fbpx
Thursday, April 9, 2020

Weekly Parsha: Vayikra

Enjoying this article?

You'll love our roundtable.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

One verse five voices. Edited by Salvador Litvak, the Accidental Talmudist

When you present an offering of meal baked in the oven, [it shall be of] choice flour: unleavened cakes with oil mixed in, or unleavened wafers spread with oil.Leviticus 2:4

- Advertisement -

Rabbi Mendel Schwartz
The Chai Center

Sometimes the most seemingly arcane Torah verses can have surprising relevance to our modern lives. I run The Chai Center, a Jewish outreach organization, and we hold free High Holy Days services for the Los Angeles community every year. No tickets and no appeals!

We always get a crowd, no matter the venue. Now we’re at the Writers Guild Theater, but we used to hold services at various upscale hotels. We always encountered the same glitch. We needed to serve wine and honey cake to the 600-900 attendees for the advertised “Largest Jewish New Year’s Eve Party,” aka Rosh Hashanah Kiddush. The hotels wanted to charge us a “food and drink fee” that included a $25 corkage fee per bottle. My father, Rabbi Shlomo “Schwartzie” Schwartz, of blessed memory, cleverly told the hotel management that the wine was our holiday “wine libation” dating back to the times of the Temple.

For the sake of religious freedom, the hotels were willing to set aside the corkage fee. But what about the honey cake, they asked? To answer this question, my father referenced this week’s Torah portion: “When you present an offering of meal baked in the oven, it shall be of choice flour: unleavened cakes with oil mixed in.” This explanation convinced them not to charge us a food or drink fee. It’s nice to know that gentiles still respect the Jewish Bible thousands of years later!

These yearly gatherings resulted in dozens of Jewish marriages, and hundreds of children. Shabbat shalom!

- Advertisement -

Justin Levi
President, The Community Shul

I don’t know about you, but when a global pandemic hits that fundamentally alters our daily life, the part of the Torah I look to for guidance is … the meal offerings. Wait, what? Seems a bit anticlimactic.

In truth, however, some of the Torah’s most seemingly subtle passages offer great depth and insight. This pasuk describes some of the requirements of bringing meal offerings, which are composed of nothing more than wheat flour, oil and frankincense. Very often, the individual bringing such an offering was poor and therefore could not bring an offering of any type of animal. In our current state of affairs, this should be a clue for us all to devote ourselves to helping those around us, no matter how much we are struggling, because, let’s face it, we are all going through hardships right now of one sort or another. Even if all you can do is something small, like delivering food to an elderly neighbor, then even that is something great that will earn God’s favor.

The pasuk also specifies that the offerings are to be unleavened. In a few weeks, we will eat the ultimate unleavened food — matzo. We are taught that the lack of leaven is a metaphor for humility — all the substance but without the hot air. Right now, it’s not about you. It’s about everyone in our society. It’s about doing what is necessary without regard for our own egos or opinions.

Ultimately, we’ll all get through this together.

- Advertisement -

Miriam Yerushalmi
CEO, SANE (Save A Neshama Endowment); author, “Reaching New Heights Through Prayer and Meditation”

How does oil “mixed in” a cake differ from that “spread on” a wafer? Chassidus teaches that there are two levels of meditating on the greatness of HaShem: with the head and with the heart.

When your connection to HaShem is only through your mind and thoughts, it is like the oil spread on the wafer. The connection is easily broken when your concentration slips. A higher level of connection, re’usah delibah (the will of the heart), is formed when your thoughts become “mixed in” and absorbed into your heart. This actualization of the meditative wisdom allows one to experience the essential love connecting a Jew to HaShem, a love like that of a parent and child, for, as the Lubavitcher Rebbe explained, “the father and a son are a single entity sharing one essence.”

How can you mix the oil in, to rise to re’usah delibah? Through genuine, happy teshuvah (repentance) that cuts through the layers blocking your heart and allows God’s wisdom to intermingle with our own essence. There are two levels of teshuvah, as well. Teshuvah tataah (the lower level) springs from bitterness. Teshuvah ilaah (the higher level) comes out of happiness. When a person is bitter, their connection to HaShem is tenuous, like a thin layer of oil floating on but not penetrating a wafer.

Happiness, though, makes a person expansive, accepting, like oil permeating flour to create a cake. Teshuvah from that source serves to strengthen and expand our connection to HaShem.

Heftsibah Cohen-Montagu
Arevot Women’s Beit Midrash, Sephardic Educational Center

The meal offering is one of the voluntary offerings in the Temple. In the hierarchy of the sacrifices from the most expensive to the cheapest, the meal offerings are at the lowest level. Rambam makes the point that anybody can make a voluntary offering; even a poor person can bring “one of the types of bread that were common in those days” (Guide for the Perplexed III, 46).

Poor people typically have fewer options. Here, too, the ingredients are prescribed in advance: flour, water and oil without leavening. But from then on, there is a range of options: The dough can be shaped into cakes (round loaves) or rolled out into flat wafers. The loaves have oil mixed in and the wafers have oil drizzled on top. The oven is one of three possible cooking methods (along with a griddle or a pan).

The simplest food, poor people’s daily bread, is what marks them as poor. Here in the context of a voluntary offering, it takes on a new significance — it is the product of a free choice made in a moment of liberty. The badge of poverty changes its meaning and becomes an offering, and the poor person becomes an equal partner in the sacred service. Through this baseline offering, the Torah grants the poor person a sensation of freedom and endows society with an awareness that everybody’s contribution has an equal value — no portion is too small, and every individual is part of a greater whole.

Rabbi Avraham Greenstein
Professor of Hebrew, Academy for Jewish Religion California

This verse is part of a series of verses that give instruction as to how the voluntary meal offerings were to be brought. Each one had to consist of fine flour, olive oil, frankincense and salt. The manner of preparation, however, was up to the one bringing the offering.

This verse addresses the options one had when bringing a baked offering. Although the details of this Mincha (gift offering) may seem somewhat removed from our day-to-day experience of Judaism, they nonetheless play a significant role in the biblical narrative, and they offer us insight even now. The first person to offer a Mincha was Cain. He brought a simple offering of “the earth’s fruit.”

Unlike Cain’s simple offering, which God did not find acceptable, the Mincha brought in the Tabernacle and in the Temple was complex and involved. The Mincha required time and an attention to detail. Before it was even fit to be offered, the grain had to be milled and sifted, and the olives had to be pressed. Each cake or wafer needed to be kept unleavened. In this manner, the Mincha offering rectifies Cain’s error by requiring a level of attentiveness and personal investment that perhaps Cain’s offering lacked.

It is noteworthy that both the words “challah” and “matzah” appear in this verse. These breads are still central to Jewish life and are even emblematic of it. In Jewish life, and life in general, we must harness our attentiveness for things of substance and offer our very best.

- Advertisement -

Enjoyed this article?

You'll love our email updates.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact
- Advertisement -

Popular Articles

Bowing of Daffodils Around the Bridal Path

The daffodils are bowing their heads on this gray afternoon In unison. Perhaps they are ashamed To be witness to a plague. Corona may not be a direct...

Ripple Effect: All the Nots

My family is not doing puzzles together. A friend commented that we didn’t do puzzles before the COVID-19 pandemic, so why the hell did I...

LA County Requires Residents to Wear Masks in Public to Curb Coronavirus

Beginning April 10, Los Angeles County will be requiring residents to wear masks in public for an indefinite period to combat the coronavirus. The Los...

I Love You Although I Can’t Hug You

“If one tiny virus can stop the entire world, perhaps one mitzvah can save the world.” — Dr. Benjamin Hulkower “When we are no longer able...

‘Ask the Rabbi’ Online Class Zoombombed With Anti-Semitic Remarks, Nudity

A private New York Orthodox girls’ high school was Zoombombed.

Census Asks American Jews — Are You White?

“My experience moving through society differs from those who are white,” said one Rabbi.

An Important Lesson from my First Seder of Four

Today, for only the second time in my life, I will have a small Seder. Just the four of us. Two children are away—one...

How To Fight Anti-Semitism – Online

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) held a Zoom call on April 2 to discuss how to fight anti-Semitism.

First Plane Bringing Vital Medical Supplies to Israel from China Touches Down

El Al flights will land at a rate of two per day until all 20 tons of medical equipment, including 900,000 surgical masks, 500,00 protective suits and several ventilators, have been delivered.

What COVID-19 Teaches Us About The Plague of Darkness

What's darker than not being able to see the people you love?

DNC Chair Tom Perez Reassures Jewish Democrats That Party Platform Will Support 2-State Solution

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. reassured Jewish Democrats that they would be happy with the next party...

The Guardian: Trump Is a Nazi and Jews Are His Enablers

To compare Trump — the father of a Jewish daughter and grandfather to three Jewish grandchildren — to Lindbergh/Hitler is an affront to the memory of 1.5 million Jewish children murdered by the Nazis.

Socially Distant Bagels Seeking Roses Amid Thorns

Zooming from different parts of Los Angeles, Erin and Esther look to pop culture for strength. After remembering songwriter Adam Schlesinger ("Crazy Ex-Girlfriend", "That...

Zoom Provides Update Addressing Zoombombing

The video conferencing platform Zoom made available a security update to help users prevent Zoombombing. Zoombombing is when people disrupt a call, often with anti-Semitic...

A Silver Lining Playbook for a Pandemic Passover

The fact that the coronavirus pandemic is an accelerating disaster is no longer in doubt. Nearly half of the world is on lockdown. In America,...

Culture

Jewish NFL Star Mitch Schwartz Becomes A Food Blogger During COVID-19 Quarantine

Schwartz has turned to what he loves maybe more than football: cooking.

Idina Menzel, Ben Platt, Rabbis David Wolpe, Sharon Brous and More Invite You to a Virtual Seder

It would have been enough to vicariously see our favorite Broadway and Hollywood stars celebrating Passover on social media, but now fans will get...

Recipes for Mimouna, The Moroccan Celebration of Spring

The mimouna table overflows with sweet treats like orange jam, eggplant jam, marzipan, meringues and, of course, the famous moufleta, crepes served with butter and honey.

Rabbi Donin’s Trilogy Speaks Volumes About Jewish Life

Donin himself conceived of his work as “a practical handbook on how to live a Jewish life,” but he also acknowledges that the overarching goal of the three books in the series is “to answer the constant query, ‘Why?’

Gloves, Masks, Curbsides: Passover Shopping During a Pandemic

Passover shopping is hectic enough in normal times.

Trending
Trending

Bill Gould on Faith No More’s Jewish Roots and New ‘Talking Book II’ Album

As a co-founder of legendary band Faith No More, Bill Gould first found international success when the 1987 single "We Care A Lot" took...

ADL Report Details Iran’s Coronavirus Anti-Semitism

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released a report on April 3 chronicling the Iranian government’s various anti-Semitic conspiracy theories surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19). ADL Associate Director,...

First Plane Bringing Vital Medical Supplies to Israel from China Touches Down

El Al flights will land at a rate of two per day until all 20 tons of medical equipment, including 900,000 surgical masks, 500,00 protective suits and several ventilators, have been delivered.

Elijah in the Time of Corona – a Passover Poem

I In the age of closed doors and mandated distance I tried ordering Matzah online. The only single boxes, (because with only two of us eating matzah with...

This Pandemic is the Time to Preserve Your Family’s Stories

Everyone has a story. It is not only those who have experienced terrible suffering or accomplished something extraordinary. Wouldn’t we all love to have...

Hollywood

Larry David Says Bernie Sanders Should Drop Out of Presidential Race

Larry David, the Bernie Sanders doppelganger who often portrays the presidential candidate in skits on “Saturday Night Live,” says the senator from Vermont should...

‘On the Map’ Free Online Screening and Q&A This Sunday

The documentary “On the Map” tells the story of the underdog Israeli basketball team’s triumphant victory at the European championship in 1977. Set against...

‘Frozen’ at the Pantages: It Doesn’t Have to Be Jewish

Let’s face it, there’s nothing particularly Jewish about the Disney musical “Frozen.” Unless you count Idina Menzel and Josh Gad, both of whom appeared...
- Advertisement -

Podcasts

Pandemic Times Episode 18: Can family stories nourish us during pandemic times?

New David Suissa Podcast Every Morning at 11am. As we prepare to tell the Passover story, a refection on the value of our own family...

Let My Bagels Go

The only bagel-related thing you should be consuming this Passover is...new and classic episodes of The Bagel Report! Erin and Esther reflect on the meaning of...

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

x