Summary of Parshat Vayikra
This Shabbat marks the beginning of our reading the third book of the Torah, Sefer Vayikra, which deals primarily with the services and responsibilities of the Kohanim (priests). This and next week's Torah portions focus on many of the korbanot (offerings) to be brought in the newly-constructed Mishkan (Tabernacle).
Parshat Vayikra (Leviticus 1:1-5:26) begins with Hashem calling Moses into the Mishkan where he will be taught many mitzvot, to be ultimately passed on to the Jewish people. The first half of the Torah portion describes the various optional korbanot brought by individuals. They can be classified into three general categories, each one comprised of several gradations in size and expense: the korban olah (elevation offering) which is completely consumed on the altar; the korban minchah (meal offering) which, because of its inexpensive contents, is usually brought by someone of modest means; and the korban shelamim (peace offering) partially burned on the altar, with the remainder divided between the owners and the Kohanim. The second half of the portion (beginning with chapter four) discusses the required chatat (sin) and asham (guilt) offerings to be brought in atonement for unintentional transgressions.
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