Leviticus: The Book of Holiness
Covenant & Conversation: A Weekly Reading of the Jewish Bible
This collection makes Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’ brilliant essays on the weekly Torah portion available in book form for the first time. Rabbi Sacks fuses Jewish tradition, Western philosophy and literature to present a highly developed understanding of the human condition under God’s sovereignty. This third volume in the five-volume series includes several concise essays for each portion of Leviticus.
Of all the Mosaic books, Vayikra, Leviticus, is the one most out of step with contemporary culture. Many find it difficult to relate to its concerns. It opens with an account of sacrifices, something we have not experienced for close to two millennia. Its preoccupation with ritual purity and defilement seems to come from another age… Yet Leviticus is a – perhaps even the – key text of Judaism.
Vayikra wrestles with some of the deepest questions of religion. How, in a finite world, can we relate to an infinite God who cannot be identified with any natural phenomenon, who can neither be seen nor visually represented? At a quite different level, how can we take the fire of religious inspiration and turn it into an everlasting flame? How can we recapture “peak experiences” on a regular basis? And how can we take a way of life for the few and make it the possession of the many?
The book begins with an elite, the priests, sons of Aaron, a minority within a minority, one specific family within the tribe of Levi. It culminates in a call from God to the entire nation. It begins in the Sanctuary but ends in society. It democratises kedusha, holiness, the sign of God’s presence, so that it becomes part of the ongoing like of the people as a whole.