"ויקרא אל משה"
“And He called to Moshe.” (1:1)

QUESTION: Why is it customary for children to begin learning Chumash with Vayikra rather than Bereishit?

ANSWER: Little children are innocent and pure (tahor) and Chumash Vayikra discusses karbanot — sacrifices — which are pure and which restore spiritual purity (taharah) to a person. Therefore, it is fitting that young little children should begin their education with the topic of purity.

(ויקרא רבה פ"ז, ג' - כלי יקר)

* * *

Alternatively, Chumash Vayikra primarily discusses the different karbanot that the Jewish people were required to offer to Hashem. Teaching it to young children imparts a message to both parents and children.

Jewish parents are being told that they must make sacrifices so that their children may succeed in Torah study. They must forego lavish lifestyles to live in a way compatible with the Torah teachings their children are receiving, and they should be prepared to give up luxuries in order to pay tuition fees.

Jewish children must also know from the very beginning that sacrifice and dedication are a prerequisite for success in Torah studies. One cannot just sit back and expect to learn without effort. A Torah student must always bear in mind the words of our Sages (Megillah 6b): “If a person says, ‘I have tried hard and succeeded,’ believe him.” Only through diligent and assiduous study will one succeed.

(אבני אזל - הרב מאיר ז"ל שאפירא מלובלין)

Moreover, the youth is being told that throughout life as a Torah observant Jew he may encounter hardship and even persecution. Nevertheless, he should be ready to make sacrifices for Yiddishkeit, and ultimately he will realize that his life will be meaningful and rewarding.

(פרדס יוסף)


"ויקרא אל משה"
“And He called to Moshe.” (1:1)

QUESTION: Why is the word “Vayikra” written with a small "א"?

ANSWER: The word “vayikar” ("ויקרא" without an "א") means “casually calling.” The word “Vayikra” ("ויקרא" with a"א") means “to call with love.”

Moshe is the greatest prophet of the Jewish people. Though we are told “Never again has there arisen in Israel a prophet like Moshe” (Devarim 34:10), the gentiles were able to boast of having someone as great in prophecy, Bilaam (Sifri, ibid.) The pasuk about Hashem speaking to Bilaam reads, “Vayikar Elokim el Bilaam” (Bamidbar 23:4). The "א" of “vayikra” is omitted in order to illustrate that Hashem did not enjoy speaking to Bilaam and therefore called him in an off-hand way.

Being the most humble person who ever lived (Bamidbar 23:3), Moshe wanted to write “Vayikar” (ויקר). However, because of His great love for Moshe, Hashem insisted that he write “Vayikra” with an א"." Moshe and Hashem compromised and “Vayikra” was written with a small א"."

(בעל הטורים)

* * *

Regarding Moshe, the Torah says, “Ki karan or panav” — “The skin of his face had become radiant” (Shemot 34:29). According to the Midrash Rabbah (47:6), there was leftover ink in Moshe’s quill after he wrote the Torah, which he rubbed on his head and caused his face to shine.

Could it be that Hashem miscalculated and gave Moshe extra ink?

With the above we can explain this Midrash: Although Hashem wanted Moshe to write “Vayikra” with a regular "א", Moshe insisted on at least writing it with a small "א", and a small amount of ink was left over, which Moshe rubbed on his head.

(דמשק אליעזר)

* * *

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, the third Rebbe of Lubavitch (known as the “Tzemach Tzedek”), was a grandchild of the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chabad Chassidut. His mother died when he was a baby. Before her death his grandfather promised her that he would raise the child.

The day after Yom Kippur 5553 (1793), the Rebbe prepared his grandchild for his first day of learning Torah. He davened early in the morning and read the portion of the week (Ha’azinu) with much emphasis on the pasuk, “He encircled him, He gave him the wisdom of Torah, He preserved him like the pupil of His eye” (32:10).

After davening, the Rebbe asked that the child be wrapped in a tallit and carried to the cemetery. Upon reaching his daughter’s grave, the Rebbe said loudly with great joy, Mazel Tov to you Devorah Leah, daughter of Shterna. Today I bless him that just as he enters Torah, so he should enter chuppah and good deeds with long life.” Everyone present answered amein.”

When they returned home, the Rebbe asked the melamed (teacher) to learn the first parshah of Chumash Vayikra with his grandchild. When the melamed finished his lesson, the Rebbe told him to give the child honey cookies and a hard-boiled egg on which various pesukim were written.

The young child then asked his Zaide, “Why is the alef of ‘Vayikra’ written so small?” For a moment, the Rebbe concentrated deeply, and then he opened his eyes and said, “Adam was Hashem’s handiwork, and he was even wiser than the angels. However, Adam was smitten by the knowledge of his good qualities and therefore sinned.

“Moshe Rabbeinu, though he was aware of the qualities Hashem had given him, did not become conceited. On the contrary, he humbly said to himself, ‘Another person, given the opportunity to ascend to heaven and talk to Hashem personally or given a neshamah such as mine, would have accomplished much more.’

“The letters of the ‘alef-beit occur in three sizes: large, medium and small. Because Adam was impressed with his own status as Hashem’s handiwork and his great qualities, in I Chronicles (1:1) his name is spelled with a large ‘alef’. Since Moshe was not impressed with his own greatness, but on the contrary he was humbled by it, the ‘alef’ is written small for him.”

(סיפורי חסידים)

* * *

Alternatively, in Shir Hashirim (5:2) Hashem says to the Jewish people “Pitchi li achoti” — “Open your heart to me, my sister.” The Midrash paraphrases Hashem’s plea as follows: “Just make an opening the size of the eye of a needle, and I will reciprocate with a opening like the entrance to a ballroom.”

Vayikra is the book which discusses karbanot, whose purpose is to bring the people closer to Hashem. Therefore, it uses the smaller “alef” to allude to the Divine call that all a person has to do to be close to Hashem is to make a small opening — Hashem will take care of the rest.

Appropriately, the letter א' was the one letter written small in the word “Vayikra,” because the word “alef” (אל"פ) is an acronym for “Pitchi li achoti” (פתחי לי אחתי).

(זרע קודש)


"אדם כי יקריב מכם קרבן לה'"
“When a man will sacrifice from among you an offering to G‑d.” (1:2)

QUESTION: The pasuk should have said: “Adam mikem ki yakriv karban laHashem” — “When a man from among you will sacrifice an offering to G‑d.” What lesson is the Torah implying with the way the pasuk is written?

ANSWER: The word karban stems from the word “karov” — to approach, come near — since through bringing a sacrifice, one comes closer to Hashem. Karbanot are usually from animals and in every person there is also an “animalistic soul” — yeitzer hara — from which stems all the evil characteristic traits (see Tanya — Likkutei Amarim chap. 1).

The Torah is teaching us that, in addition to bringing an animal as a karban, “Adam ki yakriv” — when a man desires to draw close to Divinity — then “mikem” — he must bring an offering from himself. He must refine the animalistic instincts within him, bringing them “karban laHashem” — “closer to Hashem.”

(לקוטי תורה)


"אדם כי יקריב מכם"
“When a man will sacrifice from among you.” (1:2)

QUESTION: Rashi explains that the term “adam” implies that just as Adam, the first created man, did not bring stolen animals as an offering (because everything belonged to him), no one should bring offerings from stolen property. However, from the word “mikem” the Gemara (Sukkah 30a) derives that it must be “from your own [property]” — why does Rashi derive this from “adam”?

ANSWER: Indeed, the prohibition to offer stolen material as a sacrifice is easily derived from the word “mikem.” However, Rashi is referring to another sort of stealing.

There are people who commit sins and immediately run to make an offering to Hashem so that they will be considered very pious. With their offering they hope to “steal the minds of people” and to create the false impression that they are not ordinary Torah violators. Rashi addresses this behavior and says that we can learn its impropriety from Adam.

When Adam was created he built an altar and brought an offering to Hashem on it (Rambam, Beit Habechirah 2:2). At that time there was no one in the world whom he had to impress or deceive, so obviously his actions were totally for Hashem’s sake. Similarly, we should learn from Adam that our deeds should be sincere and without any ulterior motives.

(יערות דבש)


"אדם כי יקריב מכם"
“When a man will sacrifice from among you.” (1:2)

QUESTION: Rashi comments: 1) “This section speaks about karbanot nedavah (voluntary offerings). 2) Why is the word ‘adam’ stated? Just as Adam did not bring an offering from anything that was stolen, for everything was his, so you shall not bring an offering of stolen property.”

What is the connection between Rashi’s two comments on this pasuk?

ANSWER: According to the Gemara (Yevamot 61a) the Torah uses the word “adam” only in reference to Jews. Since this parshah is prefaced with the word “adam,” we might suppose that only Jews can bring karbanot. Therefore, Rashi points out that we are discussing karbanot nedavah which, according to halachah, a gentile may also offer (Rambam, Ma’asei Hakarbanot 3:2). If so, why is the word “adam” used? Rashi answers that it teaches gentiles also to learn from Adam not to bring stolen property as karbanot.

(כתנות אור)


"אדם כי יקריב מכם קרבן לה'"
“When a man among you brings an offering to Hashem.” (1:2)

QUESTION: The words “karban laHashem” — “an offering to Hashem” — seems to be superfluous since it says in the next pasuk, “He shall bring it to the entrance of Ohel Mo’eid — Tent of Meeting — voluntarily, before Hashem”?

ANSWER: TheGemara (Nedarim 10a) says that when a person wants to pledge an animal he should say, “an offering to Hashem” and not say, “to Hashem an offering.” Perhaps he will die after saying the word “Hashem,” and not have the chance to say the word “offering,” and thus he will have uttered Hashem’s name in vain.

TheGemara (Shabbat 153a) says that when Rabbi Eliezer said, “Repent one day before your death,” his students asked him, “Does a person know on which day he will die?” He responded, “Let a person repent today because he may die tomorrow, and in this way he will find himself living all his days in a state of penitence.”

The root of the word karban — offering — is karov — coming near — that is, the person aspires to come closer to Hashem, which is also the essence of Teshuvah — to return to Hashem (תשוב ה'). The Torah is teaching us that adam ki yakriv — if a person experiences an awakening, and resolves to come closer to Hashem — “karban laHashem” — let him heed the lesson which is conveyed by the need to say, “an offering to Hashem,” and not to say, “LaHashem karban” — “to Hashem an offering.” Let him bear in mind that he may expire, G‑d forbid, at any moment, and so he should continuously do teshuvah.

(שארית מנחם)


"זכר תמים יקריבנו אל פתח אהל מועד יקריב אתו לרצנו לפני ה'"
“Let him offer a male without blemish: he shall bring it to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, voluntarily, before G‑d.” (1:3)

QUESTION: Superficially, the word “lirtzono” — “voluntarily” — implies that the ox must agree. Why is this so?

ANSWER: The Midrash Rabbah (3:5) relates that once an ox stopped while being led to sacrifice and would not budge. A poor man came along with a bundle of endives in his hand. He held it towards the ox, who ate it, sneezed, expelled a needle, and then allowed itself to be led to sacrifice. Otherwise the needle would have caused an internal perforation, a blemish which invalidates an animal for sacrificial purposes.

Therefore, the Torah tells us, “zachar tamim yakrivenu” — the animal must be a male without any blemishes. You will know it has no blemishes when “el petach Ohel Mo’eid yakriv oto lirtzono” —the animal readily agrees to go to the Ohel Mo’eid.

(דרוש שמואל)


"אם עלה קרבנו מן הבקר"
“If one’s offering is a burnt-offering from cattle.” (1:3)

QUESTION: The Gemara (Horiyot 13a) states that the service of the sin-offering (chatat) is actually performed before the service of the burnt-offering (olah). Why then is it mentioned in the Torah in the reverse order?

ANSWER: Regardless of the order of the service, the Torah mentions the burnt-offering first because it is brought to attain atonement for machashavah — sinful thoughts or ideas (Midrash Rabbah 7:3). Since this precedes the actual wrongdoing, it is mentioned first.

(קרבן העני)


"וזרקו את הדם על המזבח סביב...ואת הפדר"
“They shall throw the blood on the altar all around... and the fats.” (1:5,8)

QUESTION: Why are the blood and fat of karbanot offered on the altar?

ANSWER: Blood symbolizes excitement — speed, activity, and mobility. Fat represents laziness, passivity, and inaction. Both characteristics serve an important purpose. One should be enthusiastic about doing a mitzvah or an act of kindness. On the other hand, one should be “lazy” and desist from doing something improper.

The Torah contains positive commandments and negative commandments. For the performance of a positive commandment one should act with speed and excitement. When a person is tempted, G‑d forbid, to transgress a command of the Torah, he can avoid it by being “lazy” and inactive.

One who commits a transgression has apparently confused his priorities. In the case of the positive commandments which he neglected, he was lazy, and in the case of the negative which he violated, he acted with vigor. Placing the blood and fat on the altar acts as a reminder of the purpose that each trait serves and that each should be used as G‑d intended.

(שער בת רבים)


"ואם מן העוף עלה קרבנו לה'"
“If from the fowl a burnt-offering be his offering to G‑d.” (1:14)

QUESTION: Why, only in the instance of fowl, does the Torah use the words “karbano laHashem” — “his offering to G‑d” — and not previously in discussing the offerings of sheep or goats?

ANSWER: Thekarban olah — burnt-offering — was not actually offered in its entirety on the altar for Hashem. The hide of the animal was removed and belonged to the “beit av — the contingent of Kohanim who officiated that day (see 7:8, Rashi). When fowl was offered, it was burnt entirely and nothing was left for the Kohanim. Therefore, in this instance, the Torah emphasizes that it was an offering completely given to Hashem.


"עולה הוא אשה ריח ניחוח לה'"
“A fire-offering a satisfying aroma to Hashem” (1:17)

QUESTION: Rashi quotes the Gemara (Menachot 110a) that concerning foul it is stated, “a satisfying aroma to Hashem” and also concerning cattle it is stated, “a satisfying aroma to Hashem” (1:9), to teach us that it does not matter to Hashem whether one brings much or one offers little, “ubilevad sheyechavein et libo lashamayim” — “as long as his heart is directed toward Heaven.”

Since we are talking about two people, one who donates much and one little, should it not have said, “ubilevad sheyechavnu et libam — “they direct their hearts to Heaven” — in the plural?

ANSWER: When one makes a very meager offering, he is heartbroken over his impoverished state and undoubtedly his heart is directed to Hashem, since he has nothing to be proud about or arrogant. However, the rich person who comes with his expensive offering may be somewhat conceited and proud of himself. Hence, the Torah warnshim that, regardless how costly his offering is, it is insignificant to Hashem, for He is richer and does not depend on the person’s offering. The main thing is that he must remember not to have any wayward thoughts but must direct his heart only toward Heaven.

(ר' שמחה בונים זצ"ל מפשיסחא)


"ונפש כי יקריב קרבן מנחה לה' סלת יהיה קרבנו ויצק עליה שמן ונתן עליה לבנה"
“When a soul (person) brings a meal-offering to Hashem, his offering shall be of fine flour; he shall pour oil upon it, and place frankincense upon it.” (2:1)

QUESTION: Rashi explains that the reason it says “venefesh” — “a soul” — is because this inexpensive offering is brought only by the very poor people and Hashem says, “I regard it, as though he had offered his very soul.”

The poor man could also bring an offering of young pigeons that may cost even less than fine flour, so why necessarily here does it say nefesh — “soul”?

ANSWER: Though the pigeons may cost less, the one who brings a meal-offering does not even have the few pennies to purchase a pigeon. The flour and oil he brings is from what was left in the fields for the poor (the frankincense is from the bark of the tree and readily available from hefker — ownerless property — see Isaiah 43:23) . Since he gathered this for his personal food consumption and is now depriving himself of his meal, it is considered as if he gave of his soul because by not eating, he affects the development of his blood and fat.

(פנים יפות - חתם סופר)


"וכי תקרב קרבן מנחה מאפה תנור...ורקיקי מצות משחים בשמן"
“When you offer a meal-offering that is baked in an oven...or unleavened wafers smeared with oil.” (2:4)

QUESTION: Regarding the smearing with oil, Rashi writes, “Some say he spreads the oil until all the oil in the vessel is used up, and others say he smears it in the form of a ‘chi’ and the rest of the oil is eaten.” (According to the Lubavitcher Rebbe the word “chi” (כי) in Rashi, is an abbreviation for chaf yevanit” — “a Greek chaf.)

In Shemot (29:2) regarding the inauguration of the Kohanim, thepasuk says, “unleavened wafers smeared with oil” and Rashi writes, “After baking they are smeared with oil in the form of a chaf yevanit — a Greek letter chaf, which resembles our [the Hebrew] 'נ' — ‘nun’.” Also, in regard to anointing the vessels Rashi writes, “All anointment was in the form of a chaf yevanit except for a king’s, which was in the form of a crown” (Shemot 30:26).

In all other instances, Rashi straightforwardly describes the smearing. Why here does he cite two opinions?

ANSWER: According to the Abarbanel, since the first letter of the word "כהן" is a כ', the anointing in the form of a Greek chaf indicates that the Kohen is designated by Hashem to serve in the Sanctuary. Undoubtedly, the Abarbanel is not only referring to Kohen as a noun — “the Kohen,” — but also as a verb, as in the word “lechahein,” (לְכַהֵן), which means “to serve” (see Shemot 29:1). Consequently, anything anointed for the service of Hashem — such as the wafer made for the inauguration of the Kohanim or the service vessels of the Sanctuary — was anointed, according to all opinions, in the form of a “Greek chaf.”

However, the wafers in our parshah were offered to gain forgiveness, and not associated in any way with the Kohen’s service or the service of the Sanctuary. Therefore, Rashi informs us that there are different opinions as to how they should be smeared, and not necessarily do all say that here, too, it should be in the form of a “Greek chaf.

(לקוטי שיחות חלק כ"ו)


"ורקיקי מצות משחים בשמן"
“Or unleavened wafers smeared with oil.” (2:4)

QUESTION: Rashi writes, “Some say he spreads the oil until all the oil in the vessel is used up, and others say he smears it in the form of a ‘chi’ and the rest of the oil is eaten.” (According to the Lubavitcher Rebbe the word “chi” [כי] in Rashi, is an abbreviation for “chaf yevanit” — “a Greek chaf.)

Since Rashi explained (Shemot 29:2) that the “Greek chaf” is like our “nun,” why does he mention the “Greek chaf” altogether?

ANSWER: Olive oil symbolizes wisdom (see Menachot 85b). In the days of Chanukah, when the Greeks entered the Beit Hamikdash, they defiled all the oil. The fact that they defiled it rather than spilling it out indicates that the Greeks advocated study and favored wisdom, but opposed the Jewish approach of ascribing holiness to the wisdom of the Torah.

Rashi’s mention of a “Greek chaf” teaches us, that to nullify their profane philosophy we use their wisdom — the “Greek chaf” — as a means to certify our holiness. Thus, the “holy anointing oil” is victorious and entirely nullifies the klipah — profane impurity — of Yavan — Greece.

(לקוטי שיחות חלק כ"ו)


"וכל קרבן מנחתך במלח תמלח ולא תשבית מלח ברית אלקיך מעל מנחתך על כל קרבנך תקריב מלח"
“And every meal-offering you shall season with salt, and you may not discontinue the salt of the covenant of your G‑d upon your meal-offering. On all your sacrifices you shall offer salt.” (2:13)

QUESTION: Why were all the sacrifices salted?

ANSWER: The world is divided into three parts: inhabited land, deserts, and waters (see Pesachm 94a, Tosafot). The Beit Hamikdash was built on inhabited land. The Torah was given in the desert. The waters entreated that they, too, be given some connection with holiness. To placate water, Hashem commanded that salt (which is a salt-water derivative) be placed on all sacrifices, and that water be poured on the altar during Sukkot.

(רבינו בחיי)

* * *

QUESTION: In contemporary times one’s table is compared to an altar (Chagigah 26a). Therefore, it is customary to dip the bread over which we make hamotzi into salt. Why is it dipped three times? (See Shulchan Aruch Harav 167:8.)

ANSWER: The world stands on three pillars: study of Torah, service of G‑d [karbanot — sacrifices], and deeds of kindness (Pirkei Avot 1:2). Salt is connected with these three things:

1) The way to succeed in Torah study is to limit oneself to eating only “bread with salt” (Pirkei Avot 6:4 ).

2) Salt was used in the Beit Hamikdash on all offerings.

3) Salt is a preservative. Our Sages advise, “melach mamon chaseir” — if one wants to “salt” (preserve) his money, he should give a portion totzedakah (Ketuvot 66b).

The Hebrew word “lechem” denotes the source of our physical sustenance, as King David says, “Bread sustains a man’s heart” (Psalms 104:15). In addition, it is also an analogy to our spiritual sustenance, as King Shlomo says, “Lechu lachamu belachmi” — “Nourish yourself with my bread” — i.e. Torah (Proverbs 9:5).

The dipping of bread three times in salt conveys the message that a person’s material and spiritual well-being is dependent on the three pillars upon which the world stands.

(הגש"פ ע"פ ילקוט שמעוני בשם וילקט יוסף, ועי' היום יום י' אייר, ובבן איש חי פ' אמור)


"חקת עולם לדרתיכם בכל מושבתיכם כל חלב וכל דם לא תאכלו"
“A perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwellings; you may not consume any fat or any blood.” (3:17)

QUESTION: Why does the Torah prohibit the eating of any fat?

ANSWER: In every animal there are two types of fat. One is kosher and the other not. The kosher one is known as “shuman.” It is in the ribs, imbedded with the meat and inseparable from it, and warm and moist. The non-kosher fat is “cheilev,” which is on top of the meat and which can be separated from it. It is cold and coarse, difficult to digest, and constipating. The temperament of a person is affected by four bodily fluids: red, white, green, and black. Eating cheilev causes an increase of white fluid beyond the proper level for good health.

(רמב"ן)


"אשר נשיא יחטא"
“When a nasi (ruler of a tribe) sins.” (4:22)

QUESTION: The pasuk preceding this one concludes with the words “chatat hakahal hu” — “it is a sin-offering of the assembly.” What is the link between these two pesukim? (See Ba’al HaTurim.)

ANSWER: It is the obligation of a nasi to guide and, if necessary, to reprimand his people. Therefore, there must be no shortcomings in his own conduct. If it becomes public knowledge that he has acted improperly, he will no longer be in a position to reprimand the people, who will answer him: “First correct your own behavior.”

The decline in his public image may lead people to cease respecting him and to act improperly, and it becomes clear that the nasi’s sin is at the root of the people’s sin. Thus, he will not only have to atone for his own wrongdoing, but also for the sins of the kahal.

(חיד"א)


"ואם נפש אחת תחטא בשגגה מעם הארץ"
“And if one soul from among the people of the land shall sin unintentionally.” (4:27)

QUESTION: The word “achat” — “one” — seems redundant?

ANSWER: Once a Rabbi noticed that a person who attended the Synagogue regularly was absent for a few weeks, so he decided to pay him a visit. Entering the living room, he noticed the man sitting by the fireplace, seemingly in good health, and sat down next to him. The Rabbi politely inquired as to the reason for his recent absence and the man replied that the shul was crowded and noisy. He had decided that his prayers would be more meaningful if he were alone and undisturbed. The Rabbi did not respond, but stared at the fireplace, which was filled with glowing coals. Then he rose from his seat, removed one coal from the fire with the tongs, and placed it on the floor in front of the fireplace, saying: “I hope to see you back in shul shortly.”

At first, the man was puzzled by his Rabbi’s actions, but soon the meaning became clear to him: The Rabbi was showing him that in unity there is strength. When coals are together, one keeps the other glowing. When one coal is taken out and separated from the others, it quickly becomes extinguished.

The Torah is alluding to this notion. When a Jew is united with K’lal Yisrael, he partakes of a collective identity which prevents him from violating the will of Hashem. But, “ve’im nefesh” — if the person wants to be — “achat” — alone and solitary — then it is very possible that “techeta” — he will, G‑d forbid, violate the Torah.

(תפארת שמואל)


"ואם נפש אחת תחטא בשגגה מעם הארץ בעשתה אחת ממצות ה' אשר לא תעשינה ואשם"
“And if one soul from among the people of the land shall sin unintentionally, by committing one of the commandments of G‑d that may not be done, and he becomes guilty.” (4:27)

QUESTION: The great Talmudic Sage Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai said that he was capable of exempting the entire world from any punishment (Sukkah 45b).

How could Rabbi Shimon accomplish such a thing?

ANSWER: Based on the above pasuk, Rabbi Shimon is of the opinion that if two people do something together which is forbidden on Shabbat, they are patur — exempt — and will not be punished according to the Torah, although they have still violated a Rabbinic prohibition (Shabbat 3a).

Every Jew is comprised of a physical part, the body, and a spiritual part, the soul. When a person sins, these two components (body and soul) perform the sin together. To avoid the possibility of one casting the blame on the other, the body and soul are united and judged together by the Heavenly Tribunal. (See Sanhedrin 91a.)

Since Rabbi Shimon asserts that when two commit the sin together they are exempt, he is claiming that according to his opinion, every Jew can argue before the Heavenly Court that he should not be punished, since he was not alone in the performance of the sin.

(לקוטי בתר לקוטי)


"ונפש כי תחטא...אם לוא יגיד ונשא עונו"
“If a person will sin...If he does not testify he shall bear his iniquity.” (5:1)

QUESTION: What is the significance of the extra "ו" in the word “lo”?

ANSWER: The word “lo” with a "ו" means “to him” and with an "א"means “no.” The word “nasa” can mean “carry” and it can also mean “forgive,” as in “nosei avon” — “forgiver of iniquity” (Shemot 34:7).

King Shlomo says in Proverbs (28:13), “One who covers up his sins will not prosper, but the one who confesses and forsakes [them] shall have mercy.” By inserting the "ו" in the word “lo” the Torah is alluding to this.

When a person sins, "אם לו יגיד" — “if he will tell it to Him” — that is, if he will confess to Hashem and repent — “venasa avono” — “his iniquity will be forgiven.” However, if "לא יגיד" — “he will not tell it” — that is, attempt to conceal it and not do teshuvah — “venasa avono” — “he will continue to bear his iniquity.”

(שער בת רבים)


"ואם לא תגיע ידו די שה והביא את אשמו אשר חטא שתי תרים או שני בני יונה"
“And if his means do not suffice for a lamb, then he shall bring as his guilt-offering for his sin, two turtle-doves, or two young pigeons.” (5:7)

QUESTION: According to Sefer Hachinuch (123), if a poor man brings a large animal as a guilt offering, he has not fulfilled his obligation. Since Hashem made it easier for him, he is not supposed to strain to assume bigger expenses.

In the case of leprosy, a rich man brings three big animals for his purification process. A poor man brings one big animal and two birds. According to halachah if a poor man brings three big animals he has fulfilled his obligation (Mishnah Nega’im 14:12). Why does a poor metzora who brings a rich man’s animal fulfill his obligation, while in the case of karban olah veyoreid — the offering which varies according to the wealth of the person — he does not?

ANSWER: In the case of a metzora, the poor man and the rich man bring the same number of karbanot. Thus, when the poor man makes an effort to bring the three karbanot of the rich man, he fulfills his obligation, since in total he brings three offerings. In our case, however, the poor man cannot afford the rich man’s offering, and the Torah prescribes for him two small karbanot instead of one large karban. Therefore, if he is poor, he should not bring a rich man’s karban because he will be short one sacrifice.

(פרדס יוסף בשם שפת אמת)


"ואם לא תגיע ידו די שה והביא את אשמו אשר חטא שתי תרים או שני בני יונה לה' אחד לחטאת ואחד לעלה"
“But if his means are insufficient for a sheep then he shall bring as his guilt-offering for his sin, two turtle doves or two young doves to G‑d, one for a sin-offering and one for a burnt-offering.” (5:7)

QUESTION: Why does a rich man bring only one animal as a “chatat” — “sin-offering” — while a poor man brings two birds, one as a sin-offering and one as a burnt-offering?

ANSWER: In an animal sin-offering, the internal organs and the fat are placed on the altar for Hashem and the meat and hide remain for the Kohanim.

When a bird is brought as a burnt-offering, the entire bird is placed on the altar, leaving nothing for the Kohanim. In the case of a bird brought for a sin-offering, after the blood is sprinkled the entire bird is given to the Kohanim.

Thus, in order for the poor man to accomplish with his offering of birds what the rich man does with his large animal, it is necessary for him to bring both a burnt-offering and a sin-offering.

(אבן עזרא)

* * *

In the Gemara (Chullin 21a), there is a discussion concerning whether we compare the bird burnt-offering to the bird sin-offering so that both must be offered during the day or whether the bird burnt-offering can be sacrificed also during the evening. The Gemara concludes that we compare it to the animal sin-offering, and thus it, too, must be sacrificed during the day. Moreover, the Torah writes specifically regarding all sacrifices, “beyom tzavoto” — “on the day He commanded [the Children of Israel to bring their offerings]” (7:38). Thus, all must be offered during the day.

One might wonder why the Gemara would even consider the possibility that a bird burnt-offering can be brought in the evening.

In light of the above explanation, however, it can be easily understood: The bird burnt-offering makes up for the altar’s lack of internal organs and fat which it usually has from a sin-offering. Therefore, just as the internal organs and fat can always be offered throughout the entire night (Berachot 2a), we might have thought that the bird sin-offering, too, can be offered at night.

(ר' מאיר שמחה הכהן ז"ל מדווינסק)


"נפש כי תמעל מעל וחטאה בשגגה מקדשי ה'...וכחש בעמיתו בפקדון או בתשומת יד...ושלם אתו בראשו וחמשתיו יסף עליו"
“If a person commits a trespass and sins unintentionally [deriving benefit from] the holy things belonging to the Beit Hamikdash... [or] by lying to his fellow regarding a pledge or a loan...He shall repay its principal and add its fifth to it.” (5:15, 21, 24)

QUESTION: Why is one who uses sacred property or swears falsely to his fellow regarding money matters required to pay a fifth in addition to the principal?

ANSWER: Our sages praise highly the giving of tzedakah, and advise dedicating as much as twenty percent (one fifth) of one’s earnings for it (Ketubot 67b). Tzedakah can be given either to the Beit Hamikdash (communal causes) or to individuals. The person who derives benefit from property set aside for the Sanctuary, or who endeavors to take money from his friend violates the directive of our sages to give away one-fifth to holy purposes or needy individuals. Therefore, as a punishment, he not only returns the principal, but also adds one-fifth.

(כלי יקר)


"ונסלח לו על אחת מכל אשר יעשה לאשמה בה"
“And it shall be forgiven him concerning whatsoever he does, so as to be guilty therein.” (5:26)

QUESTION: There was a custom in certain communities that when the Torah reader would say the concluding words of the parshah, “le’ashmah vah” the entire congregation would rise and proclaim, "לאל אשר שבת מכל המעשים ביום השביעי" — “To the A-mighty G‑d, Who rested from His work on the seventh day.” What is the reason for this practice?

ANSWER: When reading the Torah in public it is customary to avoid concluding with something unpleasant (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 138). Consequently, they would make this proclamation, for which “le’ashmah vah” (לאשמה בה) is an acronym.

This passage was selected because the Gemara (Shabbat 118b) states, “When one observes Shabbat properly, even if he violated the supreme sin of idol worship, he is forgiven.”

The closing pasuk of Parshat Vayikra alludes to this by proclaiming, “venislach lo” — “he shall be forgiven” — “al achat mikol” — “even if he committed the ultimate transgression of all” — that is, idol worship — providing that asher ya’aseh” — “he will do” — dedicate the Shabbat in accordance with halachah”“le’ashmah vah” — “to the A-mighty G‑d, Who rested from all His work on the seventh day.”

(ילקוט הגרשוני)


"על אחת מכל אשר יעשה לאשמה בה"
“Concerning whatsoever he does, so as to be guilty therein.” (5:26)

QUESTION: When reading the Torah in public, it is customary to conclude on a positive note. Why does this parshah conclude with a discussion of a sin?

ANSWER: In some communities, when the Torah reader would say the words “le’ashmah vah,” everyone would rise and proclaim loudly: "לא-ל אשר שבת מכל המעשים ביום השביע" — “To the A-mighty G‑d Who rested from all His work on the seventh day.” The first letters of the words spell: לאשמה בה"."

The connection between the two is the following: Hashem created the world in six days and placed it in man’s hands to work and care for. On Shabbat man ceases to work and restores the world to its master, Hashem.

The end of Parshat Vayikra discusses the case of one who has the audacity to steal from his friend and swear falsely. Such a person is denying the sovereignty of G‑d. By atoning for his sin and rectifying his wrongdoing, he demonstrates his recognition that Hashem is the true Master of the world and affirms G‑d’s authority over all creation. This parallels the concept of restoring the world on Shabbat to G‑d, Who rested from all His work on the seventh day.

(פרדס יוסף)