Parashat Vayikra opens with the words "Vayikra el Moshe/And He called to Moses", without specifying who is the one calling. Rabbi Moshe Alshich of 16th century Safed provides the simple explanation that the verse is continuing from the previous verse, the last one of the book of Exodus, where it is written, "and the glory of G‑d filled the sanctuary". He then offers an interesting idea: We sometimes forget who Moses really is. G‑d honored him even more than He did Abraham at the Binding of Isaac. There, first G‑d sent an angel to call Abraham and then spoke to him Himself, like a king of flesh and blood, who first sends a servant to call someone and only then speaks to him. But with Moses, G‑d called to him directly. Nevertheless, out of honor to G‑d, the verse does not mention the name of the one who called.

We have an obligation to examine ourselves…

What does G‑d say to Moses [literally]? "A person, when he brings an offering from his own [possessions] as an offering to G‑d..."

Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, said that when a person wishes to bring himself closer to G‑dliness, he should offer of himself. (in Hebrew, "…from his own…" can also mean "…of himself…")

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, of our generation, explains in more detail. He says that the bringing of an offering has three steps. First one checks the appointed animal to make certain it is free of all blemishes. Only then is it ready to be offered. How does this apply to people? We have an obligation to examine ourselves, to identify if we are whole, without any spiritual imperfections. If "blemishes" are found, we must fix them. Only when we reach completion should we present ourselves as an offering.

The second step is the ritual slaugthering. In the process, the body of the animal is kept complete; the form is not damaged, yet it is left without life. Spiritually, as a second step, it is incumbent upon us to drain the enthusiasm we have for the physical world and what it seems to offer. We are forbidden to damage it because we must continue to use it for our needs. Nevertheless, our involvement should be devoid of infatuation. Our involvement in the physical should be only what we need to assist us to further service the Almighty. This is spiritual ritual slaugthering.

The process of spiritually offering ourselves brings all of our strengths and abilities to G‑d…

The last step is the actual offering on the altar. The animal is brought and consumed by a divine fire that descends from above. What is this fire in spiritual terms? It is the fiery love of the G‑dly soul for the Holy One Blessed Be He. By weakening the domination of the physical, the process of sacrificing ourselves brings even our animal soul and the body to love G‑d; thus the verse "You should love the Lord your G‑d, with all your heart". The word "heart" is spelled with doubled letter beit, hinting to our two different natures: one divine and heaven-based, one animal and world-based. Both natures can now be included in the fiery love of the G‑dly soul. The process of spiritually offering ourselves brings all of our strengths and abilities to G‑d.

The Kotzker Rebbe points out that both for an animal, which is an expensive offering, and for a bird, a relatively inexpensive offering, the same expression is used, "a pleasing fragrance to G‑d". (Lev. 1:17) This is to remind us again that he who gives a lot and he who gives a little are equal, as long as the heart is focused on heaven.

Rebbe Yechiel Michal of Zlotshov insists that each verse exists in numerous dimensions simultaneously and we must learn from each level how to come closer to G‑d. On the verse, "If your offering is a meal offering baked in a pan, then the offering should be of unleavened flour mixed with oil" (Lev. 1:5) he re-translates a few of the words to come out with a different message. The word for offering, mincha, can also mean "gift". What are the main gifts we have to give to G‑d? Mitzvot! The word for baking pan, machvat, can also mean "cover", or something that is hidden, like bad deeds. The flour, which for this offering is specifically coarse flour, can be synonomous with being broken or, in our case, feeling remorseful over our sins. Oil, which rises to the top of a mixture, is a hint to wisdom. Now read the verse: "When you do a mitzvah to atone for your sins, the offering should be made in such a way that we are humble but mixed with wisdom, which, like oil, will make a person shine."

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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