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The Lamplighter Weekly

Volume 25 Issue 10
March 19-25 2023 -  27 Adar-3 Nissan, 5783
Torah Reading: Vayikra
 Candle Lighting : 7:22 PM
Shabbos Ends: 8:16 PM

Parsha Synopsis · A Word From the Rabbi

Essay · Thoughts That Count
Once Upon A Chassid · Tid Bits · Happenings · Notes From Israel


Parsha Synopsis

Leviticus: 1:1-4:26

The name of the Parshah, “Vayikra,” means “And [He] called” and it is found in Leviticus 1:1.

G‑d calls to  Moses from the  Tent of Meeting, and communicates to him the laws of the  korbanot, the  animal and meal offerings brought in the  Sanctuary. These include:

• The “ascending offering”  (olah) that is wholly raised to G‑d by the fire atop the  altar;

• Five varieties of “meal offering”  (minchah) prepared with fine flour, olive oil and frankincense;

• The “peace offering”  (shelamim), whose meat was eaten by the one bringing the offering, after parts are burned on the altar and parts are given to the  kohanim (priests);

• The different types of “sin offering” (chatat) brought to atone for transgressions committed erroneously by the  high priest, the entire  community, the  king or the ordinary  Jew;

• The “guilt offering”  (asham) brought by one who has misappropriated property of the Sanctuary, who is in doubt as to whether he  transgressed a divine prohibition, or who has committed a “betrayal against G‑d” by  swearing falsely to defraud a  fellow man.


A Word From the Rabbi



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Between Shemos and Vayikra

Following a long and arduous escape from Europe, the Brisker Rav arrived in Eretz Yisroel accompanied by his sons and daughters. Many found themselves eager to help the noble family as they resettled. When the Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva, R’ Leizer Yudel Finkel, heard that the Brisker Rav’s sons were wearing the same suits in which they’d arrived, he sent an envelope with money for the Rav, writing on it that it is to be used to purchase new suits for his sons.

The Brisker returned the money with a note of appreciation. R’ Leizer Yudel approached him and persisted that he accept the aid to buy clothing for his children, but the Rav remained adamant in his refusal.

R’ Leizer asked him why he was so unwavering in refusing the gift. “Why should these Bochrim feel different than every other Bochur?” exclaimed the Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva.

After some hesitation the Brisker Rav shared his reasoning: “It is good for them to feel different,” he said, “Because they are different.”


“The universe is the space G‑d makes for man. The holy is the space man makes for G‑d”


There is no doubt that five books of Moshe comprise a progressive and comprehensive narrative, respective lessons notwithstanding. Yet, the book of Vayikra, seemingly, denotes a marked departure from the theme that flows through the Torah. One cannot help but note how removed this tome is from the general narrative, as well as from any significant historical context.

The book of Bereishis is a chronicle of the past. It is a tale of evolution over generations from an individual's journey to a community's faith, despite the many rugged roads traversed. Shemos is about the blossoming of this family into a nation. It records our people's exodus from Egypt and their transitional nomadic state.

Bamidbar picks up Exodus' trail. Traveling through the desert, Israel meets both internal dissent and external foes, as it progresses from slavery to the chosen people poised to enter the Land of Israel. Devarim is a narrative of the future, focused on life in the Land of Israel. Where then does this leave Vayikra?

Whereas the other books are replete with stories and character development, Vayikra is predominantly law oriented, its focus on historical background is limited to just a few short events.

The fourth Pentateuchal volume; Bamidbar, seems like the natural continuation of the second, in its depiction of the Mishkan (tabernacle) and the clouds of glory that accompanied the Israelites during their desert sojourn. It is in fact possible to read the end of Shemos, and continue on to Bamidbar without noticing any omission of Vayikra. 

The three final verses of the book of Shemos describe the role of the Divine cloud that hovered over the Israelites in their travels through the wilderness: “And when the cloud went up from above the Mishkan, the children of Israel would journey… For the cloud of G‑d was upon the Mishkan during the day and fire was there at night, before the eyes of the children of Israel in all their journeys” (Shemos 40:36-38).

In that regard, the immediate continuation would be the book of Bamidbar which picks up on the narrative left off in Shemos: “And on the day that the Mishkan was erected, the cloud covered the Mishkan… And whenever the cloud arose from over the tent, the Children of Israel journeyed; and in the place where the cloud rested, there the Children of Israel encamped.” (Bamidbar 9:15-17)

By returning to the concluding theme of Shemos, the Torah seems to be suggesting that there is a direct flow from the end of the book of Shemos to the beginning of Bamidbar. Accordingly Vayikra, whose focus is the tabernacle, its various sacrifices, laws of ritual impurity, laws specific to the priest and high-priest who served in the Temple, seems to be a digression between the book of Shemos and Bamidbar.

The above notwithstanding, our description of the perfect flow from Shemos to Bamidbar is, in truth, not completely accurate.

As part of the closing narrative of Shemos we learn about the Divine glory preventing Moshe from entering the Mishkan: “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of G‑d filled the Mishkan. And Moshe was unable to enter into the tent of meeting, because the cloud abode thereon...” (Shemos 40:34-35). Yet somehow Bamidbar begins with G‑d speaking to Moshe in the tabernacle: “And G‑d spoke to Moshe in Midbar Sinai in the tent of meeting…” (Bamidbar 1:1).

There is obviously something missing. If Moshe was prevented from entering the Mishkan, how was he now suddenly able communicate with G‑d? The absent link is actually found in the opening verse of Vayikra:  “And He called to Moshe, and the Lord spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying…” (Vayikra 1:1).

At the beginning of Vayikra, the Almighty calls Moshe and invites him into the Mishkan. Ramban notes that G‑d had to invite Moshe to enter the tabernacle just as he had invited him to enter the cloud on Mount Sinai – which was engulfed by Divine glory – in order to receive the Torah.

We are hence forced to conclude that the opening verse of Vayikra contains an important and necessary link as regards the overall progression of the Torah narrative. But how does the rest of the volume, such as the laws of the festivals, the Sabbatical and Jubilee and the blessings and curses, not to mention the episode of the blasphemer and the tragic demise of Aharon’s sons, fit in with the overarching Biblical narrative?

What, for that matter, is the relationship between the various laws contained within Vayikra itself? It is obviously not a mere hodgepodge of entirely unrelated ideas. What then is the underlying theme of the book of Vayikra?

The answer can be stated in one word: “Holiness.” When examining the range of concepts expressed in the book of Vayikra, it becomes apparent that their primary focus and common thread is the Divine desire for Israel to acquire the trait of sanctity and holiness – a fundamental tenet of Judaism.

Holiness is a recurring theme in the tome of Vayikra, beginning with the initial set of laws: “And G‑d spoke unto Moshe, saying: Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel and say unto them: You shall be holy; for I G‑d your Lord am holy” (19:1-2). The segment concludes with another call to holiness: “And you shall be holy unto Me; for I G‑d am holy, and have set you apart from the peoples, that you should be Mine” (20:26).

The subsequent laws belonging to the priesthood, continues the same refrain: “He shall be holy unto you; for I, G‑d, who sanctify you, am holy” (21:8). Later in the volume, as additional laws are introduced, the pitch for holiness is raised once again: “And you shall not profane My holy name; but I will be hallowed among the children of Israel: I am G‑d who hallows you that brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your G‑d: I am the Lord” (22:32-33).

Holiness appears to be the underlying objective concerning the listing of the festivals as well, as stated in chap. 23 verses 1-3 : “And G‑d spoke to Moshe, saying: The appointed days of G‑d, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My appointed times...”

This idea is repeated in 23:4:  “These are the appointed days of G‑d, holy convocations, which you shall proclaim in their appointed time. It stated once again in 23:37-38: “These are the appointed times of G‑d, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to bring an offering unto G‑d… each on its own day…” 

The entire tome is evidentially occupied with the concept of holiness, from the opening call to Moshe, inviting him into the Mishkan to receive the Divine word, to the Mishkan’s historic inauguration.

The word “Holiness” is, in fact, mentioned no less than eighty-seven times in the book of Vayikra.

The Midrash in Vayikra Rabbah asks, “Why do we begin to teach children Torah from the book of Vayikra and not Bereishis? Because,” asserts the Midrash, “Children are pure and sacrifices are pure. Let the pure come and involve themselves with purity.” The purity and innocence of children, renders them worthy of partaking in the holiest biblical subject matter; Vayikra.

The idea of holiness can be broken down into several groupings.

The episode of the deaths of Aharon’s sons, who entered the hallowed space inappropriately and the ensuing laws concerning the sanctity of the Mishkan, can be classified as “Sanctity of space.” The admonition against defiling the land of Israel through various transgressions and abominations would fall in this category as well.

The laws calling for Israel to conduct itself with holiness, as summarized at the end of the Parsha of Kedoshim: “And you shall be holy to Me for I am Holy and I have separated you from the nations to be for Me” (20:26), can be defined as “Sanctity of Man.” Included in this category would be the laws regarding the sanctity of the priests.

Finally there is the “Sanctity of time.” This is reflected in the decrees concerning the hallowing of the Shabbos and holidays, as well as the laws of the Sabbatical and Jubilee years. The root of the various commandments depicted in Vayikra, concerning sanctity, lies in the covenant between G‑d and the Children of Israel, as described at the end of the tome.

In the above light we can understand the connection of the diverse spectrum of laws and ideas that comprise the book of Vayikra. We can also appreciate the position of the book of Vayikra among the five books. Rather than a digression, it represents the orderly progression in the sequential service of the Jew, commonly, as well as individually.

This is to say that after the book of Exodus comes Vayikra; after freedom comes sanctity. For a Jew freedom is not enough. Torah, which was given at Sinai – part of the narrative of the book of Shemos – is not enough. The sanctuary – also part of the narrative of Shemos – is likewise not enough.

A Jew must strive to achieve holiness, only then can he turn his sights toward the promised land.

It can, in fact, be argued that the entire purpose of our freedom; the entire purpose of the Torah and the entire purpose of the sanctuary, is so that we attain a measure of holiness. Vayikra is hence not a “Diversion” of the narrative; it “Is” the narrative.

Vayikra, the cacophony of laws that include reverence of time, place and person, bind the Jewish people together, marking them as different from the outside world. While this separateness is critical, it is not an end in and of itself. The purpose is "I am G‑d." The laws in Vayikra function to make G‑d and G‑dliness known to humanity. The call to holiness is an invitation to connect to G‑d.

Holiness represents those points in space and time where G‑d becomes vivid, tangible, a felt presence. Holiness is a break in the self-sufficiency of the material world, where infinity enters space and eternity enters time. In relation to time it is the Sabbath. In relation to space it is the Tabernacle. These are the epicenters of the sacred.

Space and time that is holy is empty of human devices and desires, into this emptiness comes the Divine presence. We make place for G‑d in the same way that G‑d makes space for us, by Tzimtzum, self-effacement, self-renunciation and contraction.

The most precious thing man can offer G‑d is his freedom and will. G‑d does not ask this of all people, all the time, for were He to do so He would defeat the very purpose of the creation of humankind. Instead He asks it of some of the people, in differential ways.

 He asks it of one people; the Israelites, one land; the land of Israel, one day; the Shabbos and one place; the Sanctuary. These constitute breaks in the fabric of finitude, windows through which an infinite light flows into the world.

That light can be dangerous. Stare too long at sunlight and you go blind. The energy pent up in the holy is like antimatter. Without careful guarding it is destructive, like the deaths of Nadav and Avihu on the day the Tabernacle was consecrated. The holy needs to be protected, guarded, insulated almost like nuclear energy. The priests are the guardians of the sacred, and must themselves be as far as possible from the ordinary, the mundane, the mortal; above all from death.

The holy, then, is a time or space that in itself testifies to the existence of something beyond itself. Shabbos points to a time beyond time. The Tabernacle points to a space beyond space.

The Israelites point, by their very history, to a power more than merely human: “Ask now about the former days, long before your time, from the day G‑d created human beings on the earth; ask from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything so great ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of?... Has any G‑d ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by tests, by signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the Lord your G‑d did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?” (Deut. 4: 32-34)

The holy is where transcendence becomes immanence, where we encounter the presence of the One beyond the universe within the universe. That was the task of the Cohen within the Jewish nation. It remains the task of the Jewish people within the world.

May we merit to achieve true holiness in our lives as individuals and as a people, and fill the world with the glory of G‑d which will surely hasten the coming of the righteous Moshiach BBA.      

Gut Shabbos

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Rabbi Kahanov is the founder/director of Chabad in Northeast FL, consisting of 6 Chabad Centers
He is also the author of "What Chabad Really Believes"
If you like this, you might be interested in purchasing his book click here for more information 


The Ultimate Mitzvah

The division of the Torah into five books is neither random nor simply intended to make a long text more user-friendly. Each of the Five Books of Moses has its own unique theme. Nachmanides explains that the theme of the Book of Leviticus, which we begin reading this Shabbat, is mitzvot. While a good amount of commandments are also imparted in the other four books, they are mentioned there incidentally, in the course of conveying the events or messages which are the primary message of those books.

Considering that this is the “Book of Mitzvot,” we would have expected this book to open with some of the primary mitzvot which form the basis of the Jew’s day. Prayer, tefillin, mezuzah, the laws of kashrut and Shabbat are some which immediately come to mind. Instead, the first portions of Leviticus discuss at length the laws of the various sacrifices offered during Temple times. This begs the question—why does the book devoted to mitzvot start with commandments which: a) aren’t permanent fixtures of Jewish life—they have been non-practicable for nearly two thousand years now; and b) were not part of the daily life of the average Jew (who only visited the Temple thrice yearly) even when sacrifices were offered in the Temple in Jerusalem.

A closer examination of the deeper significance of mitzvot will lead us to conclude that sacrifices encapsulate the inner meaning of mitzvot perhaps more than any other individual mitzvah.

An animal is consumed by its desires and impulses of the moment, giving nary a thought to purpose, to future, to its betterment and refinement. Its emotions control its mind, using its limited cognitive abilities to further the heart’s agenda. The human, on the other hand, is endowed with the ability to harness his emotions, to act based on need, purpose and ambition rather than expediency and instant gratification. In truth, however, every person is born an animal, and must be educated from without and tamed from within before earning the title of mentch—human.

Becoming “human” in its truest sense is indeed a lofty objective. The world would be so much more pleasant and inviting if more and more people actively pursued this goal. But while mitzvot also greatly assist in this quest, this is hardly their ultimate objective. Mitzvot are intended to take the animal-turned-human and connect him to his Creator, to allow him to rise above the limitations of a mere mortal and become sanctified—human-turned-holy. This completes the circle; this creation which was originally animal has become holy.

Torah philosophy doesn’t agree with vegetarian activism, because the Torah recognizes the value of animal-turned-human—which is accomplished when someone who earned the title of human consumes the flesh of an animal. Indeed, it is a favor for the animal no less than it is a favor for the human: the animal now reaches a state it never could have reached while grazing in the field.

But animal-turned-holy—that’s what sacrifices are all about. An animal is taken and becomes sanctified by being offered to G‑d.

The commandments associated with sacrifices set the tone for the entire book, clarifying what the ultimate objective of the mitzvah really is.

Rabbi Naftali Silberberg is a writer, editor and director of the curriculum department at the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute. Rabbi Silberberg resides in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, Chaya Mushka, and their three children.


Thoughts That Count
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The sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar (Lev. 1:7)

Even though a heavenly fire descended from on High to consume the offerings, the priests were still required to bring ordinary fire as well, to the altar. We learn from this that one may not rely solely on the “fire that descends from on high”- the natural, innate love of G‑d which is present in the soul of every Jew. Each of us must also bring an “ordinary fire,” kindle that innate love of G‑d by taking the initiative and contemplating His greatness, to further nurture that inner spark. (The Rebbe)

You may not burn any leaven or any honey as a fire offering to G‑d. (Lev. 2:11)

 “Any leaven” is a person who is moody or melancholy. In the morning or evening, on Shabbat, holidays or weekdays, he is always sour. “Any honey” is one who is always pleasant and sweet. Whatever happens, he’s always smiling. “You may not burn [either of them] as a fire offering to G‑d!” You cannot properly bring a sacrifice to G‑d from either of these emotions. A person must rule his character traits, even his positive attributes. For surely there are times when one must be “leaven” and times when one must be “honey.” (Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch)

With all your sacrifices you should offer salt (Lev. 2:13)

The sacrifices are symbolic of the revealed part of Torah, which is likened to meat; the salt alludes to the esoteric part of Torah that deals with more abstract and spiritual matters. Just as salt preserves meat in the literal sense, so too does learning the innermost aspects of Torah ensure that the revealed part will remain preserved. (Likutei Torah)

Once Upon A Chassid

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A Certain Sort of "Great"

No offering which you shall bring to G‑d shall be made with leaven... shall be offered up before G‑d... (2:17).

Why is leaven so utterly rejected? Because it inflates itself… Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson

G‑d says of the conceited one: "I and he cannot dwell in the same world." Talmud, Erchin 15b

On Passover of 1865, Rabbi Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch, then a child of four, was present at the seder of his grandfather, Rabbi Menachem Mendel. An incident that occurred that night stuck in the child's mind.

At the beginning of the seder there is a procedure called yachatz ("divide") in which the middle of the three seder matzohs is broken in two. The greater half is set aside for the afikoman and the smaller half remains on the seder plate and is eaten following the reciting of the haggadah.

One of the participants at Rabbi Menachem Mendel's seder was comparing his two matzoh-halves, trying to figure out which was the larger piece. Remarked Rabbi Menachem Mendel: "A 'great one' who needs to be measured, is smaller than the 'small one' he is measuring himself against…"

"From that moment on," related Rabbi Sholom DovBer, "I developed a feeling of contempt toward this sort of 'greatness.'"

Tid Bits
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I've Lost Control and Am In G‑d's Hands
tid bit


I fell in the hall recently while using my cane. The cane flew up in the air as I tumbled to the ground. I heard the thud of my head and felt the pain from my pacemaker. Falling out of control like that was a new and scary situation.

I called my son, Mike, to take me to the hospital.

At the hospital, they took my name and reason for coming. We waited while many people entered, including sick children. Mike went to get me a drink. When it was my time to be seen, a man wheeled me into a room. I was lucky to get a room as the overcrowded emergency room was lined up with patients on trolleys.

A nurse came in and helped me into a hospital gown. Then I waited until I had blood tests and a CAT scan of my head. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be; I had to keep my head in the tube for about three minutes.

Back in my emergency room, two women rolled in a huge machine. They took many tests and told me to stop asking questions. Finally, they sent me home with directions on how to use a cane. Mike told them we were working on getting me more home health care.

Once I arrived home, I thought about my late husband, Adam. He started working at the age of 7, transporting diamonds on the trolley into Boston to help his family make a living. All his life, he was a provider. How sad he must have felt when he became ill and was not able to do what he was used to doing—taking care of people.

I remembered my dad coming home after his cancer operation. We all gathered around and tried to help while we prayed that he would recover.

I remembered Dad coming home after working in the junkyard when I was a child. I watched him put coal in the furnace, his face lit up from the flame. I watched while he washed his hands up to his elbow before majestically standing at the head of the Shabbat table and saying the beautiful Kiddish prayer, the aroma of chicken soup and noodles wafting through the air.

All the workday worries had melted away. Washed and dressed for Shabbat, we were all transformed.

Vayevarch Hashem et yom hashevii vayekedash oto … “And G‑d blessed the seventh day and made it holy because on it He rested from all His work,” Dad recited aloud. On that special day, we felt G‑d’s blessings.

Now, many years have passed, and I am thanking G‑d. I am saying those same prayers and timeless words.

As I prepare the Shabbat table with my Shabbat candles, I pray that I will be able to take care of myself for a long time. The aroma of chicken soup wafts into the air, and I say the familiar words of Kiddush.

I circle my hands around the candles as I say what Bubby would say: “G‑d willing.”

The illusion of control has shattered. I am in G‑d’s hands.

I watch the candles and the verse comes to my mind, “For the soul of man is G‑d’s lamp.”

Linda Goldberg lives in Natick, Mass., where she belongs to the Chabad Center. She founded The Metro West Writers’ Workshop and led it for 17 years. She is blessed with four grandsons.



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