Vayikra 5770

Posted on March 23, 2011

by Alex Hamilton

This week’s Torah portion, Vayikra, is about sacrifices and asking forgiveness by making sacrifices. Today we see that you pay up to $125 for a sheep. Back then it cost more to buy a sheep, like $15,000. So theses sacrifices in modern terms is like taking a brand new Nissan Sentra and crushing it for HaShem. God drives a hard bargain. But he always has.

However, the sacrifices are today, rather irrelevant due to the fact that the Mikdash HaKodesh, or the Holy Temple is no longer standing. However the forgiveness laws are just as important. The most moving law for me is the commandment to not go back on a promise, or Neder.

When one makes a promise, not to God, but to a fellow human being, it is binding and will endure until you fulfill it or break it. There is a long list of procedures that you have to go through to be free of this sin.

When I read this, I asked myself, “Why would something this trivial be in the Torah?” There are a lot of smaller laws, like specifics about the laws of Sabbath and when we say certain passages of prayer and not others in the Talmud, or other Jewish Liturgy.

Breaking this law could be compared to lying. You promise to have that plow mended for him in a week and you forget about the plow, the plow owner is relying on getting the plow back and has arranged his life around this plow.

However there is one exception to Neder, any guesses? (if it can harm someone including you). All laws in the Torah have the “to save a life” exception except for three sins: murder, idolatry, and forbidden sexual acts.

Breaking this law causes mistrust. That is the origin of the Haftarah today. When Cyprus the Great let the Israelites reenter the Holy Land and rebuild the Holy Temple. We as a people didn’t trust, because the Romans went back on their oaths to us. Why should this dictator be any different?

The Haftarah is a prophecy that Isaiah made when because of this. The Israelites in fact were being hypocrites if they paid attention to this law, because they had made a promise to God to follow his laws to this best of their abilities. They can’t do this and still follow 179 out of 613 of the Mitzvot commanded in the Torah. Since a third or so of the laws can’t be fulfilled with out the Temple they are just saying sianora to it because they don’t trust.

We as a people have trouble trusting because of crimes that have been done to us and are still happening to us today, so I urge you today to be proud of the fact that you are Jewish and to trust that the world in general doesn’t want to harm us. There are those misguided few, who do not understand and they are afraid of that. It isn’t our job to educate them, but it is our job to not hide who we are. Shabbat Shalom!