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The LORD Calls Out


Torah Portion: Parashat Vayikra ("and he called")

Shabbat: March 25, 2023 Nisan 3, 5783

Torah: Lev. 1:1-6:7

Prophets: Isa. 43:21-44:23

New Covenant: Heb. 10:1-18; Heb. 13:10-15


The Shema

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength”. Deut. 6:4-5


The first Torah portion for the new Biblical New year is parashat Vayikra ("and he called"), the very first section from the Book of Leviticus (ספר ויקרא). In Jewish tradition, Leviticus is sometimes called the "Book of Sacrifices" (i.e., sefer ha'zevachim: ספר הזבחים) since it deals largely with the various sacrificial offerings brought to the altar at the Mishkan ("Tabernacle"). Indeed, over 40 percent of all the Torah's commandments are found in this central book of the Scriptures, highlighting that blood atonement is essential to the Torah. Moreover, since the revelation of the Tabernacle was the climax of the revelation given at Sinai, the Book of Leviticus reveals its ritual significance, as it is written: "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement (kapparah) by the life" (Lev. 17:11). Unlike narrative portions of other books of the Torah, the Book of Leviticus begins with the LORD himself "calling out" (i.e., vayikra) to Moses to explain that the way to draw near to Him is by means of atoning sacrifice. It is noteworthy that throughout the book, only the sacred name of the LORD (יהוה) is used in connection with sacrificial offerings, and never the name Elohim (אלוהים). This suggests that sacrificial offerings were given to draw us near to experience God's mercy and compassion rather than to simply appease His anger.... In other words, the Name of the LORD represents salvation (i.e., yeshuah: ישועה) and healing for the sinner, not God's judgment (John 3:17). Indeed, the word korban (קרבן), often translated as "sacrifice" or "offering," comes from a root word karov (קרב) that means to "draw close" or "to come near" (James 4:8). The sinner who approached the LORD trusting in the efficacy of the sacrificial blood shed on his or her behalf would find healing and life... In this connection we note that the ancient Greek translation of the Torah (called the Septuagint) translated the Hebrew word kapporet (i.e., כפרת, "mercy seat") as hilasterion (ἱλαστήριον), sometimes translated "propitiation." The New Testament picks up this usage in Romans 3:25: "God put forward Yeshua as a propitiation (ἱλαστήριον) through faith in His blood." In other words, the shedding of Yeshua's blood - represented by His Passion upon the cross - was "presented" upon the Heavenly Kapporet, before the very Throne of God Himself for our atoning sacrifice (i.e., kapparah: כפרה) before God.

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