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Leviticus (Vayikra) Introduction

Leviticus

Leviticus is the third book of the English Bible and it’s base Hebrew text corresponds to the third book of Torah called Vayikra וַיִּקְרָא . The first appearance of this Hebrew word is in Genesis 1.5. Vayikra can be spelled four different ways; (1) Vayikra (2) Va Yikra (3) Va-yika (4) Wayyiqra.

The first time “Leviticus” is used to refer to this text was by the seventy-two Jewish translators of the Greek Septuagint (LXX). Later Jerome, using the Septuagint, used this name in his Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible. William Tyndale and Miles Coverdale depended heavily upon the Latin Vulgate and Luther’s German translations; so continued the tradition of calling this text “Leviticus”. Vayikra is translated as “and called“.

The Rabbis refer to the third book of Torah as “Vayikra” וַיִּקְרָא because it is the first word in the text. The oldest name for this book is תורת כהנים The Law of the Priests1.


Lev. ChaptersParsharoitCopyright
Vayikra – Leviticus 1.1 – 5.26
Halftorah: Isaiah 43.1 – 44.23
Brit: Hebrews 10.1-18
Tsav – Leviticus 6.1 – 8.36
Halftorah: Jeremiah 7.21 – 8.3 | 9.23 – 24 (22 – 23)
Brit: Hebrews 9.11 – 28
Shemini – Leviticus 9.1 – 11.47
Halftorah: 2 Samuel 6.1 – 7.17
Brit: Hebrews 7.1 – 19
Tazria – Leviticus 12.1 – 13.59
Halftorah: 2 Kings 4.42 – 5.19
Brit: Luke 7.18 – 35
Metzora – Leviticus 14.1 – 15.33
Halftorah: 2 Kings 7.3 – 20
Brit: Matthew 23.16 – 24.2
Acharei Mot – Leviticus 16.1 – 18.30
Halftorah: Amos 9.7 – 15 | Ez. 22.1-16
Brit: 1 Cor. 6.9 – 20
Kedoshim – Leviticus 19.1 – 20.27
Halftorah: Amos 9.7 – 15 | Ez. 20.2-20; 22.1 – 16
Brit: Matthew 5.43 – 48
Emor – Leviticus 21:1 – 24.23
Halftorah: Ez. 44. 15 – 31
Brit: Luke 14.12 – 24
Behar – Leviticus 25. 1 – 26.2
Halftorah: Jeremiah 32.6 – 27
Brit: Luke  4.16 – 21
Bechukotai – Leviticus 26.3 – 27.34
Halftorah: Jeremiah 32. 6 – 27
Brit: Matthew 22. 1 – 14
KJV – Public Domain
1917 JPS – Public Domain

Understanding Leviticus (Vayikra):

In ancient times, Jewish children began their studies with Leviticus (Vayikra). According to a Midrash it’s “because little children are pure and the sacrifices are pure, let those who are pure come and occupy themselves with pure things.”

Although this book flys in the face of modern western sensibilities, It is wise of us to remember it was given by HaShem directly to Moshe in a very different world then our own.

The first half of this book deals with the sacrifices and the priesthood of Israel. The second half deals with holiness and the sanctification of human life.

Leviticus (Vayikra) Stats:

Leviticus (Vayikra) is the third book of the Torah.

KJV English Stats 2

Chapters: 27
Letter Count: ?
Word Count: 24,546
Verse Count: 859

Additional English Stats:
Shortest Chapter: 12 (with 8 verses)
Longest Chapter: 13 (with 59 verses)
Commands: 795
Promises: 26
Predictions: 125
Distant Messages from God: 35
Prophecies: 64

Hebrew Stats 3

Parashot: 10
Letter Count: 44,790
Word Count: 11,950
Verse Count 4: 859
Double Count 5: 19
Shortest Parsha: Behar
Longest Parsha: See Chart Below

Unique Hebrew Stats:
Scribal Practices 6: 5

  • Enlarged: 3 (11.30, 42; 13.33)
  • Diminished: 2 (1.1; 6.2)
  • Dotted: 0
  • Raised (erect): 0
  • Others: 0

Number of Mitzvot: 247

  • Positive: 95
  • Negative: 152

Source for these stats

וַיִּקְרָא — Parashot Vayikra
Leviticus Torah Stats
#HebrewEnglish# of Letters# of Words# of P’sukim
(Verses)
# of Lines in
Torah Scroll
24 וַיִּקְרָא Vayikra6,2221,673111215
25 צַו Tzav5,0961,35397170
26שְּׁמִינִי Shemini4,6701,23891157
27תַזְרִיעַ Tazria3,6671,01067128
28מְּצֹרָעMetzora4,6971,27490159
29אַחֲרֵי מוֹת Acharei Mot4,2941,17080154
30קְדֹשִׁים Kedoshim3,22986864109
31אֱמֹרEmor6,1061,614124215
32 בְּהַר Behar2,8177375799
33בְּחֻקֹּתַי Bechukotai3,9921,01378131

The source of these stats: Akhlah: The Jewish Children Learning Network

Leviticus (Vayikra) Outline:

Outlining Leviticus (Vayikra) is extremely difficult but not impossible. The layout used here comes from Jacob Milgrom’s Continental Commentaries Series published by Fortress Press.

Pt 1: The Sacrificial System (1.1 – 7.38)

See Detailed Sections for Sacrifices
The Sacrificial System (1.1 – 7.38)

  1. The Burnt Offering (1.1-17)
  2. The Cereal Offering (2.1-16)
  3. The Well Being Offering (3.1-17)
  4. The Purification Offering (4.1-35)
  5. Offerings, Sacrilege, Repentance (5.1-19)
  6. The Priestly Sacrificial Duties (6.1-7.38)

Pt 2: The Inauguration of the Tabernacle Services (8.1 – 10.20)

See Detailed Sections for Tabernacle Services
The Inauguration of the Tabernacle Services (8.1 – 10.20)

  1. The Consecration of the Priest (8.1-36)
  2. The Inaugural Service (9.1-24)
  3. The Tragic Aftermath (10.1-20)

Pt 3: The Impurity System (11.1 – 16.34)

See Detailed Sections for the Impurity system
The Impurity System (11.1 – 16.34)

  1. The Dietary Laws (11.1-47)
  2. Childbirth (12.1-8)
  3. Scale Disease (13.1-59)
  4. Purification after Scale Disease (14.1-57)
  5. Genital Discharges (15.1-33)
  6. The Day of Purgation (Yom Kippur) (16.1-34)

Pt 4: The Holiness Source (17.1 – 27.34)

See Detailed Sections for the Holiness Source.
The Holiness Source (17:1- 27.34)

  1. The Prohibitions of secular slaughter and eating blood (17.1-16)
  2. Illicit sexual practices (18.1-30)
  3. Ritual and Moral Holiness ethics (19.1-37)
  4. Penalties for Molek worship, necromancy and sexual violations (20.1-27)
  5. Instructions for the priests (21.1-24)
  6. Instructions for the priests and layperson (22.1-23)
  7. The Festival Calendar (23.1-44)
  8. Tabernacle oil and bread, blasphemy, talion laws (24.1-23)
  9. Jubilee, the priestly response to economic injustice (25.1-55)
  10. Blessings, curses, and the recall of the covenant (26.1-46)
  11. Consecrations and their redemption (27.1-24)

Leviticus (Vayikra) Scribal Practices:

There are a total of five scribal practices in Leviticus (Vayikra). There are two diminished letters and three enlarged letters.

Scribal Stats in Leviticus (Vayikra)
Enl – enlarged letters – 3 appearances in Leviticus (Vayikra)
Dim – diminished letters – 4 appearances in Leviticus (Vayikra)
10 Torah Portions – Only 4 Torah portions contain scribal markings. Shemini may have two.

LetterNameEnlDim HebrewTransLocation Parsha
א Aleph010 The LORD called1.1Vayikra
ג Gimel100shaven13.33Tazria
ו Vav100belly11.42Shemini
ל Lamed100lizard 11.32Shemini
מ Mem010burning 6.2Tsav

Below are some pictures from my sources.

Diminished Aleph

Leviticus (Vayikra) 1.1 The LORD called unto Moses, and spoke unto him out of the tent of meeting, saying: 

Leviticus (Vayikra) 1.1 Diminished Aleph
Leviticus (Vayikra) 1.1 Diminished Aleph

Vayikra begins with a diminished aleph.

Diminished Mem

Leviticus (Vayikra) 6.2 Command Aaron and his sons, saying: This is the law of the burnt-offering: it is that which goeth up on its firewood upon the altar all night unto the morning; and the fire of the altar shall be kept burning thereby. 

Leviticus (Vayikra) 6.2 Deminished Mem
Leviticus (Vayikra) 6.2 Diminished Mem

Here is a diminished mem.

Enlarged Lamed

Leviticus (Vayikra) 11.30 and the gecko, and the land-crocodile, and the lizard, and the sand-lizard, and the chameleon. 

Here we have and enlarged lamed. Now of my resources show this scribal markings. I am adding it here to be complete.

Enlarged Vav

Leviticus (Vayikra) 11.42 Whatsoever goeth upon the belly, and whatsoever goeth upon all fours, or whatsoever hath many feet, even all swarming things that swarm upon the earth, them ye shall not eat; for they are a detestable thing.

Leviticus (Vayikra) 11.42 Enlarged Vav
Leviticus (Vayikra) 11.42 Enlarged Vav

Here we see the enlarged vav.

Enlarged Gimel

Leviticus (Vayikra) 13.33 then he shall be shaven, but the scall shall he not shave; and the priest shall shut up him that hath the scall seven days more.

Leviticus (Vayikra) 13.33 Enlarged Gimel
Leviticus (Vayikra) 13.33 Enlarged Gimel

Here we have an enlarged gimel.

Leviticus (Vayikra) Resources:

Chumash
The Schocken Bible: Volume 1, The Five Books of Moses | Schocken Books | Everett Fox
The Steinsaltz Humash | Koren Publishers | Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz
The Pentateuch & Haftorahs | The Soncino Press | Dr. J.H. Hertz
The Living Torah | Maznaim Publishing | Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan

Commentaries
Leviticus: Continental Commentary | Continental Commentary | Jacob Milgram
The Parsha with Rabbi Juravel: Sefer Vayikra | MC Publications | Rabbi M. Feinzeig
Covenant & Conversation Leviticus: The Book of Holiness | OU Press | Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Hebrew Language Resources
The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon

Next Steps:

Since you have finished reading all the background information about Leviticus. Select a chapter and begin.

Notes:

  1. ‘Pentateuch & Haftorahs Hebrew Text English Translation & Commentary”, Dr. JH Hertz, Editor. London. Soncino Press. 1994, PG. 409
  2. KJV English Stats are taken from the Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible. Finnis Jennings Dake . © 1961 . Lawrenceville
  3. Hebrew Stats are pulled from various sources: Kefirah of the Week, Wikipedia, and other sources. Provided here are the total numbers. The specific numbers may be found on each parsha post. See the Parsha List for links to each post.
  4. Verses In the Hebrew text are called “pesukim”. Translated it means “sentences“.
  5. Hebrew Double Stats: “In the Hebrew, words are sometimes found duplicated. It is often the end of one sentence bumped up against the beginning of the next. E.g. “… was Noah. Noah began to…”.

    In any other language or philosophy, such doubling would go unnoticed. But Chabad philosophy seeks meaning in every detail, so they include this in their statistics,” says David Negley (member of a closed Messianic group on Facebook) Each double word instance has several teachings related to them. Listed here are the verses with the Double Counts in Leviticus. (5.19; 6.5; 10.16; 11.41, 43; 13.38; 15.2; 17.3, 8, 10, 13; 18.6; 19.34, 20,2 (2x), 20.9; 22.4, 18; 24.15 )

  6. Scribal Practices: Are unique to the Hebrew language and are something that can’t be translated. They are enlarged letters, diminished letters, dotted letters, raised, and other unique features of the Hebrew language. Although they have practical applications additional meaning have been given to each of these instances. Much of the following information had been gathered from the Jewish Encyclopedia