Parshat Vayikra Summary

Parshat Vayikra is the 1st parsha in Sefer Vayikra (also known as Leviticus).

This parsha is verses Leviticus 1:1 – 5:26, or a total of 111 verses.

Here is a brief summary for each aliyah.

The beginning of Leviticus explains which animals can be brought for which types of offerings. In the next week’s parsha, Tzav, there will be more details about the animal and meal offerings.

Aliyah 1: Leviticus 1:1 – 1:13, 13 verses

Moses and the Jewish people completed building the Tabernacle at the end of the Book of Exodus. God now calls to Moses from the within the Tabernacle. He explains to Moses details about various animal offerings that the Jewish people should bring.

The first category of offerings is the Elevation Offering (based on the Hebrew word “olah” which means “go up”).

This category of offerings is also known as Burnt Offerings since the entire animal is burnt on the outer altar.

The Elevation Offering can be brought from male cattle, sheep, or goats.

Parshat Vayikra

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Aliyah 2: Leviticus 1:14 – 2:6, 10 verses

The previous reading listed the animals that can be brought as Elevation Offerings.

The birds that can be brought as Elevation Offerings are turtledoves and doves.

In addition wheat can be brought as an Elevation Offering. The wheat elevation offering may be prepared in 4 different ways: ground flour, oven-baked, pan-baked, deep pan-baked. These offerings also include olive oil and frankincense with them.

Aliyah 3: Leviticus 2:7 – 2:16, 10 verses

The wheat offerings are not totally burnt on the Altar. Rather, the priest removes a small portion and burns it on the Altar. The remainder of the offering is eaten by the priests.

The flour offerings must be made from unleavened flour. They are salted but may not have any fruit honey mixed into them.

Aliyah 4: Leviticus 3:1 – 3:17, 17 verses

The next category of offering is the Peace Offering (based on the Hebrew word “shelamim” which means “complete or peace”).

The Peace Offering is brought from male or female cattle, sheep, or goats. A portion of the innards is removed and burnt on the Altar.

The rest of the animal is divided between the priests and those who brought the offering.

Aliyah 5: Leviticus 4:1 – 4:26, 26 verses

The next category of offerings is the Sin Offering. There are different offerings for different people:

  • the High Priest brings a bull
  • the whole congregation, represented by the elders, brings a young bull
  • a ruler brings a male goat

Aliyah 6: Leviticus 4:27 – 5:10, 19 verses

An individual who sins unintentionally brings a female goat or female sheep for a sin offering.

There are 3 sins that have a special category of sin offering. Those sins are:

  • false testimony
  • contaminating holy things
  • false oaths

The sin offering for these sins is a “variable offering.” That is, the cost of the offering depends on what the person who sinned can afford.

If the person is wealthy enough then the required offering is a female goat or sheep. If he cannot afford the animal, then he may bring either two turtledoves or two young doves.

Aliyah 7: Leviticus 5:11 – 5:26, 16 verses

If the person cannot afford the bird offering, then he may bring a wheat flour offering.

The final offering discussed in this parsha is the Guilt Offering (in Hebrew, “asham”). This offering is brought by a person who made unauthorized use of holy property.

A person who may have sinned, but is not sure, also brings a Guilt offering.

Haftarah Summary

Isaiah 43:21 – 44:23
The prophet begins by reminding Israel the real purpose of the animal offerings in the Tabernacle and the Temple. God made the Jewish people but they instead chose to worship idols. They actually fashioned idols out the wood they used to heat their homes and cook their meals.

Further Reading

A few years ago I wrote an article about animal offerings in the Third Temple.

A Note on the Translations
The translation of Bible verses is based on the Judaica Press Tanach.
The translation of Gemara is based on the Soncino Talmud.
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