Parashat Vayikra

Friday, March 27, 2020 /2 Nisan, 5780
Parashat Vayikra Leviticus 1:1-5:26

Dear Friends,

The past week and a half we have been conducting Torah School through zoom. In the midst of our day, we ask students for what they are grateful. “I’m grateful for my family,” one student said. “I’m grateful for doctors who take care of people who are sick,” said another. They expressed gratitude for all the people in their lives who make these days of quarantine more enjoyable. They remarked how thankful they were for postal workers, people who work in supermarkets, and everyone who delivers food. “Because of them,” one student added “we can have what we need.”

Now a couple of weeks into our quarantine, these students picked up on the heroism displayed by all the essential workers who sacrifice their own safety and security for the sake of the greater community.

This week we begin the book of Leviticus. Our portion, Vayikra, is all about the food sacrifices our ancestors made in order to atone for sin, to show gratitude, and to connect with God. Leviticus 2:13 teaches, “You shall season your every offering of meal with salt; you shall not omit from your meal offering the salt of your covenant with God; with all your offerings you must offer salt.”

God did not need food or drink, and God certainly did not need salt as seasoning. Why then, the sages ask, was this verse so important? As it turns out, people of the time often sealed formal agreements with a meal that included salt. Salt became a symbol of mutual respect and agreement. In the context of sacrifices to God, salt became a symbol of sacred partnership, and responsibility. Daat Zekenim explains that God may not have needed the sacrifices, but we did. These offerings, complete with the salt symbolism, were there to remind us of the commitments we must make to ourselves, to God, and to one another, for the sake of the greater good.

As we deal with this pandemic, all of us are making sacrifices. For many of us that means staying home, in order to slow the speed of this pandemic and keep as many people out of the hospitals as humanly possible.

For others, who are called to work and serve the greater community, let us join together with the wise students in our Torah school in opening our hearts in gratitude.

I wish you all a safe and meaningful Shabbat,
Rabbi Cassi Kail