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Vayikra 5783

March 19, 2023

Rabbi Geier


BSD || Rabbi Geier

Vayikra 5783

We are starting a new book: Vayikra.

And this is one of the most complicated in the Torah. It's not that it's hard, because it really isn't. It is not that it has twists and turns that lead us to hidden worlds that we do not understand at all. Vaikra lacks the charm of Bereshit, the book of Genesis, that seduces us with the secrets of the origins, and the first stories of humanity and our people. Vayikra does not have the captivating story of Egypt with Moshe growing in image and leadership who traps us behind the column of our ancestors coming out of slavery and beginning a journey that will be endless for them.

Vayikra mostly tells us about... sacrifices; offerings.

Vayikra tells us how our ancestors had to do to atone for their faults, thank, ask, or simply praise the Creator. Nothing further from us.

But our Torah allows us to go a little further than the story, as it always does.

It is said that in times when the Temple of Jerusalem was standing, every person who had transgressed involuntarily had to offer an animal, an atonement sacrifice that received the name of chatat. The truth is that while the common people had to bring a sheep as an offering, the Torah tells us: "If the anointed priest sins for the fault of the people, he will offer for his sin that he sinned, a bullock without defect to the Eternal, as expiation."

There is a clear difference in what a "common" should offer as opposed to what a priest should offer in case he made a mistake.

What is this? Aren't we all human beings? Is it not that we have the same rights and obligations before God? Why is the mistake of a priest more important than that of any other?

It's not really about the person. It's not even about the task you perform. Can we affirm that Avodat Kodesh (the consecrated work carried out by a Cohen) can be considered more important than that of a carpenter...? Maybe for us, but not for the Torah.

What really motivates a greater offering by the Cohen here has to do with his position. When any of us is in a place of greater exposure, the responsibility grows. There is what we call Maarit Ain. It would come to be something like "what is shown to the eye," in a literal translation. But it really is a term that refers to what we show to others, and specifically regarding our actions.

It means that we are always watched, but not by a Big Brother. It doesn't even refer to the all-seeing God. It simply refers to the eye of our neighbor who is looking. The eye of a son, that of a father, that of a subordinate, that of the students, the eye of a Community.

This eye makes us take responsibility for our actions. Responsible when we make mistakes to which our human condition will surely expose us.

And that act of taking responsibility is not done privately. The Cohen's sacrifice had to be more important than that of the rest of the people, and it had to be public precisely because he was a publicly exposed person.

And even if his mistake, voluntary or not, or had been seen by no one, that permanent exhibition cast doubt on the fact that perhaps someone had seen it and told no one, and that single witness deserves a show of responsibility from the Cohen.

Interesting. Repentance, expiation is made public... but not the error. The Priest is not mocked for having made a mistake.

We recognize, even in the greatest, in those who are more exposed than others to public opinion and criticism, that errors are possible.

We take care of his investiture, even with an error, if he shows a real repentance and willingness to amend it. Then there is a sacrifice of repentance and atonement in front of all the people, even if they don't know exactly why.

Vayikra may sound far away, but it is not. It's just opening our eyes, looking around us, and understanding that the characters change.

Names change. The attitudes and the taking of personal responsibility should be the same.

Shabbat Shalom ve Chodesh Tov, have a good new month.

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