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Vayikra 5778

Vayikra (Leviticus 1-5 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!  Our hearts go out to the students, parents and community of Parkland, Florida. However, it is wonderful to see that the students are refusing to wallow in victimhood, but are taking their angst and anger to advocate for laws that will protect not only themselves, but our whole society!

Tragedies, particularly of this magnitude, often lead people to ask -- at least for a fleeting moment -- "Where was God in all of this?" "How could God let such a tragedy occur?"

Below are a few ideas incorporated from "Wrestling With Suffering" by Rabbi Nechemia Coopersmith -- though only his article can put them in full context and develop them properly.

What is fascinating, is that we only ask these questions because we intuitively believe three axioms about the nature of God. God must be: 1) all good 2) all knowing 3) all powerful. If you remove any one of these attributes, the question disappears.

If God isn't all good, He can do evil and even enjoy inflicting pain. Is there any wonder why bad things happen to good people?

If God isn't omniscient, bad things occur because He doesn't know everything that's going on in the world. If He knew about it; He would certainly put a stop to it.

If God isn't omnipotent, bad things happen because there are forces beyond God's control. Diseases and natural disasters are too mighty for God. We can only call God to task for events that are in His hands.

If one believes in an omnipotent Being who is all good and all knowing, then the question "Why do bad things happen to good people?" poses a real challenge.

In truth, we should ask that question even regarding events of much smaller magnitude.

Just how much pain must occur to legitimately raise the question? The Talmud gives the example of a person who reaches into his pocket with the intention of getting a certain coin and instead pulls out a smaller coin. Forced to reach into his pocket a second time, he experiences minor discomfort. The Talmud declares that this added exertion is reason enough to necessitate asking, "Why is this happening to me? What did I do wrong to deserve this?" (Brachot, 5a)

Any amount of pain or discomfort poses the same theological question, even the stubbing of a toe. Philosophically, the dull aches in life demand as much an explanation as the major crises. After all, if God is all good, all powerful and all knowing, why should my daughter get a paper cut? Furthermore, minor examples of discomfort are perhaps more conducive to delving into the issue of suffering, since they diffuse the emotional tension, making it easier to focus on acquiring intellectual clarity.

While the topic is too complex to clarify in this limited space, wrestling with suffering requires viewing all events as meaningful. Events in our life are not mere coincidences, random accidents that have nothing to do with a purposeful Being. If God is all knowing, all powerful and all good, nothing just happens. I would like to direct you to read Rabbi Coopersmith's article and to leave you with a thought from Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto:

"One who believes in God's oneness and understands its implications must believe that the Holy One, Blessed be He, is one, single, and unique, being subject to no impediment or restraint whatsoever, He alone dominating all ... there is no other beneath Him who exercises any dominion in the world ... He alone supervises all of His creatures individually, and nothing transpires in the world except through His will and agency -- not through chance, and not through nature, and not through constellation; but He governs all of the earth and all that is in it, decreeing all that is to be done..." (Daas Tevunos).

Living with this attitude enables us to see God's guiding hand in our daily life. When we realize that events carry divine messages, we are compelled to open them up and explore their contents.


Torah Portion of the week

Vayikra, Leviticus 1:1 - 5:26

The book of Vayikra (Leviticus) primarily deals with what are commonly called "sacrifices" or "offerings." According to Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch: a "sacrifice" implies giving up something that is of value to oneself for the benefit of another. An "offering" implies a gift which satisfies the receiver. The Almighty does not need our gifts. He has no needs or desires. The Hebrew word is korban, which is best translated as a means of bringing oneself into a closer relationship with the Almighty. The offering of korbanot was only for our benefit to come close to the Almighty.

Ramban, one of the essential commentaries on Torah, explains that through the vicarious experience of what happened to the animal korbanot, the transgressor realized the seriousness of his transgression. This aided him in the process of teshuva -- correcting his erring ways.

This week's portion includes the details of various types of korbanot: burnt offering, flour offering (proof that one does not need to offer "blood" to gain atonement), the first grain offering, peace offering, unintentional sin offering (private and communal), guilt (for an intentional sin) offerings -- varied upon one's ability to pay, and an offering for personal use of something designated or belonging to the Tabernacle or the Temple.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"Every meal offering that you offer to the Almighty do not make it chometz (leavened); for you shall burn no yeast, nor any honey, in any offering of the Almighty made by fire. With all your offerings you shall offer salt" (Leviticus 2:11-13).

Yeast and honey were not permitted in the offering on the altar. Yeast makes the dough rise higher, but it is an external additive. Honey makes things taste sweet, but it is also an external additive. Salt, on the other hand, brings out the flavor of the food, but only the flavor that is already there. This, says Rabbi Mordechai Gifter, symbolizes a basic principle in spiritual matters.

When serving the Almighty you should follow the model of salt. That is, utilize all the abilities and talents that you have to serve Him. Do not be like yeast that causes distortion of what is there. Do not be like honey that is very sweet, but is something borrowed from the outside. Be yourself, but make every effort to be all that you can be.


Candle Lighting Times

March 16
(or go to

Jerusalem 5:12
Guatemala 5:54 - Hong Kong 6:15 - Honolulu 6:23
J'Burg 6:05 - London 5:49 - Los Angeles 6:44
Melbourne 7:20 - Mexico City 6:29 - Miami 7:12
New York 6:46 - Singapore 6:58 - Toronto 7:07

Quote of the Week

Fear is a reaction.
Courage is a decision.
--  Winston Churchill



In Loving Memory of

Marilyn S. Yarus

Yarus, Sukenik & Ratner

With Deep Appreciation to

Perry & Gloria Green



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