Weekly Dvar Torah: Vayikra

This week’s Torah portion, Vayikra, is the first reading from the book of Vayikra, the third book of the Torah. The parasha outlines the five main types of sacrifices to be offered to God.

The specific sacrifice that I would like to focus on is the Guilt Offering. This offering was to be made under either of two circumstances: when a person unintentionally used property set aside for God or when a person obtained another person’s property by swearing falsely. The two sources of this guilt are different, one concerns God and the other a fellow person, but both have the same core principle: you should not benefit from property that is not yours to benefit from. But what can we learn from this? What I think is interesting it that the sacrifice for both crimes is the same regardless of whether God or another person was the victim.

I believe this lesson can be extended to interactions with our environment. When you find yourself holding an empty coffee cup, you may be tempted to toss it on the ground. But what if you were standing in your friend’s house? You know that leaving trash on the floor is rude and an inconvenience to your friend. What if you were outside on public property? To toss your cup on the ground would not be a direct affront to another person, but would still make a mess of a public space. Like benefitting from land set aside for God this action is not directed against a specific person, but as is the case with the Guilt Offering this mistake should elicit the same response. Making a mess outdoors is just as bad as making a mess in your friend’s house.

So let’s respect the world as we would respect a friend’s house. Shared space, shared responsibility. Shabbat shalom!

Jordan Winberg is a toxicology student here at Guelph, now in his final term. Since attending his first Hillel event in September of 2013, Hillel has played a significant role in his undergrad experience. He expects to miss Hillel very much after graduating, especially his favorite event – coffee house!