Midreshet Amit


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The Importance of the Individual

By: Mrs. Dena Knoll

Parshat Be’chukotai, the final parsha of Sefer VaYikra, begins with a detailed description of the rewards and punishments Bnei Yisrael will receive for obeying or ignoring HaShem’s commandments. Since VaYikra is primarily a book of mitzvot, this description, otherwise known as the Tochachah (rebuke), seems to be an appropriate conclusion to the Sefer. The last verse of this perek (perek 26, pasuk 46) sounds like a definitive conclusion: “These are the chukim, mishpatim, and torot (various types of laws) that HaShem gave between Himself and Bnei Yisrael at Mount Sinai through Moshe.” Upon reading this verse, one feels sure that VaYikra has said its last word and taken its final bow. But then one turns the page and finds an additional perek! And after reading this perek (perek 27), one is truly left scratching his/her head wondering why it has been placed here at the end of Sefer VaYikra. This perek, referred to as “parshat erchin,” elucidates how to assess the actual value of a person’s voluntary oath to contribute the value of himself, of another person, or of an object (animal, house, or field) to HaShem. What is this perek doing here?!

Perhaps the answer lies in taking a bird’s eye view of the Sefer as a whole. As Menachem Leibtag points out, the overall theme of Sefer VaYikra is that the first half (perakim 1-17) discusses various topics related to the Mishkan, and the second half (perakim 18-27) contains laws that reveal how to channel the kedushah (holiness) emanating from the Mishkan into the daily lives of Bnei Yisrael, that that they will truly become a mamlechet kohanim v’goy kadosh” (a nation of priests and a holy nation). In other words, Sefer VAYikra focuses on the kedusha of the Mishkan and how it translates into the kedushah of the NATION. This emphasis could possibly lead the individual members of Bnei Yisrael to feel insignificant. In addition, the slew of laws heaped upon them throughout the Sefer could lead them to feel confined in a rigid system. To counter these feelings and reveal their erroneous nature, HaShem concludes Sefer VaYikra with Parshat Erchin. This chapter accents each member of Klal Yisrael’s ability to act as an individual and make the independent choice to offer a voluntary sacrifice or make a voluntary gift. It highlights each individual’s power to declare an object hekdesh (sanctified, dedicated to the Temple) and thereby create additional kedushah beyond that decreed by the Torah. While remaining dedicated members of the community and faithful adherents of the Torah system, each individual has the capacity and the responsibility to find personal expression and meaning in his or her singular relationship with God. Although the community of Am Yisrael and the system of unbending laws are unquestionably essential components of Judaism, the concluding chapter of VaYikra emphasizes two other fundamental principles – the value of each individual and the importance of developing a personal, vibrant, unique relationship with HaShem.

Shabbat Shalom!