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   by Jacob Solomon

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1. What is the meaning of the word 'korbanot' - the subject of the Parasha - according to Hirsch?

2. Both large burnt offerings from bulls and small burnt offerings from birds are described as 'reyach nichoach'. What value does that teach, according to Rashi?

3. The word 'olah' - the subject of the first chapter - is generally translated as a burnt offering. What different translation is offered by Hirsch, and for what reason?

4. What rationale does the Chinuch offer for the general prohibition of leavening and honey (2:11) within the offerings?

5. What, according to the Ramban, may be learnt from the commandment that all offerings must include salt? (2:13)

6. Why, according to the Ramban, is the 'shelamim' offering (3:1) so called?

7. Four categories of sin offering are described in the fourth chapter. The third category - that of a ruler sinning - is not introduced by the usual 'im' (if), but by the word 'asher' (when) (3:22). What, according to (a) Rashi and (b) the S'forno, may be learnt by the use of the word 'asher'?

8. List the circumstances in this Parasha where a person may bring an offering for a sin done intentionally.

9. Why, according to Hirsch, is the 'asham' - the guilt offering (5:1) so called?

10. From where in this Parasha may it be learnt that G-d does not forgive the sinner until he first appeases the victim of his misdeed?


1. According to Hirsch, the root of the word 'korban' comes from 'karav' - to come near. Thus 'korban Lashem' should be rendered as 'offering to G-d'. For the offering is a means to bring ourselves closer to G-d and to elevate ourselves. The usual translation of 'sacrifice' does not carry that meaning.

2. As the offering comes to an end, its aroma is 'satisfying to G-d' because, as the Rabbis express it, 'G-d has spoken and His will has been done'.

3. According to Hirsch, the purpose of the 'olah' is according to its root - meaning to raise. It raises his spiritual level from sinning (or desire to sin) to bring him to a state of spiritual elevation.

4. The Chinuch holds that honey and leaven may not be part of the offerings for the following reason. They symbolize that man must not be sluggish, as symbolized by the slow process or leavening, nor should he be obsessed with the pursuit of pleasure, as symbolized by the sweetness of honey.

5. According to the Ramban, the obligation to include salt in all offerings has the following symbolism. Salt can be destructive or it may be constructive. It may be destructive, for it prevents plants growing (plants growing in a salt marsh suffer from severe shortages of water). It may be constructive, as in the preservation of food. The Covenant of Salt (2:13) teaches that the offerings preserve Israel, if performed correctly and with the right intentions. If the service is not performed that way, but abused, it brings destruction and exile.

6. The Ramban interprets the word 'shelamim' from the word 'shaleimut' - meaning 'wholeness'. For a person who has brought this offering does not do it because of sin, but though gratitude - and a free-willed desire for self perfection.

7. According to Rashi, the word 'asher' alludes to the word 'ashrei' - meaning 'fortunate'. By this change in expression, the text implies that the generation whose leader has a sense of right and wrong according to the Torah is a fortunate one. The generation whose leader seeks atonement for even his unintentional sins is fortunate for he will certainly repent of his intentional sins. The S'forno goes further: he suggests that the powerful and the wealthy are indeed more likely to sin. The verse concludes 'and become guilty' (3:22), because of the importance of powerful and influential people to acknowledge and feel remorse for their sin - as they are looked up to by their communities.

8. Normally, the sin offering is only brought for things committed by accident. However, the Torah details certain instances where a similar offering - called an 'asham' - may be brought for a sin even where committed intentionally. These include the sins of denying testimony (5:1), contaminating holy things (5:2-3), and false and unkept oaths (5:4 - see also specific application to theft in 20-26).

9. According the Hirsch, the 'asham' guilt offering is so called because it implies a greater degree of awareness of the sin at the time of committal that a 'chatat' - the sin offering brought where the sin was performed by accident.

10. This may be learnt from 5:23-25. There it states that '…he shall return the stolen article' and only then 'he shall bring his guilt offering to G-d'. As the S'forno explains, G-d does not forgive a sinner until he first appeases the victim of his misdeed by returning the stolen object.


The first word in Sefer Vayikra ends in a small letter aleph: vayikra - He called. Without that small aleph the word would read vayikar - He met in a casual way. This latter word comes from mikreh, meaning casually, by chance. It is used to describe the manner in which G-d met Bilaam (Bamidbar 23:16). This implies that while G-d had a reason to speak to Bilaam, He did so out of necessity, not out of love. The Baal Haturim suggests that in his humility, Moshe Rabbeinu wished to describe G-d's call to him with the same uncomplimentary name used for Bilaam. G-d, however, instructed him to include the aleph as an expression of His love for him. As Moses was too humble to do so with a full heart, he used a small aleph.

The problem with this explanation is that the only other occasion where G-d 'called to Moses' with the word vayikra in the text, was at the Revelation at Mount Sinai. Here he was called to ascend the mountain for a forty-day period to be instructed in the Torah, so that he could in turn teach it to the Israelites. On this occasion vayikra is written out in full, without the small aleph. Why is the aleph not written in the same way both times?

My efforts at tackling the issue raised above may be found on the Shema Yisrael website for Parashat Vayikra for 5760.

Other Parashiot from previous years may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site:

Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.

Also by Jacob Solomon:
Between the Fish and the Soup

From the Prophets on the Haftara


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