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Leviticus (Vayikra)

There are 613 commandments which are described in the Five Books. Of those, 246 appear in Leviticus. That's a big chunk of the Torah. Dozens of these Mitzvos might seem to be very strange, as most of them are impossible to perform in our generation.

Which Mitzvos are in this book? Mainly the numerous instructions concerning the performance of the Temple service, the laws dealing with Tzara'as, and the process of purification from the spiritual uncleanliness they leave behind.

So why do these laws take up so much space in a book that's supposed to be relevant for every generation?

For one thing, there was a period of more than 1,400 years when either the tabernacle or Temple stood, which made these intricate Halachos (laws) essential.

Secondly, although one might think that the laws are useless now, the other perspective is that the very absence of a Temple gives these laws and their study added importance. We are taught by our rabbis that the study of these parts of the Torah and the oral law almost stands in place of their observance. In other words, we can't bring any offerings to the Temple, but by learning about their performance, it's the next best thing.

Leviticus ends with a strong and eloquent warning to the Jewish people to keep the commandments.... or else.

Rabbi Boruch Clinton teaches at the Ottawa Torah Institute yeshiva high school and Machon Sarah high school for girls (both in Ottawa, Canada). You may reach him with comments and questions at

You can now read some of Rabbi Clinton's essays on Torah life at

You can also buy his collection of essays on the Book of Shmuel (Samuel) in printed form at

Copyright © 2000 by Rabbi Boruch Clinton and Project Genesis, Inc.



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