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Food for Thought


 Chazal refer to Sefer Vayikra as Torat Kohanim.  At the beginning of Vayikra, this seems to be a fitting title, since the the Torah presents us with the list of different sacrifices, which of course were performed by the kohanim.  But as we peruse the entire book of Vayikra, we see other mitzvot which do not specifically apply to the kohanim.  In Parshat Shemini, for example, we see the list of non kosher animals.  Kashrut is of course a mitzvah which applies to all Jews, not just to kohanim.

It appears that the primary focus of Sefer Vayikra is the concept of kedushah. The kohanim were the ones who were supposed to ensure that the nation functioned in a holy manner, so that the entire Jewish nation could live up to Hashem's vision of a "mamlechet kohanim v'goy kadosh." (Shmot 19:6)  When considering the main theme of each of the mitzvot discussed in the parshiyot in Sefer Yayikra, we see that the concept of kedushah is pervasive.  Consider the following list of parshiyot and major themes:

1. Yayikra – Korbanot

2. Tzav – Korbanot

3. Shmini – Kashrut

4. Tazria – Leprosy

5. Metzora – Leprosy

6. Acharei Mot – Arayot (forbidden sexual relations)

7. Kedoshim – Arayot

8. Emor – Laws related to Kohanim


9. Behar – Laws related to the land of Israel (agriculture, buying and selling land)

10. Bechukotai – Donations to the Mikdash (based on monetary value of land, people, animals, etc.)

If we divide these parshiyot into two groups, it seems that that part one of Sefer Vayikra (Vayikra through Metzora) focuses on the sanctity of the Mikdash, and part two (Acharei Mot through Bechukotai) on the sanctity of the holy people in the holy land.  First let's deal with part one. Parshiyot 1 and 2 deal with Korbanot, which is how we connect to Hashem in the Mikdash.  Parshiyot 4 and 5 deal with leprosy, which is the main cause for people not being able to enter the Mikdash.  In part two of the sefer, we have parshiyot 6 and 7 which deal with arayot, which the Torah says would be a major cause for the connection between the people and the land to be severed.  At the end of Acharei Mot (Vayikra 19:28) the Torah warns B'nei Yisrael that the land will spit them out if they violate these laws, hence severing the connection.  In parshiyot 10 and 11, the Torah presents us with opportunities to strengthen our connection to the holy land through various laws.  So each half of Sefer Vayikra has two parshiyot telling us how to accomplish a certain kind of holiness, and two parshiyot telling us what would prevent that holy connection.

If so, then parshiyot 3 and 7 would seem to serve as some sort of bridge or central component for that particular section of the sefer.  Parshat Emor deals with laws related to the holiness of the kohanim, which highlight the concept of the kedushah of Am Yisrael. It also lists the holidays, which have an agricultural component, highlighting the holiness of the land.

That leaves Parshat Shemini.  In Shemini, we are presented with lists and criteria for animals that we can and cannot eat.  This seems to tie in to the lists of Korbanot in Vayikra and Tzav.  There we instructed on the use of animals for sacrificing.  In Shemini we are told that even when an animal is not officially being slaughtered for ritual purposes, but rather for us to eat, we still have to follow certain rules, potentially transforming the standard consumption of animals into a holy endeavor, or at least reminding us of a higher level to aspire to in terms of how we use animals.


Within the parsha, every time the Torah forbids the consumption of a particular animal, it uses the term "tamei," connecting this parsha to the ritual impurity theme of Tazria and Metzora that follow it.  All of this could give us some food for thought when it comes to how we relate to Kashrut.  The Torah may be telling us that our daily involvement with food could be an opportunity to focus on our connection to Hashem and our development in the realm of kedushah.  Think about it.  We have three meals a day and three tefilot every day.  Perhaps that’s not a coincidence.

Shabbat Shalom





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