The first book of the Torah, Sefer Bereishis, begins with the story of the creation of the world, and the lives of our holy ancestors, Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Sarah, Rivkah, Rochel and Leah.
The second book, Sefer Shmos, is all about the cruel slavery Bnei Yisrael endured in Egypt and the incredible Exodus. Next comes Matan Torah, the giving of the Torah. Finally, the last half of the Sefer is dedicated to the building of the Holy Mishkan.
Now it’s time to delve into the third book, Sefer VaYikra.
“I can’t wait!”
“I just love to delve!”
“I wonder what VaYikra is all about.”
The first Parsha, Parshas VaYikra picks up right where we left off at the end of Shmos – the Mishkan has now been completed and Bnei Yisrael were anxiously awaiting instructions on how to use this holy building to serve HaShem. Be prepared… from now on, through the last Parsha of the Torah, there are a lot fewer stories, and a lot more Mitzvos. After all, there are 613 Mitzvos in the Torah, and Sefer Bereishis and Shmos only covered a small amount. That leaves us with a whole lot of Mitzvos to talk about!
To sum it up in one word, “Korbanos” – get ready to learn all about sacrifices!
Each of the 5 books of the Torah contains around 10 Parshiyos (plural of Parsha), some more, some less. Now, don’t get confused… The first Parsha is always the same name as the Sefer:
Sefer Bereishis and Parshas Bereishis; Sefer Shmos and Parshas Shmos; Sefer Vayikra and Parshas VaYikra; Sefer BaMidbar and Parshas BaMidbar; Sefer Devarim and Parshas Devarim.
Our Rabbis give this Sefer another name – they called it Toras Kohanim, the laws of the Priests. This name is a lot more descriptive than what we are used to, VaYikra, which is the first word of that Sefer – “VaYikra El Moshe” – “and He called to Moshe”. After all, a good portion of this Sefer is dedicated to the laws the Kohanim must follow when serving in the Mishkan.
In English, Sefer VaYikra is also known as Leviticus, meaning “relating to the Levites.” Indeed, both the Kohanim and the Levi’im, were from the tribe of Levi, who were in charge of the sacrifices, the main subject of Sefer VaYikra.