Welcome to Vayikra (And He Called), this week’s Parasha (Torah Portion)!
Vayikra (And He Called)
· Leviticus 1:1-6:7
· 1 Samuel 15:2-34
· Maftir: Deuteronomy 25:17-19
· Hebrews 9:1-28
“YAHUVEH called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting.” (Leviticus 1:1)
Last week, Parasha Pekudei was the final Torah portion in the book of Exodus.
This Shabbat, we begin studying the Book of Leviticus. In Hebrew, Leviticus is called Vayikra, after its opening word וַיִּקְרָא, which means ‘and He called’.
Because this is the Shabbat that falls before Purim (Feast of Lots), which begins Wednesday night, it has a special name: Shabbat Zachor (Sabbath of Remembrance).
Special portions of Scripture are included to remember the attack of Amalek on the Israelites when they came out of Egypt.
While it may seem odd to remember an attack that happened so long ago, YAHUVEH commanded the Jewish People to wipe them out and never forget them.
“When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of GOD… you shall blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!” (Deuteronomy 25:18–19)
In the Shabbat Zachor portion of the reading (1 Samuel 15:2–34), YAHUVEH commands King Saul to completely destroy the Amalekites:
“This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’” (1 Samuel 15:2–3)
But Saul fails to carry out YAH’s command and spares the life of Agag, the king of Amalek:
“But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs –everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.” (1 Samuel 15:9)
For this disobedience, YAHUVEH regrets choosing Saul as king and decides to give the kingdom to another:
“Then the word of YAHUVEH came to Samuel: “I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out MY instructions.” (1 Samuel 15:10–11)
Why is this special Scripture portion read just before Purim?
It is because the anti-Semite in the book of Esther, Haman, who tried to annihilate all the Jews of Persia, is believed to have descended from the Amalekites.
Esther 3:1 describes Haman as being an Agagite – a descendant of Agag, the Amalekite king.
The story of Saul’s disobedience demonstrates how very important it is that we obey YAHUVEH’s command.
Failure to do so can have destructive consequences even in future generations.
Sadly, to this day Israel has enemies like the Amalekites and Haman who try to wipe the Jewish state off of the map.
One day they will all perish and even the memory of their name will be blotted out from under heaven.
“All who devour you will be devoured; all your enemies will go into exile. Those who plunder you will be plundered; all who make spoil of you I will despoil. But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds.” (Jeremiah 30:16–17)
Israel will live in peace and security with the MESSIAH ruling and reigning from Jerusalem, the Holy City.
“‘The days are coming,’ declares YAHUVEH, ‘when this city will be rebuilt for ME .... The city will never again be uprooted or demolished.’” (Jeremiah 31:38, 40)
The Relevance of Offerings
“Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When any man of you brings an offering to YAHUVEH, you shall bring your offering of animals from the herd or the flock. If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer it, a male without defect; he shall offer it at the doorway of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before YAHUVEH.” (Leviticus 1:2–3)
The Torah portion, Vayikra, presents the laws of korbanot (קָרְבָּנוֹת, ‘offerings’), including the korban olah (קָרְבַּן עוֹלָה) or burnt offerings.
The Hebrew noun ‘olah’ means ‘goes up’, because the the priest would burn the offerings on the wood of the altar, the aroma would go up to be accepted by YAHUVEH.
The Hebrew word ‘korbanot’ comes from the root word k-r-v (קרב), which means ‘to be close’ (karov). The sacrifices, once accepted by GOD, restore closeness and intimacy between Him and His people.
It is our iniquities and sins that separate us from GOD and prevent us from establishing or maintaining a close relationship with HIM.
“But your iniquities have separated you from your GOD; your sins have hidden HIS face from you, so that HE will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2)
Although some New Covenant Believers consider the laws in Leviticus irrelevant and obsolete, they remain relevant and are indeed extremely important.
For instance, without them we cannot grasp the concept of blood sacrifice to atone for sin.
That core concept in YAHUVEH’s plan for redemption helps us rightly understand the sacrificial death of YAHUSHUA the MESSIAH.
Attempting to understand YAHUSHUA’s death on the Roman execution stake without comprehending the blood sacrifices is like trying to build a house without a foundation. The home may last for a time but will not withstand the fierce storms without that solid base.
Likewise, we must have a solid foundation in the Word of GOD to rightly understand the Word of GOD, as well as successfully navigate through the storms of life.
For some people, a guilty conscience over past sins causes them to be alienated from GOD, despite having received forgiveness.
The blood sacrifice of YAHUSHUA, however, was shed to restore us to right relationship with GOD and to completely cleanse us of any trace of a guilty conscience:
“How much more will the Blood of MESSIAH who through the eternal SPIRIT offered HIMSELF without blemish to GOD, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living GOD?” (Hebrews 9:14)
Despite this, some followers of YAHUSHUA still struggle with guilt and condemnation, even though the Word of GOD promises that those who are in the MESSIAH are free:
“There is therefore no condemnation to those in YAHUSHUA the MESSIAH who do not walk in the flesh.” (Romans 8:1)
Just as the blood of the lamb had to be applied to the doorposts of our homes in Egypt, so must the blood of YAHUSHUA be applied to our hearts, by faith, to wash us clean from every trace of guilty conscience and shame over our past sins.
“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22)
The pure waters refer to the ‘mikvah’, the ritual water immersion, which is symbolic of our new spiritual birth.
Only when our hearts have been cleaned (sprinkled with the blood of YAHUSHUA) and our bodies immersed in the mikvah, can we have this full assurance of faith that allows us to draw near to GOD.
A guilty conscience over our past will separate us from intimacy with GOD, as well as with other Believers in the Body of MESSIAH.