Parashat Vayikra-- Leviticus 1:1-5:26
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Questions for Young Children
• When you are thankful, what is something you do to let your mom and dad know that you feel thankful?
• When you do something wrong, how do you make things better?
• Do you know the word “sacrifice?” What do you think it means?

Questions for Older Children
• How do we Jews thank God today? What did Jews do in Moshe’s time to thank God for their blessings?
• How would you feel if you had to sacrifice an animal you were raising for food for your family? Why do you think the Israelites were commanded to give animal sacrifices?
• What does the word "ritual" mean to you? Do you have any rituals you share with your parents? Which ritual do you like best on Shabbat?

Questions for Teens and Adults
• How do you feel when you read about all the instructions for the sacrifices?
• You may know the term “sacrifice” from baseball. How does that term connect to the sacrifices of Vayikra? How does the meaning change if we call the offering a karban?
• Since we no longer have an Ohel Moed (Tent of Meeting) or a Temple, we no longer sacrifice animals. The rabbis designated t’filot, prayers, to replace the sacrifices. Can you make the argument for the rabbis that t’filot are a good substitute? You might want to scan the musaf amidah for ideas.
• In this parasha there are very specific rituals that have to be followed for a sacrifice. What benefit do people find in rituals (other than sacrifice)?

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After the narratives of Genesis and Exodus, Leviticus, (Vayikra), at first glance, may appear to be a disappointment. Vayikra is also called Torat Kohanim – Instructions for the Priests. Who wants to read an instruction manual? I challenge you to try and find your way into Vayikra and search out meaning and discussion appropriate for your family and friends. You could begin by examining the word for sacrifice in Hebrew, karban, from the root k-r-v (to come close).  The name explains the reason for the sacrifices—to become closer to God. The opening parasha provides a template for preparing the three main kinds of sacrifices: burnt offering, grain offering, and sacred gifts of well-being. Within the parasha the four broad categories of sacrifice are mentioned: ascent offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings, and guilt offerings. The chapters offer details of how to prepare and offer the sacrifice as well as reasons why someone would offer a specific kind of sacrifice.

Find the Food Connection
וְעָרְכוּ, בְּנֵי אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֲנִים,אֵת הַנְּתָחִים, ...עַל-הָעֵצִים אֲשֶׁר עַל-הָאֵשׁ, אֲשֶׁר עַל-הַמִּזְבֵּחַ

And Aaron’s sons, the priests shall lay the order upon the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar.
--Levitivus 1:8

Barbequed pieces of chicken!
In Leviticus 1:14 fowl is mentioned. Although the text specifies turtle-doves, I use the family favorite—chicken.


The Side Dish

A new book, a new season. It’s time to remove the snow from the barbecue! Vayikra, Leviticus, is chock full of sacrifices and burnt offerings so this week’s recipe is the obvious—a barbecue recipe that can also be made under a broiler during the Minnesota winter. So, what can you talk about with your family for an entire book that seems anachronistic without a Temple? Four themes to think about during the reading of this book include:
• What makes a people or an item holy?
• What does it mean to sacrifice?
• What place do rituals have in our lives?
• How far does one adapt? Israelites used to sacrifice animals in the desert and later in the Temple. When that became impossible, Israelites didn’t disappear nor did our religious practice end—we adapted.

If you review the parasha with your children before dinner, you’ll find that the opening descriptions of sacrifices are graphic. For some children it will be engaging, for others it will be repugnant. You know your audience.

With Pesah just around the corner, you may want to note that the original Pesah celebration centered on the Paschal sacrifice.  All the pilgrimage holidays were connected to specific sacrifices.  The rabbis created memories of the sacrifice within the seder and built the seder so that even without the sacrifice we could see ourselves as if we came out of Egypt.




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A Dash of Salt
We may not have a Temple any longer, but the rabbis ensured that some of the Temple rituals would carry over to our Shabbat table. As you can see in Parashat Vayikra, there are very specific instructions about preparing the sacrifice.
At our Shabbat tables there are also prescribed and ordered rituals like lighting candles first, Kiddush second, then ritual handwashing, then motzi. Some families include blessing the children after candlelighting and singing Ashet Hayil before the Kiddush. A ritual performed in some households that is referenced in this parasha is salting the bread before the motzi. (2:13) Salt (which was readily available in Eretz Yisrael, think Dead Sea ) is thought of as a symbol for the brit, the covenant. Just as salt preserves food, the covenant between God and Israel preserves us.

A Dash of Linguistics
Have you heard the term, metathesis?  You can see an example in Leviticus 1:10 where the Hebrew for sheep is כְּשָׂבִים (k'savim). The word for sheep in most instances in the Torah and in today's Hebrew is כֶּבֶשׂ (keves). The ס (sin) and the ב (vet) have switched places.  Metathesis is the linguistic term for switching adjacent letters in a word. Is it just a scribal error? How would you explain it?  For a discussion (in Hebrew)on the topic, see


A Dash of Hebrew
When asked to translate pieces of meat into modern Hebrew, most modern Hebrew speakers would probably respond with hatikhot from the root h-t-kh (cut). The word in Vayikra is n’tihot, the same root used for surgery (nituah). What does that imply about the work of the kohanim in preparing the meat for sacrifice?

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Asian Chicken Kebabs (Quick and Easy)
Gluten free—serves 8-10

Ingredients        rsz 01 vayikra asian chicken kebabs copy

  • 3 lbs. (approximately) of boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce (use a gluten free brand if a guest needs gluten free)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 3 Tbsp. grated ginger
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1 Tbsp. dark sesame oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed


  1. Combine marinade ingredients (oil through garlic) in a zip lock bag.
  2. Cut up chicken breasts into bite size pieces and place in the zip lock bag with the marinade.
  3. Allow to marinate overnight or at least 2 hours.
  4. Place on skewers and grill on high about 6 min. per side.

Good served with plain brown rice.

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