The Book of Leviticus (Vaikra)

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27 Chapters of rules and regulation. The rites and rigor of serving as God's choice. Leviticus is distinguished by its lack of stories and description of events. It opens as if in the middle of a series of religious rituals. May be divided into:

  • Part I: chapters 1-11: The ritual of sacrifice
  • Part II: chapters 12-18: Instructions regarding health and cleanliness
  • Part III: chapters 19-27: Laws of holiness, sanctity, and social justice
  • Leviticus, Chap 1: instructions how to sacrifice cattle and fowl.

    17 verses of detailed instructions for the procedure of sacrifice of cattle and fowl.

  • Leviticus Chap 2: alter sacrifice -- procedures

    16 verses of detailed instructions for how to handle sacrifice on the alter, designating a portion of the given sacrifice as payment to the priests that administer the ritual.

  • Leviticus (Vaikra) Chap 3: animal slaughter for sacrifice -- procedure and principles

    17 verses. Instructions how to slaughter for sacrifice different domestic animals. Two important principles: (i) the slaughterer is to place his hand on the head of the sacrificed animal. Presumably to impress living contact, compassion, sympathy, interliving love -- not to be alien, the slaughterer to think of himself in the place of his slaughter subject. (ii) squirt the blood on the alter, and never ever consume it, nor the liquid fat oozing from the sacrificed animal. Differentiating between the human slaughterer and the animal predator; blood is life, divine, not human food consumption.

  • Leviticus, Chap 4: sacrificing domestic animals to atone for unintended sins

    35 verses. Detailed procedures for sacrificing oxen (mostly), goats, sheep to remedy the deficiency that developed as a result of an unintended violation of God's imperatives. There are slightly different procedures for various social ranking: priest, president, and an ordinary person -- have their similar but somewhat unique ritual. A slightly different ritual is reserved for the case where the community as a whole unintentionally violates a divine commandment. The rituals all call for the sacrifice performer to place his hand on the head of the sacrifice, to spray its blood on the alter, to sacrifice the animal's fat, to spill the balance of the blood on the foundation of the alter, and in most cases to take the residue for burning elsewhere. The sacrifice should be unblemished, 'innocent' -- a male, except for ordinary sinner for whom the sacrifice is a female sheep or goat.

  • Vaikra, (Leviticus) Chap 5: rituals for cleaning from physical and spiritual impurity

    26 verses: regarding touching physical impurity, or character impurity -- false swearing, lying regarding loan, lost-and-found greed, etc. Return of damage when applicable, and bring to the chief Cohen two items -- once to sacrifice by the alter, and the other to practice forgiveness. The poor can bring cheaper sacrifice. The alter ritual seems to be a soul purifier.

  • Leviticus Chap 6: Procedures of Sacrifice for the Priests.

    23 verses. Specific procedures for handling sacrifice, and the blood that spreads all around. The need to distinguish between the dirty and the pure, the sinful and the sin free; emphasized through strong symbolic procedure.

  • Leviticus Chap 7: More procedures for Sacrifice - warning against drinking blood!

    35 verses. More specific sacrificial procedures with great emphasis not ingest blood and fat of the sacrifice.

  • Leviticus Chap 8: A very elaborate ritual for Aaron and his sons

    36 verses, of an elaborate, even bizarre, ritual involving sacrifice of two large dear, whose blood must be placed in definite locations in the bodies of the priests. The ritual is strongly attributed with God's order.

  • Leviticus, Chap 9: Public Sacrifice of Domestic Animals to Cleanse from Sins

    24 verses. Moshe orders his brother and the other priests to perform a sacrifice in a public way, and follow detailed instructions for spilling the blood here and there, and disposing of the sacrificial organs as prescribed. This will cleanse the people from sin. By the end of the ritual, divine fire came from the skies and burnt the alter and the flash remains on it. This scared the people who fell on their face signing.

  • Leviticus Chap 10: Two of Aron's sons offend God with an uninstructed fire ritual -- and are burnt to death!

    20 verses. The chapter discusses fire rituals, and cleansing from the dirty, the sacrilegious, the sinful. Strict orders are given to Aron and his sons the priests. Two sons, for unknown reason, light a strange fire in the holy tent. God takes great offense and burns the offenders, instructing Aron's relatives to drag the corpses outside, and instructing Aron and his sons to stay in the holy tent, keeping their clothes fully buttoned to alley God's anger. Aron and his sons comply, and Moses is satisfied.

  • Leviticus Chap11: mysterious distinction between edible and non-edible game, rational order regarding expired domestic animals.

    47 verses: detailed specification of walking, crawling and flying game that is edible versus the majority that are not. The distinction regarding regurgitation, and hoofs defies common sense. Some see this as a test of obedience -- do as God says, regardless of whether it makes sense or not. Violators who consume disallowed game are contaminated and filthy and must undergo a purification ritual. The chapter also says that if a domestic animal expired, she is not to be consumed. Make sense to protect from disease.

  • Leviticus Chap 12: Impurity and cleansing of the birth giver

    8 verses. Following birth, the birth giver is considered impure and dirty for a few weeks (70 days for a female baby, and 33 days for a male), following which she has to bring a sacrificial animal to the high priest, to sacrifice and to bring the woman back to purity. The animal is usually a lamb, but if the mother can't afford it, she can bring a pigeon.

  • Leviticus Chap 13: Instructions to the Priests to function as Physicians to manage the plague of leprosy

    59 verses: specific instructions to the priests how to evaluate hives, and skin diseases to determine if they are contagious leprosy or less harmful disorder. How to keep suspects in seclusion, when to return them to the community, and when to offer them permanent seclusion. Detailed instructions how to get rid of the clothes of the infected.

  • Leviticus, Chap 14: Decontamination Rituals (Leprosy)

    57 verses of remarkable attention given to clearing diseases people in the congregation. A mixture of arbitrary rituals, and sense making procedures. Quarantine, washing, examination of signs on walls and rooms, taking out contaminated parts, condemning houses that are too contaminated, treating with oil, attention by the high priest etc. The arbitrary rituals include sacrifice, e.g.: taking two birds, sacrificing one, and dipping the other it the blood of the first, then letting her fly off. Special plan-b for people who cannot afford the implements of plan-a rituals.

  • Leviticus, Chap 15: impurity due to exposed bodily fluids

    33 verses: Woman in her period is impure, a man who touches her too. Ejaculating men, staining his clothes is impure, and all who touch an impure person, is impure too. It takes severn days of isolation to recover from such impurity, and on the 8th day, a ritual with two doves, handed over to the high priest for sacrifice instead of the impure. A remarkable awareness of the importance of physical cleanliness.

  • Leviticus, Chap 16: The Powerful Religious Means: Forgiveness! (Yom Kippur)

    34 verses. This is a remarkable chapter: it breaks with the consistent message of the Bible: accountability: sins have their price, wrong doing is punishable, doing the right things has it rewards. But in this chapter Israelites are given a way out. A sacrifice ritual where two male goats are paying for people's sins: one is being butchered and sacrificed, and the other is being left in a far off place, to get lost there. A day is designated in the passage of the year, for symbolic hardship (in lieu of paying for the forgiven sins): Yom Kippur. Strict accountability is broken: (i) admission of fallibility of man. But what about abuse -- transgress and plan for redemption? Tacitly is must be excluded: no forgiveness for sins committed with the expectation of forgiveness, only to sins which were committed with expectation of full accountability.

  • Leviticus, Chap 17: No slaughter without sacrifice, the blood is the soul!

    16 Verses: A surprising severe punishment to people who slaughter animals outside the camp, without bringing sacrifice portion to the alter in the Tent of Worship -- they are exorcised from the community. Blood of the slaughtered should not be consumed since the blood is the soul!

  • Leviticus, Chap 18: A Divine Restriction on sexual relationships between blood relatives, and between two men.

    30 verses. Moshe transmits a clear instruction to Israel to not follow their neighbors in their sexual promiscuity. The land will vomit them, otherwise. God's instructions are life and living instructions: no sex with parents, uncles, aunts, daughters in law, grandchildren. Verse 22: with a male, don't sleep as it is done with a woman, filth it is!. No sex with animals. Offenders will be cut off the community.

  • Leviticus, Chap 19: A Remarkable Edifice of Social Justice

    37 verses. You are holy -- because God, your creator Holy he is! Respect Your Mother and Father, Keep my Shabbats; turn not to false Gods and masks. . When you bring sacrifice -- do it willingly, not forcibly. When you harvest your field -- leave the corner for the poor and the foreigner. Steal not! Falsify Not! Lie Not against your friend and neighbor. Swear not to a lie in my Name, it's sacrilegious. Don't abuse your weaker friend, don't force take from him, don't delay the wages of your workers; don't curse the deaf, and don't put a stumbling block before the blind -- Fear God! When you sit in judgment, be fair to the poor and to the rich, don't gossip, and don't violate your wounded friend. Don't bear animosity to your brother, even deep in your heart; chide your friend if he deserves it, don't overlook his misdeeds. Do no revenge, and run no bookkeeping of punishment -- Love your friendly other as you love yourself! Rise to respect the elderly, and give honor to age. Cheat not the foreigner amongst you -- remember you have been a foreigner in Egypt! Cheat not when weighing and measuring, chase justice! Keep My Laws! Some more commandments of lesser appeal. A modern man of justice and enlightenment could hardly improve on these commandments!

  • Leviticus Chap 20: Sexual Morality laws, Upholding the Sacredness of Israel

    27 verses: laying out the stern, unforgiving law of sexual morality -- death to offenders. No intermarriage with the dirty unholy former inhabitants of the land Israel is invading by God's decree. Adulterys carries death sentence to both. No sexual relationship between family members of any kind other that marital, no beast type sex, no homosexuality --- all death bound! Verse 10 identifies adultery with a married woman, then qualifies to a wife of a friend -- curious. These orders are so sharp and clear that modern interpreters can hardly spin it away. The abstracted message is: uplift yourself, strive to improvement, work to wash away dirt, and uphold cleanliness -- a close relative to CUQ.

  • Leviticus (Vaikra) Chap 21: Restriction on Priests to uphold God's Holyness

    24 Verses. Priests should not touch the dad, with some exceptions for close family. Priests should only be the descendants of Aron. Priests should marry only virgins: no divorcee, no widow, no prostitute. If a daughter of a priests becomes a prostitute, she should be burnt on the stake. The holy service by the alter should not be conducted by anyone who is wounded, or defective in any way. Only the whole one are qualified.

  • Leviticus, Chap 22: Physical Expression of Divine Sacredness

    33 verses of detailed specific orders for priests and for sacrifice to keep all contact with the altar and God's place by non-blemished, non-dirty, non-sick people, organs, sacrificial animals, etc.

  • Leviticus, Chap 23: Order and Schedule of the Jewish Holidays

    44 verses. Specific divine order for the annual holidays of the nation. First is the Order of the Shabbat, then the order of Passover, and Shavuot. Then Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur, and Succot. Reminder not to harvest in full, but to leave some for the poor. A lot of sacrifice in the Order.

  • Leviticus, Chap 24: Hard Justice: Violence and Blasphemy are punished in kind

    23 cutting verses: a man with an Israeli mother, and an Egyptian father who swore at God is stoned to death. (Suggesting on the side that when Israel was slaves many Israeli women were raped by their Egyptian masters). A murderer is killed for punishment; killing a domestic animal is punished by full compensation; physical damage to a fellow man is punished by the same damage on the offender. The law is equally applied to citizens and resident aliens. (A curious repeat of the law for murder and maiming a domestic animal).

  • Leviticus, Chap 25: Seven years pause, and 49 years pause

    A remarkable order: let the earth rest after 7 years of growing on it. God will make the previous harvest last for 3 years, so growers and the poor will have enough to eat in the year of rest. Every 49 years -- in the 50th year, all real estate purchases are done, all slaves become free. Only the land of the Levis is sacred and forever, because the land belongs to God. If a relative becomes slave, redeem him, especially if the owner is a foreigner, and perhaps make him yours, but treat him well. Don't cheat in commerce. Don't charge too high interest.

  • Leviticus, Chap 26: Obey and Enjoy; Disobey and be Destroyed!

    46 verses. A crystal clear deal: follow God's orders, and God will provide the good, safe life of joy and opulence. Alas, steer away from God's orders and instructions, and pain and grief, hunger and death will be your lot. Should this happen you will surely see your ill ways, turn back to God, and God will accept you then and give you the good life. Projecting to God the attitude of an emperor, rule by fear.

  • Leviticus, Chap 27: The law for punishment for violation of oaths

    Rules and instructions for fees and punishment for violating oaths and commitments, 34 verses.