Sacrifices are Pure

The reason for our aversion to Leviticus is largely based upon our revulsion at the thought of animal sacrifice.

Little boy reading Bible. (Image: © Bigstock)

Vayikra

Special Shabbat Reading

Shabbat Zachor: Special readings are applicable this Shabbat.

  • Shabbat Zachor (זכור | Remember)
  • Maftir: Deuteronomy 25:17-19
  • Haftarah: 1 Samuel 15:1-34
  • Gospel: Mark 6:14-29

Shabbat Zachor ("Sabbath [of] remembrance שבת זכור) is the Shabbat immediately preceding Purim. Deuteronomy 25:17-19, describing the attack by Amalek, is recounted. There is a tradition from the Talmud that Haman, the antagonist of the Purim story, was descended from Amalek. The portion that is read includes a commandment to remember the attack by Amalek, and therefore at this public reading both men and women make a special effort to hear the reading.

Regular Shabbat Readings

Read / Listen to these Portions

  • Vayikra (ויקרא | And he called)
  • Torah: Leviticus 1:1-5:26
  • Haftarah: Isaiah 43:21-44:23
  • Gospel: Matthew 5:23-30

Note: The regular readings are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the annual Torah Portion schedule for these special portions.

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Leviticus 1:1 | The Burnt Offering
    • Leviticus 2:1 | Grain Offerings
    • Leviticus 3:1 | Offerings of Well-Being
    • Leviticus 4:1 | Sin Offerings
    • Leviticus 5:14 | Offerings with Restitution
  • Prophets
    • Isaiah 43:1 | Restoration and Protection Promised
    • Isaiah 44:1 | God's Blessing on Israel
    • Isaiah 44:9 | The Absurdity of Idol Worship
    • Isaiah 44:21 | Israel Is Not Forgotten

Portion Summary

The title "Leviticus" is derived from the Greek Septuagint (LXX) version of the Torah. The book of Leviticus is predominantly concerned with Levitical rituals. An older Hebrew name for the book was "The Laws of the Priesthood," but in Judaism today, it is referred to by the name Vayikra (ויקרא), which means "And He called." Vayikra is the first Hebrew word of the book, which begins by saying, "And the LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from inside the tent of meeting" (Leviticus 1:1).

Leviticus describes the sacrificial service and the duties of the priests. It also introduces ritual purity, the biblical diet, the calendar of appointed times, laws of holiness and laws relating to redemption, vows and tithes. In addition, Leviticus discourses on ethical instruction and holiness. The twenty-fourth reading from the Torah is eponymous with the Hebrew name of the book it introduces: Vayikra. This portion introduces the sacrificial service and describes five different types of sacrifices.


When Yeshua was five years old, He began to study the book of Vayikra. In the days of the Master (and even in modern Judaism) the formal religious education of a child begins at the age of five, and it begins with the study of Leviticus. It is somewhat puzzling for us to think that little children should be forced to study the dreadful laws of blood and sacrifice which constitute the first chapters of Leviticus. We wouldn't even impose a serious study of Leviticus upon our seminary students, much less our five-year-olds.

The reason for our aversion to Leviticus is largely based upon our revulsion at the thought of animal sacrifice. Within the mainstream of Western Christianity, there exists an unconscious reluctance to acknowledge that our God is a God who not only chose to be worshipped through the sacrifice of animals but, in fact, took pleasure in the fragrance of burning meat rising from the altar. We have so sanitized and white-washed God that the demand for animal sacrifice seems to contradict everything we have made God into. The laws of sacrifice and sacrificing disconcert us. When the biblical text begins to teach us about priests throwing blood around and cutting out the fat surrounding the diaphragm and the two kidneys, we tend to become nauseous rather than blessed. We quickly explain that the sacrifices were only to teach the Israelites about Yeshua, and we comfort ourselves with the notion that the 'New Testament' abolishes sacrifice.

But this statement is a gross oversimplification. There are five different classifications of sacrifice, each brought for different reasons. There are dozens of types of bread offerings, wine libations, water libations, additional offerings, complex ritual procedures and chapters and chapters of text. There are the procedures for ordaining priests and instructions for their sanctification and purification. The Bible is not stingy on details concerning the ritual services. But of what value is it for us to profess that the Messiah fulfills the sacrifices when we know virtually nothing about those same sacrifices? To simply dismiss it all by saying, 'Yeshua fulfilled the sacrifices,' does a great disservice to the text and to the Master Himself.

If we truly believe that Yeshua's death and resurrection fulfilled the institutions of sacrifice and sacrificing, then we as believers are all the more obligated to invest our energy in studying those institutions. Only to the extent that we understand those institutions can we hope to understand the work of Messiah.

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