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The Torah's Weekly Portions
Vaykra - Vayikra 101

Posted March, 2001
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Sefer (Book)

Vayikra (Leviticus)

Beginning Perek (Chapter):

Alef (1)

Beginning Pasuk (Verse):

Alef (1)

Concluding Perek:

Hay (5)

Concluding Pasuk:

Chav-Vav (26)

Key Points of Parashat Vayikra
This Weeks Psukim
The Focus of the Week
Commentary from the Stone Edition Chumash
Commentary by Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch
Commentary by Reb Yosef

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Key Points of Parashat Vayikra:

Parashat Vayikra focuses upon the various types of offerings and then offerings that are directly related to various aveirot (transgressions). The end of this Parashah however focuses on those sins that are between man and man. This concept of responsibility seems to be unique to Judaism. Other religions make it clear that repentance can be found with the appropriate deity - however they do not say that, first, you must make things right again between you and the other person.

This Week's Psukim - Perek Hay (5):

  1. Hashem spoke to Moses, saying:

  2. If a person will sin and commit a treachery against Hashem by lying to his comrade regarding a pledge or a loan or a robbery; or by defrauding his comrade:

  3. or he found a lost item and denied it -- and he swore falsely about any of all the things that a person can do and sin thereby:

  4. so it shall be that when he will sin and become guilty, he shall return the robbed item that he robbed, or the proceeds of his fraud, or the pledge that was left with him, or the lost item that he found:

  5. or anything about which he had sworn falsely -- he shall repay its principal and add its fifth to it; he shall give it to its owner on the day he admits his guilt:

  6. And he shall bring his guilt-offering to Hashem -- an unblemished ram from the flock, of the proper value, as a guilt-offering -- to the Kohen:

  7. The Kohen shall provide him atonement before Hashem, and it shall be forgiven him for any of all the things he might do to incur guilt:

Translation by: Art Scroll Stone Edition Chumash.

The Focus of this Week:
When we consider that, when we wrong another person, before we can find forgiveness from God, we must first find forgiveness from the other person, this presents us with an opportunity to recognize the tremendous responsibility we have toward each other.

Commentary from the Stone Edition Chumash:
(20) Guilt-offering for thefts. Someone who unlawfully has his fellow Jew's money but cannot be required to pay because the plaintiff lacks proof, and who swears falsely that he is not liable, is required to pay what he owes plus one-fifth, and to bring a guilt-offering. Lest someone think that there is no harm done in taking someone else's money so long as he intends to replace it, the Torah informs us that this is not so, for in the cases given below, even after all the payments have been made to the rightful owner, the transgressor must bring an offering, for he has sinned not only against man but against God (Chinuch).

(21) If ... will sin. Whereas the Torah does not add, as it does in verse 15, that he sinned inadvertently, this offering applies even to one who sinned intentionally (Shevuos 36b).

Treachery against Hashem by lying to his comrade. He is cheating his fellow Jew -- why is it called treachery against God? R' Akiva says that the Torah speaks here of cases where the only ones who know of the financial obligation are the parties and God! One who denies that he owes the money is denying God's omniscience (Rashi; Sifra). R' Levi inferred from here that it is worse to rob a fellow human being than to steal from God. In the case of someone who takes the property of the Sanctuary, the Torah says that it is called a sin only if he misappropriates (v. 15) -- meaning that he actually used it. This implies that the mere taking of sacred property without using it would not make one liable to the fine of a fifth and the guilt-offering. But our verse speaks first of a sin -- referring to the very act of taking someone else's property -- only after that does the verse speak of its misappropriation. This means that the thief becomes a sinner by taking, whether or not he uses the property (Bava Basra 88b).

The verse states that a person sins by being treacherous to God and then it goes on to discuss cases of people cheating in business and the like. The Sages comment homiletically that one who trespasses against God will eventually deal falsely with one's fellows. The Tosefta quotes R' Reuven that the most hateful person is one who denies God, for once a person denies the authority of the Lawgiver, he can easily violate all the norms of morality (Tosefta Shevuos 3:5). Atheism is the forerunner of morality's destruction, because without the norms decreed by God, man can easily rationalize every manner of crime. Once man arrogates to himself to decide what is right and what is wrong, he can descend the amoral abyss, as contemporary history demonstrates (R' Yosef Dov Soloveitchik).

(23) When he will sin and become guilty. Wishing to repent, he confessed his guilt and came voluntarily to bring his offering (Rashi). In Numbers 5:6, Rashi adds that he would not be liable to bring an offering if witnesses had testified to his guilt. Only one's voluntary wish to repent allows him to gain atonement through an offering.

The robbed item that he robbed. If the stolen item is still intact, he must return it as is; he is not permitted to pay for it and keep it. However, if the item had changed so significantly that it is no longer the thing that he robbed, the robber may pay and keep the item. For example, if someone stole lumber and made a bookcase from it, he must pay for the lumber, but he may keep the bookcase, since it is not the item that he stole (Bava Kamma 66a, 93b).

The verse indicates that the thief must first return the stolen goods; only then does he bring his guilt-offering (v. 25). God does not forgive a sinner until he first appeases the victim of his misdeed by returning the stolen object (Sforno; see Bava Kamma 110a).

Commentary by Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch:
Any dishonest in affairs between man and man is considered as a breach of faith toward God. God is the invisible third part Who is present everywhere where one man has dealings with his fellowman, even if there are no other witnesses present. God is the guarantee for honesty in intercourse and business. And in a case like ours here, where a fact has been denied, and this Guarantee has been called upon, it is no longer a simple case but the defendant has pledged his relation to God for the honest of his case, and then this calling on God has turned out to be naught but a hollow mask, then the most appropriate appellation that could be applied is me'ilah (embezzlement).

Commentary by Reb Yosef:
Rav Hirsch's comments demonstrate clearly that God is involved in our dealings with each other. The text itself, through the reparations, makes it clear that we have an obligation to correct our problems with each other. The order is demonstrated by the wording in the Torah in that it says clearly that reparations must be made before atonement can be granted through the Kohain Gadol (High Priest).

Again, I would point out that if we are consciously aware that wronging another means having to go to that person later, make reparations, and ask forgiveness before we can seek the forgiveness of God, I would think that such a mental position would help all of us to think twice before acting in a less than judicious manner.


Translations in Torah Portions of the week are partially taken from the ArtScroll Stone Edition Chumash and from Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch Chumash

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