This week’s Torah portion is Vayikra (Leviticus 1:1 – 5:26). Vayikra is essentially one long discourse on animal sacrifice with an occasional grain or oil offering included. This killing of animals, their subsequent burning and the shared eating of their flesh was the predominate way deities were worshipped in ancient Canaan. It was believed that the smell of cooking meat appeased the gods and most importantly stifled their anger. It is no wonder then that the ancient Israelites so integrated within the surrounding culture adopted similar methods of worship.
Yet, there was always present within Israelite society a minority opinion that the deity didn’t desire sacrifice. The prophets, who strived to create the most just society possible, often said that sacrifice had little effect. Sometimes they even suggested that the divine has never requested sacrifices, such as in Jeremiah 7:22 which says, “For neither did I speak with your forefathers nor did I command them on the day I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning a burnt offering or a sacrifice.” Yet, most of the time, the prophets argue that what is most important is how one behaves and the type of society the Israelites create more so than the offering of sacrifices. Prime examples of this line of thinking are the prophet Amos (5:14-15 and 21-24), Isaiah (1:11-17 and 27), Hosea (6:6), Micah (6:6-8) and Jeremiah (6:20). Continue reading “Vayikra: No Temple Required by Ivy Helman”
The Torah parshah for this week is Tetzaveh (Exodus 27:20 – 30:10). Mostly it describes the priesthood, both of Aaron and his sons. It details how they should be consecrated, what they should wear, the difference between the garb of the high priest and the others, institutes the daily burnt offerings of rams, and provides instructions for the construction of an altar for locally-sourced incense.
The parshah works to establish differences between members of the Israelite community through consecration as well as in function and in dress by decreeing the institutionalized of the priesthood. Priests undergo an elaborate consecration ceremony which includes the sacrifice of animals, the smearing of their blood, the waving of various animals parts into the air and the burning/cooking of the sacrificed animals’ flesh. In addition to the blood smearing and animal sacrifices, the priests are also anointed with oil and offer oil and grain offerings to the divine. In terms of function, priests should offer daily sacrifices to the divine in the form of two rams (one in the morning and one in the evening). Also, all priests have four items of similar clothing: tunic, girdle, turban and short pants. However, the high priest has four special items only he wears, like the breastplate and a golden forehead piece. His clothes are laden with gold, precious stones, and royal dyes. Continue reading “On Tetzaveh by Ivy Helman”