Introduction to the Book of Vayikra

  • Rav Shimon Klein


This shiur is dedicated in memory of
Etana Sara Bat Hadassa Friedman z”l
May the family know no more sorrow.



“Things That One Sees From Here”


Scripture has a unique approach regarding the opening sections of each of its books. The beginning of each book serves as an introduction to the spiritual position and system of ideas that the reader will encounter over the course of the book.[1] In this shiur, we will consider the opening verse of the book of Vayikra and relate to it as an introduction to the book as a whole.


And He called to Moshe, and the Lord spoke to him out of the Tent of Meeting, saying. (Vayikra 1:1)


The book of Vayikra opens with these words, and over the course of the following pages we will become deeply familiar with them. God first calls out to Moshe, and only at a second stage does He speak to him from the Tent of Meeting. What does this initiating call add to God's speaking?[2] An initiating call bridges the gap, physical or spiritual, between the place where the person being called is found and the place to which he is being called. The call establishes attention and direction, so that conversation becomes possible.[3]


Who is calling? From where does the call come? The first clause, "And He called to Moshe," does not relate to these questions.[4] This is an initiatory call in which the name of God is absent, and the place from which He calls leaves no impression. Only at a second stage does the picture become clarified: "And the Lord spoke to Moshe from the Tent of Meeting, saying." Now there is speech; God's name is present in a real revelation, He speaks from a significant place, and finally there is a statement, content. In the middle – the act that allowed for this clarification – is Moshe's response to God's call.[5] From a physical perspective, this entails approaching the Tent of Meeting; from a spiritual perspective, it entails directing his attention toward God's call. Now, in his new "place," the event changes its character. God speaks to him and invites him to the passages dealing with the sacrificial offerings and other matters in the book. The place from which the speech issues forth – the Tent of Meeting – is now the subject and it becomes significant.


In this verse, God invites Moshe to a "higher domain," from which He will talk to him. God's word will not be heard from Moshe's place in the camp. In order to expose himself to God's word, Moshe must abandon his place and see things from the perspective of God who dwells in the Sanctuary.


These words serve as an introduction to the sections dealing with sacrifices, but in a broader context, they serve as an introduction to the entire book. Sefer Vayikra is an entire book of the Torah in which God speaks to man, from the Tent of Meeting to the people of Israel.


From God’s Perspective


As stated above, the field on which the book of Vayikra plays out is God's domain; accordingly, from start to finish, it is comprised of the words of God. There are two notable exceptions where we find descriptions of events: the story of the dedication of the Mishkan (chapters 8-10) and the story of the blasphemer (24:10-23).[6] On the essential plain, the deviation is limited, for in both stories God has a strong presence. At the dedication of the Mishkan, God comes to the Mishkan, and the sons of Aharon, like the Temple vessels, are dedicated to the Temple service. In the story of the blasphemer, God is present in the negation. A certain person utters God name and blasphemes, and the injury that he inflicts upon the name of God, and upon His appearance in the world makes him liable for the death penalty. In keeping with the spirit of the book, the Torah clarifies in the section of the dedication of the Temple: "And Moshe did as God commanded him" – over and over again.[7] In the story of the blasphemer as well, the offender is placed in custody "that the mind of the Lord might be shown them." Accordingly the story ends with the words: "And the children of Israel did as the Lord commanded Moshe" (Vayikra 24:12, 23).


Apart from these two events, nowhere in the book are any details given regarding implementation – whether through Moshe's repetition of God's words before the people or through execution of some Divine instruction.[8] Such repetitions are found in other books, and their very existence testifies to the built-in gap that exists between the original and its additional appearance.[9] This repetition would be expected in a place where there are two domains: a Divine domain, where God speaks His word, and the domain of human life, where the people are present and things happen. The book of Vayikra does not relate to the domain of human life, and there is therefore no need to coordinate between the two.


Issues and Insights


What issues does the book of Vayikra deal with? The chapters dealing with the Mishkan take up a hefty portion of the book: the sacrifices (chapters 1-7), the dedication of the Mishkan (chapters 8-10), the Yom Kippur service (chapter 16), the laws governing the priesthood in general and in the Mishkan in particular (chapters 20-21), and the matter of vows of valuations (chapter 27). This is a direct result of the perspective underlying the book – the word of God spoken to Moshe from the Tent of Meeting.


Alongside these Mishkan-relatedmatters, the book also deals with mundane matters that have a common denominator: the Divine perspective from which they are viewed. This perspective invites man to behavioral standards that do not issue from this world. An important expression of these standards is found in the section dealing with the sacrifices, which will be the focus of our study of Parashat Tzav.


In what follows, we will identify the profound insights that may be derived from the unique perspective of this book with respect to the mundane matters treated by it.


A large collection of behavioral precepts pertaining to mundane matters is found in Parashat Kedoshim, which opens with the heading: "You shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy" (Vayikra 19:2). This verse is a command regarding conduct characterized by withdrawal, and it is also a rationalization: I act this way; you too should act in this manner. The section opens with issues that express the upraised and sanctified in life – e.g., fear of one's parents, observance of Shabbat, distancing oneself from idolatry, and sacrifices – but later it focuses on social precepts: pe'ah and leket: "You shall leave them for the poor and stranger" (v. 10); "You shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another" (v. 11); "You shall not defraud your neighbor, neither rob him; the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with you all night until the morning. You shall not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind… You shall do no unrighteousness in judgment; you shall not respect the person of the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty; but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor" (vv. 13-14).


The rationale that the Torah offers for these commandments indicates that the heading that we bestowed upon them – social commandments – is inaccurate. This heading fits these imperatives as they appear in the book of Devarim.[10] The issue in the book of Vayikra is not the development of society and the fabric of life, but rather "I am the Lord your God" or "And you shall fear your God, I am the Lord." That is, I, God, am present and I exist as your God. My presence creates standards that demand of you precise and elevated conduct. Accordingly, the heading "You shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy" belongs both to the lofty issues and to the issues related to mundane life.[11]


Another aspect of the uniqueness of the mundane matters in this book: In Parashat Behar, the land is presented as belonging to God: "For the land is Mine, for you are strangers and sojourners with Me" (Vayikra 25:23).[12]  An obvious question arises: What does it mean that the land belongs to God? What is man's standing here? The answer to this question is spelled out in the Torah. After the Torah explains why the land shall not be sold for ever, it commands: "And in all the land of your possession, you shall grant a redemption for the land" (v. 24). Over and over again, these verses use the word "redemption," and describe the return of land that had been sold to its original owner.[13] There is a paradox here: On the one hand, man is described as a stranger and sojourner in a land that belongs to God; on the other hand, the land belongs to him and to his family, and its return is perceived as redemption.


The explanation of this point opens a window to an additional understanding of the essence of the book. What is meant by the words: "For the land is Mine"? The reference here is not to transcendental ownership, like the sanctity of the Temple, which distances the land from man. On the contrary, your connection to the land is essential because God designated it for you, and you are therefore not authorized to hand it over to someone else. The land's belonging to God should be explained as follows: I am the sovereign over the land; I have established its purpose, assigning it to you as an inheritance that passes down from one generation to the next. This being the case, you lack the authority to desecrate its status and sell it. In other words, ownership of the land is given a sacred meaning in this book, and it embodies eternal identity and meaning in earthly life.


This relationship between man and the land is somewhat similar to the relationship between man and his body. To what degree does man own his body? Is he permitted to do with his body as he pleases? A person's body in great measure embodies his self; its belonging to him is essential, and precisely for this reason, he is not permitted to do with it whatever he wants. This restriction of his ownership tells a story about a connection that is not by choice, one that lies at the very foundation of creation.


Thus far we have seen some of the characteristics of the concepts found in the book of Vayikra. In the next section we will present an introduction to the book of Devarim, which will reveal the conceptual gap between the two books. This gap will illustrate and help us understand the uniqueness of the book of Vayikra.


The Difference Between the Book of Vayikra and the Book of Devarim


These are the words which Moshe spoke to all Israel on the other side of the Jordan, in the wilderness over against Suf… It is eleven days' journey from Chorev… And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month… after he had slain Sichon… beyond the Jordan, in the land of Moav, Moshe began to declare this Torah, saying. (Devarim 1:1-5)


As opposed to the book of Vayikra, the essence of which is God's words to Moshe, now we have the words of Moshe. As opposed to the Divine perspective, which is not subject to the context of time and place, now the contexts of place and time and people are the heart of the matter. Note is made of the place, the journey that led to it, the time, the wars that preceded the speech, and finally another context of place. In all of these, events took place that fashioned the spiritual stance of the people and of Moshe.[14] This time and place serve as the starting point of the entire book; this is the position from which Moshe looks out and says what he has to say. Had the events been different, Moshe's position would have changed accordingly.


The central theme of the book of Devarim is preparing the people of Israel for entering the land. In the spiritual world, they will encounter a new concept that will affect their way of life and their perspective on the world: "responsibility." In contrast to the period of slavery in Egypt and in contrast to the period of wandering in the wilderness, which did not include this position,[15] with their entry into the land they will gradually take responsibility for the lives that they will build there and for their physical and spiritual existence. In this reality, the focus will shift from Divine actions to human deeds, from the word of God as it is in itself to the way it is heard in the world of Moshe and the people. God too will now reveal Himself to them in a different manner. In contrast to the encounter with God's word that emanates from the Tent of Meeting and invites the people to adopt a higher perspective on reality, from this point on, their own actions will serve as their starting point. They will act, they will do, and if they merit, the "Dweller" will come and dwell among them.[16]


The gap between the two books has countless consequences. "Things that one sees from here," from the heights of the Divine perspective in the Tent of Meeting, "one does not see from there," from the perspective of mortal Moshe. And "things that one sees from here," from the perspective of mortal Moshe, from the perspective of forty-two years of leading the people and with the maturity that he reached, "one does not see from there," from the lofty perspective that sees beyond the realm of life. The issues treated in the two books are different, the spiritual assumptions are different, and even an issue that appears in both books assumes different forms and meanings in each.


Systematic Gap


Let us illustrate this with examples. Is man permitted to veer in any way from God's command? What is the place for creativity in man's standing before God? In the book of Vayikra,man is not permitted to make any changes; there is also no room for creativity. A clear expression of this idea is found in the story of Nadav and Avihu, who sinned when they offered "a strange fire before the Lord, which He commanded them not" (Vayikra 10:1).[17] As for the book of Devarim, the essence of the book is Moshe's creativity, the way he relates to instructions or to a given situation from his own novel perspective. The book of Vayikra does not describe God's love of man or man's love of God, whereas the book of Devarim refers to such love over and over again (18 times). The "heroes" of the book of Vayikra are the priests, who are mentioned over the course of the book close to two hundred times, often in connection with the sacrificial service. In the book of Devarim,they are mentioned only 15 times, in connection with justice, instruction, and their spiritual authority. In the book of Vayikra,there is no "responsibility" for man; throughout the book, God is the sovereign and man does His bidding. In the book of Devarim,"responsibility" is the issue that stands at the heart of the book, and it repeats itself time and time again in different variations.[18] In the book of Vayikra there are no dates or historical processes; in the book of Devarim, the dating is presented from the very outset, as a heading, and the book also contains a call to contemplate historical processes: "Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations" (Devarim 32:7).


We have already commented on the oft-repeated rationale for the mitzvot in Parashat Kedoshim: "I am the Lord your God." Now let us consider the fact that those very commandments are recorded in the book of Devarim, where the context is social.


For example, in Parashat Kedoshim the commandment regarding the gifts for the poor that are to be left in the field appears as follows:


And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, neither shall you gather the gleaning of your harvest. And you shall not glean your vineyard, neither shall you gather the single grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the Lord your God. (Vayikra 19:9-10)


The basis for these gifts is "I am the Lord your God." The book of Devarim also records the commandments relating to the gifts to the poor, but there the logic is explained differently:


When you reap your harvest in your field, and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to fetch it; it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive tree, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless and for the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it afterwards; it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow. And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore, I command you to do this thing. (Devarim 24:19-22)


As opposed to the presence of God as the basis of these commandments, as in Vayikra, the issue now is God's blessing of man in all the work of his hands and the memory of their situation as slaves in the land of Egypt.


Another example is the directive regarding weights and measures:


You shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure. Just balances, just weights, a just efa, and a just hin, shall you have… (Vayikra 19:35-36)


The rationale for these laws appears immediately afterwards:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. Therefore shall you observe all My statutes, and My judgments, and do them; I am the Lord. (Vayikra 19:35-36)


These same laws appear again in the book of Devarim:


You shall not have in your bag diverse weights, a great and a small. You shall not have in your house diverse measures, a great and a small. But you shall have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure shall you have, that your days may be lengthened in the land which the Lord your God gives you. For all that do such things, and all that do unrighteously, are an abomination to the Lord your God. (Devarim 25:13-16)


As opposed to pointing to God who commands that His laws and ordinances be kept, now the issue is intentional behavior that will extend your life on earth.


In the next section, we will return to the dual ownership of the land and try to explain its meaning.


Whose Land Is It?


According to the number of years after the Jubilee you shall buy of your neighbor, and according to the number of years of the fruits he shall sell to you… The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me. (Vayikra 25:15-23)


"For the land is Mine," says God, defining its status in the book of Vayikra.[19] In this book, the land is found in the domain of God and is not given to the people.[20] In the book of Devarim, on the other hand, the land is described as having already been given to man, and it is now in his possession.[21]


When you have eaten and are replete, than you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you. (Devarim 8:10)


And He shall besiege you in all your gates throughout all your land, which the Lord your God has given you. (Devarim 28:52)


Look down from Your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Your people Israel and the land which You have given us, as you did swear to our fathers, a land flowing with milk and honey. (Devarim 26:15)


Time and time again, the land is defined as having been given to the people, who now enjoy sovereignty over it.


There is an interesting difference in formulation between the two books. In the book of Vayikra the land is called "eretz achuza,"[22]a land of which one must take possession, as an expression of a connection that is not one of ownership and not self-evident. Never is it called "nachala," "inheritance." In the book of Devarim, in contrast, the land is called "nachala,"[23]and not once is it called "achuza."[24]


Division of the Expanse


In the wake of the gap between the two books, let us focus on the dual perspective on the land. Does the land of Israel belong to God as is described in the book of Vayikra, or does it also belong to the people of Israel, as is described in the book of Devarim? How are we to know which option to choose?


On the way to the answer, let us invite ourselves to a live, three dimensional expanse. Let us imagine a similar question involving parents and children. The child has a room in his parents' house; the room is defined as his room, and that is the way he relates to it. He decorates it as he pleases, he bars others from entering the room without his permission, and the like. One day, the son emerges from his room carrying his bed on his back. His parents ask him what is going on, and he answers that today it is Lag Ba-Omer and he has decided to sacrifice his bed for the sake of the day. In his defense, he will argue that the bed is his, just as his room is his. On the other hand, his parents counter that the room is their room and the bed is their bed, just as it always was.


The key to understanding the dilemma is found in the following duality. Legally speaking, it is absolutely clear that the house belongs to the parents; they bought it and they are its legal owners. At the same time, they chose to make room for their son, to entrust him with authority and responsibility. Their clearing of the space creates a vacuum, which allows their son independent living, privacy, growth, and development.


If so, the question whether the room belongs to the parents or to the son depends on another question: On which plain is the discussion being conducted?  If this is a legal hearing, the room belongs to the parents; if this is a behavioral discussion, they cleared the room, and in this sense the room belongs to the son.


From another perspective, the very existence of the two answers reflects in great measure the depth of the story of the partnership between the parents and their children. The parents are legal owners, and those who to a great extent determine the rules, while the children in actual practice are responsible for what happens in the room. The two together constitute a family that has two spaces – the domain of the children alongside that of the parents.


Where is the boundary between the two? There is no unequivocal answer to this question. The answer is dynamic, and as the child grows up and matures, the parents clear more space, expanding the boundaries of his choice. The question of the boundary's location and its occasional shifting contains within it the depths and the subtleties of the relationship between parents and children.


In similar fashion, the Torah's space embraces both books, Vayikra and Devarim. One book describes the world from God's viewpoint; everything is subject to His authority and He is sovereign over all. Alongside it there is a book that describes an expanse in which authority has been handed over to man, to build a life and take responsibility for it. In this very duality lies the story of the partnership between God and His people. The relative weight of each of them, as well as the degree of focus here or there, harbors the depths and subtleties found in the relationship between God and His people.



(Translated by David Strauss)


[1] For more about this, see our shiurim on Parashat Bereishit and Parashat Bamidbar.

[2] The usual formulation in Scripture is: "And the Lord spoke to Moshe, saying." In our parasha, it is found in two consecutive sections, regarding a sin-offering (4:1) and regarding a guilt-offering (5:14). About 80 sections in the Torah open with this phrase. The book of Bamidbar opens with a similar formulation. 

[3] Similarly, we find that Moshe's ascent to Mount Sinai is also preceded by a call: "On the seventh day, He called to Moshe out of the midst of the cloud… And Moshe went into the midst of the cloud, and went up into the mountain; and Moshe was in the mountain forty days and forty nights" (Shemot 24:16-18).

[4] One might have expected that the opening phrase would identify the caller, so that the verse should read: "And the Lord called to Moshe, and He spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying." It might be suggested that God's name is not mentioned as long as Moshe is still outside the Tent of Meeting, because his location does not allow an encounter with God by name. Only after he enters the Tent of Meeting can he become exposed to such an encounter. This account intensifies the gap between God's perspective and that of Moshe. Not only is the content Divine, but the entire perspective and the assumptions derived from it are different, and Moshe is now invited to them. 

[5] The verse refrains from explicitly referring to Moshe's entry into the Mishkan. This is another expression of the principle present throughout the book: focus on the Divine act, and not on the human response, certainly not where there is a gap between the two.

[6] "And the son of an Israelite woman, whose father was an Egyptian man, went out among the children of Israel. And this son of the Israelite woman and a man of Israel strove together in the camp; and the Israelite woman's son blasphemed the name of the Lord, and cursed. And they brought him to Moshe (and his mother's name was Shlomit, the daughter of Divri, of the tribe of Dan) and they put him in custody, that the mind of the Lord might be shown them. And then Lord spoke to Moshe, saying, ‘Bring forth him that has cursed outside the camp, and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him. And you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying, Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. And he who blasphemes the name of the Lord, shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him; both the stranger and he that is born in the land, when he blasphemes the name of the Lord, shall be put to death’" (Vayikra 24:10-16).

[7] The Torah repeatedly goes to the trouble of noting compliance with God's command: "And Moshe did as the Lord commanded him" (Vayikra 8:4, 9, 13, 17, 21, 29; 9:10; and with variations: 9:6, 7, 10, 21; 10:1, 13, 15, 18). In parallel fashion, deviating from God's command exacts a heavy price from Nadav and Avihu when they offered "a strange fire before the Lord, which He commanded them not" (10:1). These are all expressions of a hidden assumption underlying the book: fidelity to God's word as it is. 

[8] Moshe's words to the people are mentioned twice (21:24; 23:44), and one mention is made of the implementation of God's words (16:34). In these three cases, we are dealing with the end of a section, without any details or description, so that there is no gap between the Divine command and the account of its implementation. Such a gap is found frequently in the other books, where we commonly find a Divine command alongside a detailed account of its implementation or that of the words of Moshe, where there is an essential difference between his formulation and the original command.

[9]   When there is no gap, there is no need for Scripture to describe what happened. It suffices for it to record the command, and afterwards: "And so he did," or "And Moshe spoke these words." Repetition involves an invitation to listen, and one who comes to listen reveals incredible gaps.

[10] In the section, "Systematic Gap," we will present the two perspectives on these commandments.

[11] A similar explanation has been offered regarding the section dealing with forbidden sexual relationships in Parashat Acharei Mot. One might have understood this section as a social issue, as an ordering of social relations. Countering such an idea, the section opens and closes with the declaration: "I am the Lord your God" (Vayikra 18:2, 30). Modesty and sanctity are viewed here as traits that are derived from imitating the characteristics of God. 

[12] A ger ("stranger") is one who has left his homeland and settled in another country. A toshav ("sojourner") is one who is found in a particular place temporarily. This is what we find in the book of Vayikra: "The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me" (Vayikra 25:23) – you are not masters of the land, you are here only temporarily. The ger is someone who has come from a far distance; the toshav is someone who has not permanently settledin the place. The temporariness of the two is reflected in many sources: "For we are strangers before You, and sojourners, as were all our fathers; our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is no abiding" (I Divrei Ha-Yamim 29:15); "Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry; keep not silence at my tears: for I am a stranger with you, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were" (Tehillim 39:13).

[13] "If your brother become poor and has sold away some of his possession, then shall his near kinsman come to redeem it and shall redeem that which his brother sold. And if the man have none to redeem it and himself be able to redeem it, then let him count the years of the sale of it, and restore the overplus to the man to whom he sold it; that he may return to his possession. But if his means do not suffice to regain it, then that which is sold shall remain in the hand of him who has bought it until the year of Jubilee, and in the Jubilee it shall go out, and he shall return to his possession. And if a man sell a dwelling house in a walled city, then he may redeem it within a whole year after it is sold; within a full year may he redeem it" (Vayikra 25:25-29).

[14] In the book of Devarim,the first step is relating to what exists. Moshe delivers a speech, the context of which is the place where the people are found at the time and what happened to them up until now. This orientation to place creates a new perspective on what was in the past, an update projected from the present, from the state of the people on the eve of their entry into the Land of Israel. Another central dimension in the book is preparation for the future. On the basis of what was, which is associated to Moshe's idea of the present, the goals are set. In order that they should be fulfilled in a fitting manner, Moshe contemplates what happened to the people in the past, what their spiritual situation is, where they are in various senses, and on the basis of all of these Moshe prepares the Torah and the people in anticipation of their entry into the Promised Land.

[15] In each place for a different reason. In Egypt, the responsibility lay with the Egyptians, and in the wilderness, God led the people and the responsibility for them lay in His hands.

[16] An expression that is found repeatedly in the book of Devarim, "The place that the Lord will choose," refers to God's choosing to dwell in a place that had been prepared for Him by man. This interpretation is clear in the following account: "And the Lord appeared to Shlomo by night and said to him, ‘I have heard your prayer, and I have chosen this place to Myself for a house of sacrifice… For now I have chosen and sanctified this house, that My name may be there for ever; and My eyes and My heart shall be there perpetually’" (II Divrei Ha-Yamim 7:12, 16). God's choosing a place for His Shekhina does not refer to the period of David, nor to the stages that preceded the building of the Temple by Shlomo. The selection is made after the Temple was already built, at the dedication of the Temple, in the course of which God decides to come and rest in the place that had been prepared for Him by man.

[17] The exception is Aharon's failure to eat from the goat sin-offering, contrary to the basic halakha. This, however, was based not on an outlook that allows for change (as is attested to by Moshe's fury), but rather on Aharon's sense of rejection in the wake of the tragedy that struck him with the death of his two sons, Nadav and Avihu (Vayikra 10:19).

[18] Already in the opening discourse, the book of Devarim is filled with descriptions of life in which man assumes responsibility. For example, Parashat Shoftim opens with the obligation to establish a judicial system (16:18-20) and speaks later of the obligation to appoint a king (17:14-24). The two passages are formulated in the singular and are directed at the people as the entity responsible for establishing a judicial system and a monarchy. We later hear of the responsibility that innocent blood not be shed in the land (19:1-13), responsibility connected to the goat whose neck is broken (21:1-9), and more.

Many other passages join in the hidden discourse. Let us illustrate this with an example: The section, "Vehaya im shamo'a,""And it shall come to pass, if you hearken diligently" (Devarim 11:13-21), opens with a description of two possible states: "If you hearken diligently to My commandments… to love the Lord your God," there will be rain, the land will yield its produce, and it will be good. If you do not listen, the heavens will shut up, the land will not yield its produce, and in the end you will perish from the good land.” At first glance the principle proposed here is one of reward and punishment. Accordingly, there is no instruction here to love God and to observe His commandments. There is a statement – what will happen if you listen, observe the commandments and love God and what will happen if you do not. The difficulty with this understanding is that the essential foundation that support God's service in this passage is reward and punishment, but what is discussed here is the love of God, the basis for which one would expect to be more internal.

A different understanding, one that is faithful to the perspective of the book of Devarim, may see here the heart of the concept of "responsibility." This section is formulated in the plural, and it sets an equation: The commandments which I have commanded you are the foundation of your existence in the land. If you observe them, it will be good for you in the land. If you do not observe them, the heavens will shut up, the land will not produce its yield, and in the end you will perish quickly from the land. Now that you understand how things work, the choice is in your hands – whether to assume responsibility and observe the lofty life of the people, and thus to exist, or alternatively, if you do not assume responsibility for life, this will result in the loss of your existence in the land. This is not a threat, but rather a profound understanding of the laws of the universe, which are being deposited in the hands of a people who come to live in their land.

In this section, a person is commanded to teach his son Torah ("And you shall teach them to your children to speak about them"). This commandment reflects a person's responsibility as the father of his family and society's responsibility for future generations. If you teach your son and every father teaches his son, the world will improve. If you fail to teach and do not take responsibility as a society for your future, the world will go wrong, and in the end you will perish from the land.

In contrast, the section of Shema commands the love of God, but does not address the question of what will happen if you do not love Him. The reason: Love is an internal quality in the heart of man, similar to a son's love for his mother and father, which cannot be created through threats of reward and punishment. Such talk is likely to shift that love away from its nobility and purity. The section of Vehaya im shamo'a goes a step further and deposits the responsibility for the people's survival in its land in the hands of the people. These are the rules – this way or that, and from now on, the matter is in your hands.

[19] As mentioned, belonging to God means belonging to the family or tribe to which God had designated the inheritance. See above, "The Difference between the Book of Vayikra and the Book of Devarim."

[20] The root "give" is mentioned four times in the book of Vayikra with repsect to the land – once in a future form ("But I have said to you, You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess it, a land that flows with milk and honey; I am the Lord your God, who have separated you from the peoples" – Vayikra 20:24) and three times in the present form (14:34; 23:10; 25:2), as one who is giving something now. In such situations, there is a transfer into the domain of the people, but there is no detachment from the Creator's domain.

[21] In the book of Devarim, the term netina is very often formulated in the future or present tense, in each section in accordance with its contents, but alongside these there are also formulations that are not found anywhere in the book of Vayikra, e.g., relating to netina in past tense.

In the book of Vayikra,we also do not find netina formulated in the past tense to which a vav ha-hipukh is attached, as in: "And if the Lord your God enlarge your border, as He has sworn to your fathers, and give (ve-natan) you all the land which He promised to give to your fathers…" (19:8). Here, netina is formulated in the past, as if it had already been given, but the vav ha-hipukh pushes off implementation of the giving to a later point in time.

[22] This term is found 18 times, both with respect to personal inheritance, as in: "In the year of this Jubilee you shall return every man to his possession" (25:13), and with respect to collective inheritance, as in: "When you come into the land of Cana'an, which I give to you for a possession" (14:34). In two additional verses, Scripture uses this term in reference to slaves: "And you shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession" (25:46). Like the land, the slave too does not belong to his master, and the master must take possession of him.

[23] The phrase, "the land that the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance," for example, appears eight times in the book of Devarim, and not once in any of the other books. Like a nachal, "stream," that is fashioned from the flow of water that makes its way and creates a channel, so too, the nachala of a people constitutes a reflection of its path and the flow of life through it.

[24] The context is the end of Parashat Ha'azinu, where the Torah records God's words to Moshe when He decreed that he would not enter the Promised Land: "And the Lord spoke to Moshe that same day, saying, ‘Go up into this mount Avarim, to mount Nevo, which is in the land of Moav, that is facing Jericho; and behold the land of Canaan, which I give to the children of Israel for a possession; and die in the mount into which you go up, and be gathered to your people; as Aharon your brother died in mount Hor, and was gathered to his people. Because you transgressed against Me among the children of Israel at the waters of Merivat-Kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin; because you sanctified Me not in the midst of the children of Israel.  For you shall see the land before you; but you shall not go there into the land which I give the children of Israel’" (Devarim 32:48-52). This section is unique, in comparison to most of the book of Devarim, in two ways. First, this is the direct speech of God; second, the subject of the passage justifies use of the term "achuza" – in this passage the decree is issued against Moshe that he is not to enter the land.