Parshat Vayikra: Our offerings to God’s love

“And He called (vayikra) to Moses and the Lord spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying…” (Leviticus 1:1). Our Sages teach that calling someone before speaking to him/her implies not just familiarity but closeness. The book of Leviticus (Vayikra) begins teaching us that our closeness and unity with our Creator take place in a special space we have to build with all aspects and dimensions of consciousness: the Tent of Meeting, the Sanctuary, the Temple of Jerusalem. These aspects and dimensions are rooted in the physical body because they all are bound to the material world, the place that God created for us to be and manifest our Essence and true identity which is His Love.

In this world we exercise our identity by being and expressing Love’s ways and attributes, and we do that by directing every dimension of consciousness under the guidance of Love. This direction takes place by “elevating” them to the highest place of our awareness of God’s Love, represented by the Tabernacle. In this awareness our will is compelled to bring up our entire consciousness to the Oneness of God: “He shall bring it willingly to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, before the Lord.” (1:3).

As we mentioned frequently, Aaron the High Priest represents this awareness as the catalyst, the transforming fire that unites us with the Creator: “And the descendants of Aaron the priest shall place fire on the altar, and arrange wood on the fire.” (1:7), and this is previously stated: “It will be on Aaron’s forehead, and he will bear the guilt involved in the sacred gifts the Israelites consecrate, whatever their gifts may be. It will be on Aaron’s forehead continually so that they will be acceptable to the Lord.” (Exodus 28:38).

Our Sages explain that in the altar of the Tabernacle there are two fires, a material fire and a heavenly fire; and the latter “burns” the offering. From this we learn that the traits, qualities, aspects and dimensions of our consciousness (the offerings) are transmuted through God’s Love. We come from God’s Love, therefore through Love as the material manifestation of His Love we transform ourselves in order to walk in His ways. This can happen only when we are fully aware of Him and consequently willing to approach the entrance of His Sanctuary: “(…) Then, the priest shall cause to (go up in) smoke all (the entire animal) on the altar, as a burnt offering, a fire offering, (with) a pleasing fragrance to the Lord.” (1:9, 13, 17; 2:2, 9, 12; 3:5, 16; 4:31). Let’s be aware that the fragrance that pleases the Creator is our Love as the expression of His Love.

“And you shall salt every one of your meal offering sacrifices with salt, and you shall not omit the salt of your God’s Covenant from [being placed] upon your meal offerings. You shall offer salt on all your sacrifices.” (2:13). Our Sages explain that salt represents permanence, and in this context it is the everlasting Covenant between the Creator and Israel. Hence, the awareness of the Creator in our lives also must be permanent. Regarding the offerings (the aspects of consciousness that we elevate in order to be transmuted by God’s Love) our Sages tell us that a peace offering is particularly different than the other offerings because it represents not another aspect of thought, mind, emotion, feeling, passion or instinct, but the desire to be closer to the Creator. Therefore it is an offering of wholeness in which our entire consciousness, in harmonious unity, yearns to live with more of God’s Love.

Our peace achieved through His ways and attributes is the ultimate offering we can bring up to God: “And from the peace offering, he shall bring a fire offering to the Lord: the fat covering the innards and all the fat that is on the innards” (3:3, 14). This is the offering of wholeness not motivated by atonement but as a profound desire to be closer to the Creator and having Him more present in our lives. It is an offering filled with joy (the “fat covering”), the joy of our Love that is also His joy: “All [sacrificial] fat belongs to the Lord.” (3:16, 4:19).

“If the anointed priest sins, bringing guilt to the people, then he shall bring for his sin which he has committed, an unblemished young bull as a sin offering to the Lord.” (4:3). Our highest awareness of God is also bound to the physical body, and as such it is not exempt from erring. Therefore it must be rededicated continuously to the Creator. As our Sages say, when the High Priest sins his sin is carried by the people (all dimensions of consciousness). Likewise, when the people sin the High Priest carries their sin.

This is part of the dynamics of the unity of all levels of consciousness because everything is connected in the multidimensional human life. Joy is one of the essential qualities of Love, and by rededicating our happiness to the service of the Creator we indeed are atoned (transformed): “And he [the priest] shall cause all its fat to [go up in] smoke on the altar, just like the fat of the peace offering. Thus the priest shall make atonement for his sin, and he will be forgiven.” (4:26, 31, 35).

The portion continues with the atonement of transgressions committed against our fellow man, particularly in situations in which our testimony is crucial: “If a person sins, whereby he accepts an oath and he is a witness by seeing or knowing, yet he does not testify, he shall bear his transgression.” (5:1). “Or if a person touches anything unclean, whether it is the carcass of an unclean wild animal, or the carcass of an unclean domestic animal, or the carcass of an unclean creeping animal” (5:2). This reminds us that our thoughts must be constantly in contact with Love’s ways and attributes, and not with the lowest traits represented by the carcasses of wild, unclean animals.

Our highest awareness of God’s Love is what atones for each of our negative thoughts, speech, emotions, feelings, passions and instincts: “Thus the priest shall make atonement for him, from his sin which he had committed, and he shall be forgiven.” (5:10). The more we live in Love’s ways, the easier we transmute (“atone”) the potentially negative aspects of a materialistic approach to life.

The last verses of the portion (5:20-26) deal with other transgressions against our fellow man. Our Sages remark that before we look for the Creator’s forgiveness, first we must get our fellow’s. Only then we can come with atonement offerings to return to God’s ways and attributes.

About the Author
Ariel Ben Avraham was born in Colombia (1958) from a family with Sephardic ancestry. He studied Cultural Anthropology in Bogota, and lived twenty years in Chicago working as a radio and television producer and writer. He emigrated to Israel in 2004, and for the last fourteen years has been studying the Chassidic mystic tradition, about which he writes and teaches. Based on his studies, he wrote his first book "God's Love" in 2009. He currently lives in Kochav Yaakov.
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