not want it to seem that HaShem really called down to ‘lowly Moshe,’ and so wanted to remove the aleph. HaShem, however, wanted that the aleph should be in full, to credit Moshe with the fact that HaShem had called directly to Moshe. The compromise reached between HaShem and Moshe was that the aleph would be written in small. Thus, the danger of feeling too proud by our proximity to HaShem is put in its place in the very first word of the sedra in that Moshe did not feel himself worthy of being described as having been called directly by HaShem - and if he did not feel worthy at his level, then the Bnei Yisrael are to learn the same lesson. And this is taught at the very beginning of the sedra and indeed becomes the title of the sedra to give us that perspective throughout the rest of the sedra in its bringing up of topics which imply the proximity between us and HaShem. Have a great Shabbes,

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