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The Book of Vayikra

Friday, 5 July, 2019 - 2:20 pm

I am here to say without fear of contradiction that, without a doubt, the most important book of the Torah is Vayikra.

Vayikra can be a challenging read. It has very little narrative and lots and lots of mitzvahs. 247, to be exact. Most of these have to do with the laws of animal sacrifice, purity, redemption and gifts, and how to treat slaves. And then, in Vayikra’s final parsha, Bechukosai, we get the Tochechah-the admonition. Studying Vayikra can be a bit like attending a very lengthy and somewhat dry law seminar, followed by the most terrifying horror movie imaginable.

There are some who claim that Vayikra is somehow not relevant to modern life and modern sensibilities. I disagree. For the patient reader, there are important and timeless messages that emerge from the text. Like Ve’ahavta lereicha kamocha, love your fellow as yourself. I don’t think a single argument can be made that this is any less vital now than it was on the very day it was commanded. Maybe that’s why it’s directly followed by an emphatic “ani Hashem”.

There’s also this one, from parshas Kedoshim:

“The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt”. Also in parshas Kedoshim, God says to Moshe “Speak to the entire congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them, You shall be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.” Note the words “entire congregation”. At the moment God spoke them, holiness became a democratic principle and imperative for the Jewish people. So it’s no wonder that Vayikra is the first book of the Torah that children are encouraged to learn.

Not long ago, a good friend of mine pointed out something about our family surname that I hadn’t noticed before. Waleik is spelled W-A-L-E-I-K. If you take out the vowels, only W, L and K remain. The closest Hebrew letters to those would be Vav, Lamed and Kuf. Which stand for: Ve’ahavta lereicha kamocha: Love your fellow as yourself. Doing that is sometimes a real challenge. So it’s nice to know that reminder is there for me.

It’s there for all of us. It’s been there since every holy soul accepted the entire Torah exactly 3,332 years ago at Sinai

By Gary Waleik 

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