Parashat Vayikra

Parashat Vayikra ~ He called by Shelley Wood Gauld

Lev 1:1 - 5:26 (6:7), Is 43:21 – 44:23, Heb 10:1-18

One of the most effective means of inculcating bedrock life principles in the lives of children is by means of story-telling. Wise parents instinctively know to tell their precious children stories from a very young age. These may take the form of Bible stories and stories from children’s books ~ including the hopes, fears, dire ‘warnings’ and triumphs encapsulated in Grimm’s fairy tales ~ and, in time, parents’ anecdotes from personal life experiences.

Through the vicariousness of stories, children learn to distinguish right from wrong, good from evil, strength from weakness, honour from shame, loyalty from betrayal, nobility from moral fickleness… It is therefore interesting to note that Jewish children are introduced to the Torah ~ the story of HaShem’s relationship with His people ~ by means of the Book of Leviticus…. Their initiation into the word of God is a baptism by fire. It starts with ‘Vayikra’… The first Torah portions to be studied by Jewish children thus serve to inculcate intrinsic biblical principles: ‘holiness’ and ‘sacrifice’… These children are not first presented with pictures of the magnificent Mishkan, but with the instructions of Adonai to his priests concerning the various types of sacrifices required in order for His people to maintain their relationship Him... It is understood that once these principles are grasped, albeit at a very fundamental level, everything else falls into place…

Like our children, there were fundamental principles that the ‘slave nation’ of Israel, recently released from the pantheistic culture of Egypt, needed to learn… ‘Beney Yisra’el’ needed to be re-trained, in the ways of HaShem… and it took 40 years before were they sufficiently equipped, as HaShem’s warriors, to enter the Promised Land.

From the time of Moses to the time of Mashiach ~ a period of about 1600 years ~ spiritual principles and traditions were further developed and became deeply rooted in the Jewish ‘psyche’. HaShem’s people were trained in righteousness over the centuries… some generations more successfully than others…. so that by the time Yeshua Messiah was born, the foundations were firmly in place.

Without the Jews we would not understand our Messiah; indeed, we would not have a Messiah… Through this nation came both the written and the Living Word… Without the spiritual traditions of Israel there would have been no concept of an ‘anointed one’ who would come as a sacrificial lamb in order to die for the sins of His people … Through this nation came ‘Salvation’ (in Hebrew, ‘Yeshua’). The Tanach is the foundation on which the Brit Khadashah (New Testament) stands. It contains all of the foundational principles of Messianic belief. The ‘Good News’ of Yeshua of Natzrat was certainly ‘News’ ~ riveting, astonishing, deeply significant and much talked about ~ but within this ‘news’ were deep and ancient precepts that had pervaded Jewish thought for millennia…

First century Jews so well understood the principles of holiness and sacrifice, that the writer of Hebrews could confidently declare the following:

“Now every cohen stands every day doing His service, offering over and over the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this one [Yeshua], after he had offered for all time a sacrifice for sins, sat down at the right hand of God, from then on to wait until his enemies be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has brought to the goal for all time those who are being set apart for God and made holy.” Heb 10:11-14

What is the moral of the Vayikra story? With Israel, the precious blood of animals was not offered to appease HaShem, but as a means of drawing near to Him. The word ‘korban’, usually translated as ‘sacrifice’, comes from the root word ‘karov’ ~ meaning ‘to draw near’. The offering of the life of an animal to pay the price of sin, was therefore a means of drawing close to a holy God; a means of restoring fellowship with Him. His people did not, therefore, offer their ‘korbanot’ grudgingly. They offered them willingly.

This foundational model enables us to better understand that Yeshua HaMashiach, our ‘korban’, brings individuals nearer to HaShem. But there are additional unexpected episodes in the sequel to the Tanach. Yeshua is able to lead each one not only nearer to HaShem, but into the Most Holy Place and thus into the presence of the Divine… Furthermore, each earnest believer becomes a ‘Mishkan’, a ‘Dwelling Place’, for God’s Ruach (Spirit)… As with all good stories, this one is understood on various levels by ‘children’ of different ages; but its message of comfort and hope has reverberated throughout the earth, touching countless lives down the centuries… Surely this is the greatest story that has ever been told?

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