The Book of Leviticus begins, "And He called to Moses, and He spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, to say. Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: Adam [a man] from among you that will bring an offering to G‑d, from animals..."1

There are many questions that can be asked on these verses. We will touch on a few.

This is the beginning of the laws of sacrificial offerings to G‑d. Rashi2 tells us that before every time G‑d spoke to Moses, He first called him, as a sign that He cherished him. However, it is only here, regarding offerings that Scripture mentioned that He called him. Why?3

According to the Midrash,4 this was the first time that Moses was called to the Tent of Meeting since it was first erected, and the glory of G‑d had filled it. Perhaps that is why it mentions that G‑d called him, being the first opportunity to do so in this setting.5 But this brings up another question: Why were the laws of offerings the first laws to be taught from the Tent of Meeting?6

Since these are the first, we can conclude that they are most important. Even the Talmud7 calls the book of Vayikra "Hachamur Shebeseforim," the most important of the books.8 Note also that it is the third of the five books, the middle of the Torah, a place that connotes significance.

Also, the first word of the first verse, Vayikra ["and he called"], is written in the Torah with a small letter alef. What is the significance of this?

The second verse says, "Adam [a man] from among you that will bring an offering." Why doesn't it just say, "If you bring an offering?" We would certainly know that it refers to a person. What is the significance of saying that an adam is bringing it?

The Zohar says,9 "We, Israel, have the merit that G‑d calls us adam, as it says, 'adam [a man] from among you that will bring.' What is the reason He calls us adam? Because it is written,10 'And you who are attached to G‑d, your G‑d…' " Now we can understand why our verse specifically says "adam," because it is the adam part of us, our attachment to G‑d, that makes it possible for us to bring sacrificial offerings, as will be explained.

The Midrash11 says that the reason G‑d commanded the Jewish people to bring offerings is because they are attached to Him. This, then, is the meaning of the verse, "Just as a belt is attached to the hips of a person..."12

Although they both speak of attachment to G‑d, they are talking about two different kinds of attachment. The Midrash is talking about an attachment like a belt; although it is attached, it is not truly one with the wearer. This is called the attachment of vessels; something could completely fill the vessel, but is not truly attached. The Zohar, on the other hand, speaks of an essential attachment, in which we are one with G‑d. This is called the attachment of lights, where the source of light and the light emanating from it are one.

They are referring to different aspects of sacrificial offerings. The Midrash is referring to the sacrifice itself, which is brought to sustain the world, as the Talmud Yerushalmi13 says on the verse,14 "To plant the heavens and to establish the earth,”--this refers to the sacrifices. And the Korban Haeda15 explains: "Through the sacrifices, the [natural] rules of the world are sustained." But what gives us the ability to bring offerings that will sustain existence? It is the fact that we are essentially one with G‑d and, therefore, higher than the world. Since we are higher than the world, one with G‑d, we have an effect on its very existence.

How does bringing a sacrificial offering sustain the world? In Kabbalistic teaching, the whole world is divided into four biological kingdoms. There are:

  • domem: inanimate objects like rocks, sand and water.
  • Tzomeach: vegetation.
  • Chai: living creatures.
  • Medaber: people who have conversation.

All were represented in sacrificial offerings.16 The inanimate object was the salt that accompanied every offering. Vegetation was the wood that burned on the altar. Also, offerings were generally accompanied by wine libations, cakes made of flour and sometimes oil, all of which are from the vegetable kingdom. The living creature was the animal that was offered. And then there was the person who brought the offering. By all parts of the world being represented in the offering that was raised to G‑d, the whole world is energized.

It is specifically the adam part of us that is one with G‑d. There are four names for man in Hebrew: adam, ish, enosh and gever.17 Adam is the highest name, representing the G‑dly part of us, as it says, "And G‑d created the adam in His image..."18 It is the part of us that is one with G‑d and, therefore, higher than existence, and able to affect existence. This is why the verse specifically says "adam," because it is the adam that can bring a sacrifice and sustain the world.

This differentiation between lights and vessels are found by Torah and mitzvot19 as well. Doing mitzvot attaches us to G‑d like vessels, and the study of Torah attaches us like lights. Prayer is a mitzvah. The daily prayers were established in the place of the actual sacrifices, to sustain existence. But it is the study of Torah that gives us the ability to bring prayers that can affect the world.

Now we can understand why the first transmission from G‑d to Moses in the Tent of Meeting was regarding the sacrificial offerings. The main purpose of the Tent of Meeting was the transmission of the Torah, and the main purpose of the Torah is accomplished through sacrifices. The purpose of Torah is to affect the world around us, making it into a home for G‑d.20 And sacrifices do this in two ways: Firstly, by the offering itself, taking a mundane animal and offering it up to G‑d, it's transformed into an object of holiness. The second way is, as mentioned above, through the sacrifices, which affect the whole world.

Although the Torah is G‑d's wisdom and it seems almost sacrilegious to suggest that it has anything to do with this mundane physical world, that is only true about the Torah itself. But consider the source of the Torah, G‑d's infinite essence, which has no bounds, not even that it can't be connected to the physical world, and that He desires to have a dwelling in this lowly limited physical world. This is the true essence of the Torah as well, then every mundane physical part of existence becomes significant and essentially connected with the Torah.

How do we draw G‑d's unlimited essence into the world? How is it possible for us to be an adam, revealing our essential oneness with G‑d's essence, and affect the world in the way of sacrificial offerings?

Through selflessness and humility, we allow G‑d's unlimited essence to come through. This is learned from the first word of the parsha, Vayikra, [“and He called”]. Why are we not told the name of the Caller?

This is because it is G‑d's infinite essence, which is beyond any name or description, that called to Moses.

Why was Moses able to draw this great level of G‑dliness into the world? Because of his selflessness and humility, which is symbolized by the small aleph in the word Vayikra.21

We all have a little bit of Moses in us, and that comes with the ability to be selfless and humble. If we tap into that, we can also draw G‑d's unlimited essence into the world and make the mundane holy.22

Through our collective effort, we will make this world into a home for G‑d's unlimited essence and usher in the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon. The time has come.