In this week’s Parsha, Vayikra, we read all about offerings. Following on from the extremely detailed Parashos describing the construction of the Mishkan and the materials used to build it, we are greeted with a complex and in depth discussion of the different kinds of sacrifices and offerings to be presented there before G-d. I have heard many people rather unfortunately criticise this week’s Sedra, claiming that after reading all about the Mishkan, they wanted something relevant and dynamic; something they could transfer to everyday life. Luckily for them, this Parsha is all of those things. You just need to dig a little deeper.
We’re instructed to live in the moment. As Jews, this doesn’t necessarily mean embracing the latest trends and technological advances- although those, too, can be helpful. Instead, it refers to living ‘in’ the Parsha and constantly drawing inspiration from the weekly Torah portion. At first sight, many people argue that it is hard to do this with Vayikra, in a time where these sacrifices are no longer offered. But in fact, it’s very possible, and Vayikra proves to be an extremely topical and up-to-date Sedra.
In this day and age, we hear a lot about discrimination- and rightly so. Equality is important and we need to understand that people from all races, cultures, and walks of life make necessary contributions to society and should not be dismissed as inferior, or excluded from our activities. This very message is echoed in Parshas Vayikra. It may seem surprising, but in fact, the Parsha so quickly dismissed as antiquated and irrelevant (cv”s) is in fact a Parsha about equality and discrimination!
How come? To find this hidden meaning, we need to take a look at the commentaries. But first, we should know that it stems from a seemingly bizarre commandment; ”Never shall you suspend the salt covenant of your G‑d . . . with all your offerings you shall offer salt (2:13)”. What’s this got to do with anything- let alone equality? Rashi explains, ”When G‑d separated the supernal waters from the lower waters, He made a covenant with the lower waters that their salt will be offered on the altar.”
An interesting explanation, and one which makes the salt commandment- or, rather, covenant- easy to understand, but it still leaves some ambiguity. It is here that we turn to the teachings of Rabbi Isaac Luria, often known as the ‘Ari’, who sheds some light on the different types of offerings; ”The korban, which was the vehicle of the elevation of the world to G‑d, had to include “representatives” of all four sectors of creation: the inanimate world, the vegetable world, the animal world and the human world. Thus the korban was offered by a human being, and consisted of an animal, grain and salt.”
As we read above, all four types of creation had to somehow be included in the sacrifices. And just as G-d included humans, animals, grains and salt, we, too, need to work on including all of G-d’s creations in our lives. When G-d decided that He was going to include everything in His service, He was instructing us to do the same. The message of the salt offering is clear: we can all serve Hashem, and in fact, we all have an equal duty to do so.
Salt is something small and easily dismissed, but it is necessary for our survival. Humans can’t live without it, but it’s not something we give much thought to. There are members of society in this position, too- people whom we rely on, yet often forget. When we ignore or mistreat these people, it is a massive chillul Hashem; a disgrace to our community. As we begin reading the book of Vayikra, let’s resolve to turn over a new leaf, and work on including everybody.