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March 10, 2013 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Vayikra

This week’s Torah portion is the first in Leviticus (Vayikra), a book focusing heavily on animal sacrifices.  Although I am still using the JPS commentary, the commentary for Leviticus has a different author, Baruch Levine (formerly of NYU).

Since numerous prophets criticize Jews for sacrificing while engaging in iniqiutious behavior, some might think that there is a contradiction between prophetic Judaism and Leviticus’ emphasis on sacrifices.

Levine explains why this is wrong (or at least it was wrong for Jews who properly understood Leviticus).  He writes that sacrifices related to sin were “restricted to situations where a reasonable doubt existed as to the willfulness of the offense.”  Thus, sacrifices did not “atone for criminality or intentional religious desecration.”   By contrast, the prophets’ criticisms focused on such misconduct.  Thus, sacrifices and prophecy fit together like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle: sacrifices atone for inadvertent error, while prophets criticize misconduct outside the scope of the sacrificial system.

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