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Vayikra 5766

Vayikra (Leviticus 1-5 )

by Kalman Packouz

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GOOD MORNING!   What do you need to know to prepare for Pesach (Passover)? A lot more than I can share with you in the next two weeks. While I will give you the basics, I highly recommend that you go to and for more in-depth information. Also, go to your local Jewish bookstore, or call toll-free to 877-758-3242 to find a Hagaddah or book on Passover (like Artscroll's Pesach). Your preparation can make it a meaningful event for your family rather than a "Let's Hurry Up, Skip that and Eat Already" holiday. has a $20 special offer: "Passover - Judaism in a Nutshell" and the "Bag of Plagues."

The first Seder is Wednesday evening, April 12th!


There are five mitzvot (commandments) for the Passover Seder, two from the Torah and three from our Sages. The two mitzvot from the Torah are to eat matza ("In the evening you shall eat unleavened bread" - Exodus 12:18) and to tell the story of our exodus from Egypt ("And you shall relate to your son [the story of the exodus] on this day" - Exodus 13:9). The rabbis added the mitzvot of drinking the four cups of wine, eating marror (bitter herbs) and reciting Hallel (Psalms of praise for the Almighty). During the times of the Temple in Jerusalem, there were 16 additional mitzvot associated with the Pesach offering.

All of these commandments are to help us re-experience the Exodus and to feel and strengthen our sense of freedom. The mitzvot are to either experience the affliction or the redemption.

The matza is called "lechem ani" - the bread of the poor man and "lechem oni" - the bread of affliction. In a play on pronunciation, the Sages also called it the bread over which many things are answered. It has the dual symbolism of representing our affliction and our redemption.

The four cups of wine represent the four different terms for our redemption in the Torah (Exodus 6:6-7). Wine is the drink of free men! Bitter herbs is affliction (just look at the faces of those eating horseradish!) And Hallel is our thanks to the Almighty for our redemption and freedom.

Passover is the holiday of Freedom - spiritual freedom. The Almighty brought us out of Egypt to serve Him and to be free. Isn't this a contradiction? What is the essence of Freedom?

Is Freedom the ability to do what one desires unhampered and without consequence? That is license, not freedom. James Bond had a "license to kill," not the freedom to kill. Freedom means having the ability to use your free will to grow and to develop.

Our leaving Egypt led us to Mt. Sinai and the acceptance upon ourselves the yoke of Torah. This is the centerpiece of our freedom. It sets the boundaries of right and wrong, it sets forth the means to perfect ourselves and the world we live in, it defines ultimate meaning and satisfaction in life. Only with boundaries does one have the ability to grow and develop. Otherwise, with unlimited license life is out of control.

People think they are free when they throw off the yoke of the Torah. However, unless one has the revealed wisdom of the Torah, he is at risk at becoming a "slave" to the fads and fashion of his society. Slavery is non-thinking action, rote behavior, following the impulse desires of the body. Our job on Pesach is to come out of slavery into true freedom and to develop a closer relationship with the Almighty!

During all eight days of Pesach we are forbidden to own or eat chametz (leavened bread - i.e. virtually any flour product not especially produced for Pesach) or have it in our possession (Exodus 13:7). Why the emphasis on being chametz-free? Chametz represents arrogance ("puffing up"). The only thing that stands between you and God ... is you. To come close to the Almighty, which is the ultimate pleasure in life and the opportunity of every mitzvah and holiday, one must remove his own personal barriers. The external act brings the internal appreciation - we remove chametz from our homes and likewise work on the character trait of humility.

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Torah Portion of the Week

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, a noted Spanish rabbi, 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, flour offering (proof that one does not need to offer "blood" to gain atonement), first grain, peace, sin (private and communal), guilt korbanot (varied upon one's ability to pay), korban for inadvertently expropriating something sacred to God, and also to help atone for dishonesty.

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Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"If the king commits a sin by unintentionally violating one of the Almighty's commandments which he should not have done..." (Leviticus 4:22)

Rashi comments that the first word in our verse "asher" (if) comes from the "ashrai" which means "fortunate." Fortunate is the generation in which the king brings an offering when he transgresses unintentionally. All the more so will he regret it if he does something wrong intentionally.

The question arises why the Torah only states this here in reference to the king transgressing unintentionally. Why did the Torah not use this in reference to the High Priest or the Sanhedrin whose sacrifices are dealt with in previous sections of this portion?

The answer is that the High Priest had a high level of sanctity and the members of the Sanhedrin were great Torah scholars. Therefore, these factors contributed to their regretting the wrongs that they did. However, the king was a person with much power, and power gives a person such high feelings about himself that he is unlikely to admit that he has done anything wrong. For this reason when the king with unlimited power admits that he has erred and regrets what he has done, it is fortunate for his generation.

Admitting that one has erred takes much courage. The more power that you have the greater the importance of having the intellectual honesty to admit that you have made a mistake. Take pleasure whenever you are brave enough to admit that you were wrong. This pleasure will give you the strength to accept the fact that what you have done was wrong.

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FEED THE POOR OF JERUSALEM this Passover! Every dollar you give to gets $1.10 of food coupons in the hands of 1,500 poor families. A donor covers their overhead and the store gives them 10% additional food coupons. It is a big mitzva to help feed the poor for Passover!

(or Go to

Jerusalem  6:23
Guatemala 5:56  Hong Kong 6:19  Honolulu 6:25
J'Burg 5:49  London 6:14  Los Angeles 5:55
Melbourne 6:57  Mexico City 6:31  Miami 6:20

New York 6:01  Singapore 6:55  Toronto 6:24


Be sensitive to a person's sensitivities and
be insensitive to a person's insensitivities.

--  Rabbi Henoch Leibowitz

In Memory of
Susan Ruth Fastow

May her memory be a blessing

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