Parshat Acharei-Mot -
The Second Half of Sefer Vayikra

(To prepare for this shiur,
see the questions for self study.)

Is Torah Kohanim [Laws for Priests] an accurate name for Sefer Vayikra? If so, why is Parshat Kedoshim included? After all, the vast majority of its numerous laws have absolutely nothing to do with either "korbanot" or "kohanim!"

To answer this question, this week's shiur explains how and why Sefer Vayikra divides into two distinct halves.

Introduction As we have shown in our shiurim thus far, up until Parshat Acharei-Mot, Sefer Vayikra deals almost exclusively with laws that relate directly to the Mishkan. However, an abrupt change takes place in the middle of Parshat Acharei-Mot. Even though it begins with the korbanot offered on Yom Kippur (see chapter 16), in chapter 18 Sefer Vayikra begins its presentation of a variety of mitzvot, many of which are totally unrelated to the Mishkan.

To illustrate this point, Board #1 summarizes Sefer Vayikra according to its primary topics. As you review this table, note how chapter 18 marks the beginning of this transition.

As the board shows, the first seventeen chapters of Sefer Vayikra form a distinct unit, for that entire section discusses various laws concerning the Mishkan. In contrast to that unit, the remaining ten chapters (18-27) discuss a wide ranges of topics, some Mishkan related, others not. At first glance, it is difficult to find a common theme to this second section. Nonetheless, it is clearly distinct from the first section of the sefer.

[Before we continue, I recommend that you scan through Parshiot Acharei-Mot/Kedoshim to verify our conclusion. As usual, using a Tanach Koren would be helpful.]

Therefore, to uncover the thematic significance of this division, let's take a closer look at the beginning of chapter 18, i.e. the very spot where this transition between the two halves of Sefer Vayikra takes place.

A New Header
For a start, let's read the opening five psukim of chapter 18, noting how they form a separate 'parshia':

"And God told Moshe, speak to Bnei Yisrael and tell them: Ani Hashem Elokeichem - I am the Lord Your God!
Do not act as the Egyptians did, and do not act as the Canaanites... do not follow their laws. [Instead] keep my laws... for Ani Hashem Elokeichem. Keep My laws and My commandments which man must do and live by keeping them for Ani Hashem." (18:1-5)
Review these psukim once again, noting how they focus on a very general topic concerning how a person should lead his life, i.e. he must reject the customs of Egyptian and Canaanite culture and follow God's laws instead. Clearly, these psukim form an introduction for the entire set of mitzvot that follow.

[Not only do they 'set the stage' for the laws of arayot (prohibition of certain marital relationships) that follow in 18:6-23; they also introduce all of the mitzvot that follow until the tochacha at the end of the Sefer. Compare the phrase "chukim and mishpatim" in 26:46 with 18:3-5; compare also the theme of chapter 26 with 18:24-29!]

In summary, we posit that 18:1-5 serves as the introduction to the second half of the Sefer Vayikra. Let's take a look now at a special phrase in this introduction that may shed light on the thematic significance of this division of Sefer Vayikra into two sections.

Ani Hashem
Review 18:1-5 once again, noting the Torah's repeated use of the phrase "Ani Hashem" [or alternately "Ani Hashem Elokeichem"]. Not only is this phrase mentioned three times in these opening psukim; it is also repeated over fifty times from this point in Sefer Vayikra until the end of the sefer. Furthermore, this phrase is included in most every pasuk that introduces or summarizes a key topic!

[See, for example, 18:30; 19:2,3,4,10,12,14,16,18,30-32,36-37; 20:24-26; 22:2,3,16,31-33; 23:22,43; 24:22; 25:17,38,55; 26:1-2,13,44-45 and their context (that will keep you busy).]

In contrast, this phrase is found only once in the first half of the Sefer. [See 11:44-45; note that even here it is used in relation to kashrut rules concerning permitted animals, laws that are only tangentially related to the Mishkan.]

Hence, the Torah's emphasis upon the phrase of "Ani Hashem" should provide us with a clue to the overall theme of the second half of the sefer.

Limitation or Emanation?
At first glance, it seems rather absurd that when Sefer Vayikra describes the laws of the Mishkan - the site where God's Sh'china is present - the phrase "Ani Hashem" [literally, "I am God"] is barely mentioned, yet when it discusses various laws that must be kept outside the Mishkan, the phrase is emphasized over and over again! If the phrase "Ani Hashem" commands us to remember that we stand before God, should not that message be most emphatic in the Mishkan itself?

One could suggest that this is precisely the point that Sefer Vayikra wants to make, for it is worried that we may arrive at the wrong conclusion - that God's Presence is limited to the Mishkan! After all, if indeed God's Sh'china now dwells in the Mishkan, as emphasized in Sefer Shmot and the first half of Sefer Vayikra, one could easily conclude that God's Sh'china is only in the Mishkan, and nowhere else.

We are all too familiar with the consequences of this 'mistaken conclusion,' i.e. where one's spiritual behavior is meticulous while visiting God's residence (be it the Mishkan or a synagogue), in contrast to the more secular nature of his behavior once he leaves its environs. [Take, for example, one who behaves 'properly' at shul, but at home or at work acts in any manner that he pleases.]

The second half of Sefer Vayikra may come to counter this misconception. The Mishkan does not limit the Sh'china to its confines; rather, it serves as conduit to allow God's presence to emanate from the Mishkan to the entire land. Ideally, man's experience in the Mishkan should leave a profound effect on his way of life outside the Mishkan. As we will soon explain, this concept relates to the very essence of kedusha. (See Board #2.)

From a thematic perspective, one could apply this explanation to the two halves of Sefer Vayikra. Even though the primary topic of Sefer Vayikra is that of laws relating to the Mishkan, the second half of Sefer Vayikra intentionally includes numerous mitzvot that serve as an example of how we translate the intense level of Sh'china found in the Mishkan into the daily walks of life.

In the Mishkan itself, it is clear that "Ani Hashem." Outside its confines, man must be constantly reminded that God's presence remains everywhere.

[This concept of the Mishkan serving to funnels the Sh'china from heaven to a fountain-like source on earth from which it can emanate to all mankind is reflected in the n'vu'ot of Zecharya (see 14:8-9) and Yeshayahu (2:1-5).]

A Thematic Progression
To better appreciate the meaning of these two sections, it is helpful to first review our earlier observations regarding Sefer Vayikra as explained in our introductory shiur.

In contrast to the other books of Chumash, which are 'narrative based' (i.e. they begin and end with a story), Sefer Vayikra is 'commandment based' (i.e. it contains a collection of various mitzvot that God commanded Moshe and Aharon to instruct Bnei Yisrael). Therefore, the progression of parshiot in the sefer is thematic as opposed chronological.

We also explained that the sefer, referred to by Chazal as "Torat Kohanim," begins as an 'instruction manual' for the Mishkan. Even though we expected that Sefer Vayikra would deal exclusively with Mishkan related commandments, as was the case in the first seventeen chapters, the second half introduces a wide range of mitzvot that must be kept outside the Mikdash, for they reflect how God's presence in the Mishkan should affect our behavior in all aspects of life.

This can explain the internal progression of parshiot as well. For example, in chapter 18 we are told how one should not act, while in chapter 19 we are instructed how one should act, i.e. Parshat K'doshim Tihyu - acting in a sanctified manner in all walks of life.

This concept - that of setting aside one special site (e.g. the Mishkan) where God's Presence is more intense in order to bring sanctity to all surrounding areas - can be understand as the most basic concept of kedusha.

For example, we can explain the kedusha of Shabbat in a very similar manner, i.e. we set aside one day of the week, sanctifying it with a special level of Sh'china, in order to infuse every day of the week with sanctity as we anticipate Shabbat. [See Ramban on Shmot 12:1 in his explanation of kiddush ha'chodesh!]

A additional example is the kedusha on Am Yisrael, i.e. God set aside a special nation (see Sefer Breishit), sanctifying it with special mitzvot (see Sefer Shmot), in order to deliver God's message of sanctity to all mankind (see Devarim 4:5-8).

In case you didn't catch on yet, the three above examples are taken from the three most basic types of kedusha - makom (place), zman (time), and adam (man).

A Theme for Sefer Vayikra
With this background, we can suggest a common theme for all the mitzvot in the second half of the sefer and their relationship to the first half of the sefer. These final chapters of Vayikra can be divided according to these three basic realms of "kedusha" (sanctity or holiness):

(See Board #3. How chapter 27 fits into the sefer will be discussed in our shiur on Parshat Bechukotai.) Furthermore, this same concept of kedusha is also the primary theme of the first half of Sefer Vayikra for the Mishkan itself is also referred to as a Mikdash (note how the word "mikdash" evolves from the same shoresh - - as "kedusha"). As we explained above, the shoresh implies setting aside something for a special purpose (see Breishit 2:3, 38:21 and Shmot 13:1!). In the classic case of kedusha for a divine purpose, the Mikdash is a special sanctuary set aside for the worship of God.

Likewise, in "kedushat adam," Am Yisrael is set aside to serve God; so too the kohanim etc. In "kedushat zman," shabbat and mo'adim are set aside from the other days of the week for a divine purpose. In "kedushat makom," the land of Israel is set aside from all others as God's special land.

Based on this analysis, we can suggest an overall theme for Sefer Vayikra. Recall that at Har Sinai, before receiving the Torah Bnei Yisrael entered a covenant to accept God's laws in order to become a "mamlechet kohanim v'goy kadosh" (see Shmot 19:4-6). Sefer Vayikra explains how Bnei Yisrael become a goy kadosh, not only by worshiping God in the Mishkan, but also by keeping the mitzvot of kedushat adam, zman, and makom - the constant reminders of "Ani Hashem Elokeichem" - in their daily lives.

This recognition of "Ani Hashem," experienced at an intense level when one visits the Mishkan, must be internalized to affect one's conduct in all walks of life.

Virtual ClassRoom enhancements by Reuven Weiser.

For Further Iyun
A. Can you suggest a reason why "Ani Hashem Elokeichem" relates to the mitzvot "bein adam l'makom" while "Ani Hashem" relates to the mitzvot "bein adam la'chaveiro" (at least in the first 18 psukim)? [Hint: Which mitzvot are more universal, and which are more special for Am Yisrael?]

B. Read 18:24-30, the concluding psukim of chapter 18. Do these psukim simply summarize the chapter or serve as a continuation of the introductory nature of 18:1-5?

Where else do we find a concept of being banished from a land in punishment for sinful behavior? (See Vayikra 18:28; see also Ramban! [Be careful, it's very "tzioni."])

Relate this to the situation in Gan Eden and Vayikra 26:3-13.

Based on your answer, why do you think that the Midrash equates Eretz Yisrael with Gan Eden? Relate also to Vayikra 18:5, Devarim 30:15-20 and Mishlei 3:18.]

In the above mentioned psukim we also find a concept of "tum'ah" (18:24-28). In what manner is this concept of tum'ah different than the laws of tum'ah found thus far in Sefer Vayikra? In what manner is it similar?

C. In Parshat Kedoshim, we find a pattern where there appears to be no or very little connection from one mitzvah to the next. Do you think that this is intentional?

If so, based on the above shiur, what is its significance?

[See Ibn Ezra in 19:3-18. Do you agree with all of his associations concerning the flow of the parsha?]

D. Avodat Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur
It is interesting to note that on Yom Kippur shacharit we read Vayikra chapter 16, while at mincha we read Vayikra chapter 18. The reason that we read chapter 16 is simple, for it details the special avodah of the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur in the Bet HaMikdash. However, why do read specifically chapter 18 for mincha? After all, the prohibition of "arayot" (the primary topic) contains no obvious connection to Yom Kippur.

Some explain that this custom is simply for convenience, i.e. as we may be too tired to roll the 'sefer' to another location, we simply read a chapter nearby to what we read in the morning. However, based on the above shiur, we can offer a more significant explanation.

As we explained above, chapter 16 constitutes the climax of the first half of Sefer Vayikra on Yom Kippur, as the "kohen gadol" enters the "kodesh ha'kdoshim" on the "shabbat shabbaton," Am Yisrael ascends to the highest level in all three realms of "kedusha":

However, it is just as important to remind ourselves that these concentrated levels of "kedusha" must be incorporated into daily life. As Yom Kippur draws to its close, or possibly its true climax, we must remind ourselves of this hashkafic message of the second half of Sefer Vayikra. This may be the reason why Chazal saw it appropriate that we read this pivotal chapter (18:1-30) at mincha time, for Yom Kippur marks not only the culmination of the year that has passed, but also sets us in the proper direction for the new year that is about to begin.

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