VaYikra: Back to Eden

“Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: When any man of you brings an offering to the Almighty…” (Leviticus 1:2)

The Torah uses the Hebrew word “adam” here to mean “man.” “Adam” should familiarly sound to most readers like the name of the first man, and refers, generically, to all humankind.  In most instances, however, the Torah uses other words to mean a man, such as “ish” or “nefesh.” Why does the Torah choose the less conventional term “adam” to mean “man” here?

The deeper commentaries teach that the Torah does indeed hint here at the first man, Adam. Had Adam not sinned, the entire world would have been elevated to the pristine spiritual existence of the Garden of Eden for eternity. All space, time, and souls would have existed on the highest level of sanctity, therefore there would not exist any specialized holy places such as the Tabernacle, any specialized holy times, festivals or convocations, nor any specialized classes of holy men (e.g. priesthood), for sublime, unadulterated holiness would have permeated the entire fabric of creation. With the fall of Adam, and the lowering of the state of all creation, holiness had to become “specialized” in space, time and spirit, with specialized holy places, times and individuals.

However, the book of Leviticus outlines a system of service designed to restore humanity and the world to its former stature. Hence it begins describing man using the term for the first man and all humanity, hinting that through these means, humanity can reacquire its once-held former stature. We sanctify space with the Tabernacle or Temple service. The sacrifices, called “korban” in Hebrew, literally meaning, “that which brings close,” correctly performed, mend the gap between us and our Creator. We achieve sanctity of the body through purification from the impurities discussed in many sections of Leviticus. The Yom Kippur service, outlined in chapter 16, cleanses us of sin. We strive to achieve further sanctity in accordance with the injunction, “You shall be holy” (Leviticus 19:2). We sanctify time by observing the festivals and sabbatical cycles outlined in later sections of Leviticus. Ultimately, we achieve the blessings promised at the end, restoring the Creation to an Eden-like state!

May we merit to see this speedily in our days!


Based on Shla”h, Parshas VaYikra

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