The Twenty-fourth Sedra
26 Adar – 3 Nisan 5783
FROM THE TORAH
With the conclusion of the Book of Exodus, Moses and Israel have completed the construction of the Tabernacle and the equipping of Aaron and his sons the Kohanim (Priests). In this Sedra Vayikra, the beginning of the Book of Leviticus, Moses and Israel learn from the Eternal the types of offerings that will be received and processed in the Sanctuary to reach out to the Eternal and to seek Atonement.
Menu of Offerings
From the Tent of Meeting, the Eternal calls (Vayikra) to Moses to tell the Children of Israel the procedure of animal offerings by a man to the Eternal, whether from herd or from flock.
A burnt offering (olah) from the herd shall be a bull without blemish. The man shall offer it at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting (cf. Exodus 26:36), to be accepted on his behalf before the Eternal. He must place his hand on the head of the burnt offering in order for it to be accepted on his behalf as atonement for him. After it is slaughtered before the Eternal, the sons of Aaron the Kohanim shall offer the blood by dashing it around the Altar (cf. Exodus 27:1-8; 29:37-46) which is at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. The offering shall be flayed and cut into pieces, which, together with the head and the suet, shall be placed upon burning wood on the Altar which the sons of Aaron have arranged. The entrails and the legs shall be washed in water. The Kohen shall cause all of it to smoke upon the Altar, a burnt offering, an offering by fire with a pleasing aroma to the Eternal.
A burnt offering from the flock, of sheep or of goats, shall be a male without blemish. It shall be slaughtered on the north side of the Altar, then the sons of Aaron the Kohanim shall dash the blood around the Altar. The offering shall be cut into pieces, which, together with the head and the suet, shall be placed upon burning wood on the Altar. The entrails and the legs shall be washed in water. The Kohen shall offer all of it and cause it to smoke upon the Altar, a burnt offering, an offering by fire with a pleasing aroma to the Eternal.
A burnt offering from fowl to the Eternal shall be of turtledoves or of pigeons. The Kohen shall bring it near to the Altar, pinch off its head, and cause it to smoke upon the Altar, while its blood is drained upon the wall of the Altar. He shall remove its crop with its feathers and throw them east of the Altar to the place of ashes. He shall tear it open by its wings without severing it, and the Kohen shall cause it to smoke upon the wood that is upon the fire, a burnt offering, an offering by fire with a pleasing aroma to the Eternal.
When a person makes an offering of meal (mincha) to the Eternal, it shall be of fine flour, and he shall pour oil upon it and put frankincense upon it. He shall bring it to the sons of Aaron the Kohanim, and the Kohen shall take a fistful of its fine flour and oil and all of its frankincense, and cause it to smoke as a token upon the Altar, an offering of fire with a pleasing aroma to the Eternal. The remainder of the meal offering shall be for Aaron and his sons, most holy, from the fire offerings of the Eternal.
If you would make an offering of oven-baked meal, fine flour, it may be of unleavened cakes mixed with oil or unleavened wafers spread with oil.
On the Griddle
If your meal offering is on a griddle, it must be fine flour mixed with oil and unleavened: break it into pieces and pour oil upon it.
In a Pan
If your meal offering is in a pan, it must be made of fine flour in oil.
Of any of these, when you bring the meal offering to the Eternal, it shall be offered to the Kohen and he shall take it to the Altar. The Kohen shall hold up some of it as its token and cause it to smoke upon the Altar, an offering of fire with a pleasing aroma to the Eternal. The remainder of the meal offering shall be for Aaron and his sons, most holy, from the fire offerings of the Eternal.
Include salt with your every meal offering, the salt of your covenant with God.
If you make a meal offering of first fruits (bikkurim) to the Eternal, you shall offer fresh ears of barley parched with fire, groats and fresh fruit. You shall add oil and frankincense to it. The Kohen shall take its token from some of its groats, from some of its oil, and from all of its frankincense, and cause it to smoke, a fire offering to the Eternal.
Leaven and Honey
No meal offering may be made with leaven or with honey. Do not make of them smoke in an offering of fire to the Eternal. You may offer them as first-fruits to the Eternal, but they may not go up to the Altar as a pleasing aroma.
For a sacrifice of well-being (shelamim) that one makes from the herd, whether male or female, he must offer it without blemish to the Eternal. He puts his hand upon the head of his offering and slaughters it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. The sons of Aaron the Kohanim shall dash the blood around the Altar. He shall offer from the well-being sacrifice, a fire offering to the Eternal, the fat that covers and surrounds the entrails, the two kidneys and the fat on them that is at the loins, and the appendage on the liver which he shall remove together with the kidneys. The sons of Aaron shall cause them to smoke upon the Altar over the wood that is over the fire, an offering of fire with a pleasing aroma to the Eternal.
If his offering of a sacrifice of well-being to the Eternal is from the flock, whether male or female, he must offer it without blemish:
If he offers a sheep, he shall bring it before the Eternal and lay his hand upon the head of his offering and slaughter it before the Tent of Meeting. The sons of Aaron shall dash its blood around the Altar. He shall offer from the well-being sacrifice, as a fire offering to the Eternal, its fat: the whole tail removed close to the spine, the fat covering and surrounding the entrails, the two kidneys and the fat on them which is at the loins, and the appendage on the liver which he shall remove together with the kidneys. The Kohen shall cause it to smoke upon the Altar, food, a fire offering to the Eternal.
If he offers a goat, he shall bring it before the Eternal and lay his hand upon its head and slaughter it before the Tent of Meeting. The sons of Aaron shall dash its blood around the Altar. He shall present from it his offering, an offering of fire to the Eternal, the fat covering and surrounding the entrails, the two kidneys and the fat upon them at the loins, and the appendage on the liver which he shall remove with the kidneys. The Kohen shall cause them to smoke upon the Altar, food, an offering of fire with a pleasing aroma.
Fat and Blood
All fat belongs to the Eternal. It is an everlasting statute for all of your generations and in all of your habitations that you may not eat any fat or any blood.
The Eternal speaks to Moses to tell the Children of Israel how to bring offerings in the event of unintentional violations of the Eternal’s prohibitions.
Of a Kohen on Behalf of the People
If the Anointed Kohen sins to the detriment of the people, then he must bring as a sin offering (chatat) to the Eternal a bull of the herd without blemish. He brings the bull to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting before the Eternal and lays his hand upon the head of the bull and slaughters it before the Eternal. Then the Anointed Kohen takes some of the blood into the Tent of Meeting, where he dips his finger and sprinkles some of the blood seven times before the Eternal facing the Dividing Curtain of the Sanctuary (cf. Exodus 26:31). The Kohen shall put some of the blood on the horns of the Altar of Aromatic Incense (cf. Exodus 30:1-10) before the Eternal which is in the Tent of Meeting, and all the rest of the blood he shall pour out at the base of the Altar of Burnt Offering (cf. Exodus 29:37-46) which is at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. He shall remove all of the fat of the bull of the sin offering: the fat covering and surrounding the entrails, the two kidneys and the fat upon them at the loins, the appendage on the liver which he shall remove with the kidneys, just as it is removed from the ox of the well-being sacrifice (cf. Leviticus 3:1-5). The Kohen shall make them smoke on the Altar of Burnt Offering, but all the rest of the bull, including its skin, all of its flesh, together with its head and its legs, its entrails and its dung, he shall take out of the camp to a pure place, to the ash heap, and burn it upon wood over the fire.
Of the Entire Congregation
If the entire Congregation of Israel sins and the matter is at first unnoticed but later known, then the community must bring as a sin offering a bull of the herd before the Tent of Meeting. The Elders of the Congregation shall place their hands upon the head of the bull and slaughter it before the Eternal. The Anointed Kohen shall bring some of the blood of the bull to the Tent of Meeting and dip his finger and sprinkle some of the blood seven times before the Eternal facing the Dividing Curtain. He shall put some of the blood upon the horns of the Altar which is in the Tent of Meeting, and the rest of the blood he shall pour at the base of the Altar of Burnt Offering, which is at the Entrance of the Tent of Meeting. He shall remove all of its fat from it and make it smoke upon the Altar. He shall do to the bull as he did to the Kohen’s bull of sin offering (cf. Leviticus 4:3-12). Thus shall the Kohen make atonement for them and they shall be forgiven. He shall remove the bull to outside of the camp and burn it as he burned the first bull. It is a sin offering for the community.
Of a Leader
If a Leader (Nasi) violates one of the prohibitions of the Eternal his God, whether he discovers it himself or he is informed, he must bring as his offering a male goat without blemish. He shall place his hand upon the head of the goat and slaughter it in a place where the burnt offering is slaughtered before the Eternal. It is a sin offering. The Kohen shall put some of the blood with his finger upon the horns of the Altar of Burnt Offering and shall pour out the rest of it at the base of the Altar of Burnt Offering. All of its fat he shall turn into smoke upon the Altar like the fat of the well-being sacrifices (cf. Leviticus 3:6-16a). Thus shall the Kohen seek atonement for him from his sin, and he shall be forgiven.
Of a Person
If anyone of the people should sin unintentionally by violating one of the prohibitions of the Eternal, whether he discovers it himself or he is informed, he must bring as his offering a female goat without blemish. He shall place his hand upon the head of the sin offering and slaughter the sin offering in the place of the burnt offering. The Kohen shall take some of its blood with his finger and put it upon the horns of the Altar of Burnt Offering, and the rest of its blood he shall pour out at the base of the Altar. All of its fat he shall remove, as the fat was removed from the well-being sacrifices (cf. Leviticus 3:14-15), and the Kohen shall cause it to smoke upon the Altar for a pleasing aroma to the Eternal. Thereby the Kohen shall seek atonement for him, and he shall be forgiven. If he brings a sheep as his offering, it must be a female without blemish. Otherwise the procedure is the same as with a goat, except that he must remove its fat, as the fat of the sheep was removed from the well-being sacrifice (cf. Leviticus 3:9-10). The Kohen shall cause it to smoke upon the Altar together with the fire offerings of the Eternal for the purpose of atonement and forgiveness for the sin that he committed.
For Sins of Neglect
A person may sin in the event that: he does not step forward to testify as a witness in litigation that has been announced; he forgets that he touched the carcass of an impure beast or impure cattle or impure creeping thing; he forgets that he touched human impurity; and he forgets that he uttered a particular oath.
If he later realizes that he is guilty of one of these, he shall bring his penalty to the Eternal for his sin: a female from the flock, a sheep or a goat, for a sin offering. The Kohen shall seek atonement for him from his sin.
If he cannot afford one or the other from the flock, then he may bring as his penalty two turtledoves or two pigeons to the Eternal, one for a sin offering and one for a burnt offering. The Kohen shall offer the one for the sin offering first, pinching its head at the back of its neck without severing it and sprinkling some of its blood upon the wall of the Altar. What remains of the blood shall be drained out at the base of the Altar. The second of the pair he shall treat as the burnt offering according to the prescribed procedure (cf. Leviticus 1:14-17). Thus shall the Kohen seek atonement for him from his sin, and he shall be forgiven.
If he cannot afford two turtledoves or two pigeons, then he shall bring as his offering for having sinned one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour. Because it is a sin offering, he shall put no oil or frankincense upon it. The Kohen shall remove a fistful of it as the token and cause it to smoke upon the Altar together with the fire offerings of the Eternal, as a sin offering. The Kohen shall seek atonement for him for one of the aforementioned sins, and he shall be forgiven. It shall belong to the Kohen, like the meal offering.
For Misappropriation of Sanctities
The Eternal provides to Moses the manner of atonement for a person who unwittingly misappropriates sanctities of the Eternal. The penalty which he shall bring to the Eternal consists of a ram without blemish from the flock, convertible by valuation to silver sacred shekels, a guilt offering (asham). In addition he shall restore to the Kohen the value of the sanctity which he misappropriated plus one-fifth. The Kohen shall seek atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering, and he shall be forgiven.
For Unwitting Violation of Prohibitions
A person who violates any prohibition of the Eternal, even when he is not aware that he has, is guilty. So he shall bring a ram without blemish from the flock, or its equivalent by valuation, for a guilt offering, to the Kohen. The Kohen shall seek atonement for him for the violation he committed unknowingly, and he shall be forgiven. It is a guilt offering in that he has incurred guilt before the Eternal.
For Violations of Property
One sins in acting unfaithfully against the Eternal by violating the property of another person in the matter of a deposit or security, through robbery or fraud, by misappropriating lost property, or by making a false oath in any case of possible violation. When one realizes that he is guilty of one of these sins and would restore the loss, he shall pay to the rightful owner the principal amount plus one-fifth. As his guilt offering he brings to the Eternal a ram without blemish from the flock or its equivalent by valuation. The Kohen shall seek atonement for him before the Eternal, and he shall be forgiven for whatever he may have done to incur guilt.
FROM THE PROPHETS
Haftarah for Shabbat Vayikra
The Eternal Decries Idolatry and Redeems Israel
Sins Instead of Service
I created this people for Myself,
to declare My praise,
but you, O Jacob, have not called Me,
much less labored for Me, O Israel.
You have not honored Me
with your burnt offerings and sacrifices,
and you cannot claim that I have burdened you
with meal offerings or frankincense.
No, you have not spent the smallest amount
for any of these,
while you have burdened Me
with your sins and iniquities!
Encouragement of Defense
Still, I, only I,
can blot out your transgressions,
for My own sake,
and remember your sins no more.
Present Me your case:
let us judge together,
that you may be justified.
as the transgressions of your intercessors,
your sacred princes,
go back to your first father,
wherefore have I condemned them.
Now listen to Me,
O Jacob My servant,
O Israel whom I have chosen:
the One who formed you from the womb
shall help you;
fear not, O Jeshurun.
As I pour water upon dry ground,
so shall I pour My spirit, My blessing,
upon your offspring.
They shall spring up among the grass
like willows by flowing springs.
One shall say, “I am the Eternal’s,”
and one shall take the name of “Jacob”;
one shall write “To the Eternal” on his hand,
and one shall name himself “Israel.”
Thus says the Eternal, King of Israel,
and its Redeemer, the Eternal of Hosts:
I am the First, and I am the Last,
and besides Me there is no God.
There is none like Me,
Author of all who came before,
Knower of what shall come after:
whoever else claims to be,
let him come up against Me!
You are My witnesses,
have I not always guided you?
I know of no other Rock besides Me!
Idol makers are worthless;
their work offers no benefit,
crafted by humans
who should be sorely ashamed.
The craftsman who works with iron
needs a strong arm
which depends on food and water;
without them it would fail.
The craftsman who works with wood
carves out the beautiful image
of a human
to be installed in a home.
For this he uses all kinds of trees,
which are also used for fuel
to heat and to cook.
He burns it for heat,
he roasts meat over it,
he bows down to it
and worships it as his god!
He is a shepherd of ashes,
unable to save himself,
unable to acknowledge
the lie that is in his right hand.
Promise of Redemption
Remember these things, O Jacob,
Israel, My servant.
I wipe away your sins like a mist:
Return to Me, for I redeem you!
Sing out, O heavens,
shout, O depths,
break forth into song, O mountains,
O forest and every tree therein!
For the Eternal has redeemed Jacob,
and in Israel will He be glorified!
FROM THE MIDRASH
Leviticus Rabbah 1:6,15
The Precious Commodity of Speech
“He calls to Moses,
and the Eternal speaks to him
from the Tent of Meeting…
Speak to the Children of Israel…”
Rabbi Tanchuma put forward
the following verse:
“There is gold
and an abundance of jewels,
but lips of knowledge
are a precious commodity.”
It is common for a person to own gold, silver and various other gems and items of value but not to possess knowledge. In that case, what has he really acquired? A common saying captures this truth: “If you have acquired knowledge, what do you lack? If you lack knowledge, what have you acquired?”
In our proverb, “There is gold”: Everyone brought his gift of gold for the Tabernacle, as is written, “This is the terumah (sacred gift) that you shall take from them: gold…” (Exodus 25:3). “And an abundance of jewels”: This is the gift of the leaders, as is written, “And the leaders brought shoham stones…” (Exodus 35:27). “But lips of knowledge are a precious commodity”: Moses was regretful as he observed everyone bringing their gifts for the Tabernacle “while I have brought nothing!” The Holy One blessed be He said to him: Regret not, for speaking through you is more precious to Me than all the gifts that have been brought! Evidence is found in the opening verses, which mention both the divine call to Moses and His speaking with him. What does His speaking add? He calls to Moses and the Eternal speaks through him, as the following verse indicates: “Speak to the Children of Israel…” (Leviticus 1:1-2).
Moreover, Moses—father of wisdom, greatest of prophets, who brought Israel out of Egypt, through whose hand miracles were wrought in Egypt and awesome events upon the Red Sea, who ascended to the highest Heights and brought down the Torah from Heaven, and who supervised the work of the Tabernacle—did not then enter into the Tent of Meeting until the Eternal called and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, as was said, “He calls to Moses; the Eternal speaks to him from the Tent of Meeting…” (Leviticus 1:1). While earlier, at the burning bush, it is said, “The Eternal sees that he (Moses) has turned to see, so God calls to him out of the bush and says…” (Exodus 3:4): “Out of the bush” separates the Eternal’s calling and speaking, but “He calls to Moses; the Eternal speaks to him from the Tent of Meeting…” (Leviticus 1:1) constitutes no separation between calling and speaking!
This distinction may be understood by comparing the burning bush account (Exodus 3:4) to a king of flesh and blood who is angry at his servant and confines him to prison. He commands his messenger to speak to his servant from outside the prison. But in the Tent of Meeting account (Leviticus 1:1), where He is happy with His children and they are happy with Him, He commands the messenger to speak from the inside, as if He were seating Moses between His knees, like the hand of a man upon his son. Therefore it is said, “He calls to Moses; the Eternal speaks to him from (inside) the Tent of Meeting” (Leviticus 1:1)!
Leviticus Rabbah 2:7
Tanchuma Tsav 14
The Purity of Offering
“A man (adam),
as he offers from you
an offering to the Eternal from cattle,
from (min) the herd (habakar) or from the flock
shall you offer your offering.”
Rabbi Berechia interpreted the verse, “As Adam (Adam) would bring an offering shall be an offering from you to the Eternal from cattle,” in which case “shall you offer your offering better than (min) the bull (habakar)….”
The first part—“As Adam (Adam) would bring an offering shall be an offering from you to the Eternal from cattle”—means that the Holy One, blessed be He, is saying to the man who would bring an offering: May your offering be like the offering of Adam the First. How so? Adam the First was alone in the world, so everything belonged, as it were, to Adam alone! Therefore, whatever he offered was taken, beyond any doubt, from his own property and not from property he might have misappropriated from someone else by theft or violence. So should you, O man who would bring an offering, offer only from your own property and not from another’s which you acquired by theft or by violence!
This is further supported by the Prophet’s words: “For I, the Eternal, love justice, hate robbery in offering…” (Isaiah 61:8). The Holy One, blessed be He, is saying: Do not think that you can rob or attack with the intent of bringing an offering to expiate your transgression, “as I hate robbery even when accompanied by an offering,” for this is like an offering that is made from stolen property, and if the offerer wants Me to accept his offering, he must first return the stolen property to its rightful owner. Then, if he presents an offering to atone for his transgression, I shall accept it, as was said, “I, the Eternal…hate robbery in offering,” that is, I reject the offering as long as stolen property is in his hand!
As for the second part—in which case “shall you offer your offering better than (min) the bull (habakar)….”—Rabbi Berechia understood this as a reference to the bull that Adam the First offered on the day that he was created (cf. Talmud Avodah Zarah 8a). Whereas it would have been impossible for Adam to offer anything that he misappropriated, since all belonged to him, it is possible for his descendant, the man who would bring an offering to “the entrance of the Tent of Meeting” (Leviticus 1:3), to offer stolen property. In that way, since this man has to exercise moral judgment over his handling of property and its selection for offerings, his offering is, to that extent, better than the bull offered by Adam the First!
Rabbi Berechia concludes: “And if you do so, ‘it shall be more pleasing to the Eternal than an ox-bull showing horns and hooves’” (Psalms 69:32)! Here is the context:
“I am humbled and pained,
but Your salvation, O God, lifts me up!
I would therefore praise the Name of God in song
and declare His greatness in thanksgiving,
which shall be more pleasing to the Eternal
than an ox-bull showing horns and hooves!”
Rabbi Berechia brings midrashic support for his contrast of a man’s offering to Adam’s by applying David’s encomium of thanksgiving song to the man’s untainted offering: “And if you do so (bring your offering intentionally untainted by theft or violence as was Adam’s only by default), then “it shall be more pleasing to the Eternal than an ox-bull showing horns and hooves!” The ox is normally born with hooves, and its horns grow out later as a bull (cf. Rashi on Talmud Avodah Zarah 8a, s.v. v’titav…), so David’s combining them as ox-bull implies that the animal was somehow both ox and bull at the same time. Moreover, “showing horns and hooves” reflects the reverse order of natural development, in which hooves precede horns. The verse then can be interpreted as a reference to the first appearance of animals during Creation, according to Rabbi Joshua ben Levi, when each one emerged upright in full stature, so that the “ox-bull” would have shown its horns before its hooves, that is, it was both ox and bull from the beginning (cf. Talmud Chullin 60a and Rashi s.v. karnav kodmin…)! Midrashically, it was that ox-bull of Creation that showed its horns before its hooves that Adam sacrificed, and “more pleasing to the Eternal” than even Adam’s offering is the honest offering of any subsequent adam (“man”)!
Leviticus Rabbah 3:5
“The Kohen shall tear it (the bird) open
by its wings,
without severing it,
and turn it into smoke on the Altar…
of pleasant aroma to the Eternal.”
Rabbi Yochanan taught: The average person offering the birds would feel an aversion to the odor of those burning wings, yet the Torah charges the Kohen to turn them into smoke upon the Altar. Why? So that the Altar may be adorned with the offering of a poor person!
Agrippa the king planned to make a thousand burnt offerings on a single day. He instructed the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) not to allow anyone else to make an offering on that day. A poor man, carrying two turtledoves, came and asked the Kohen to offer them. The Kohen said to him: The king commanded me not to let anyone else make an offering today. The poor man said to him: My lord, Kohen Gadol, I capture four birds every day; two of them I offer up, and from the other two I make a living. If you do not offer the two, you will keep me from earning a living from the other two! So the Kohen took them and offered them up.
In a dream Agrippa saw that the offering of a poor man preceded his. He sent for the Kohen Gadol: Did I not command you to prevent any other offerings today except mine? The Kohen Gadol explained to the king the predicament of the poor man and said: Could I not have offered up those two birds? The king said to him: You did well, all that you did!
It also happened that a certain woman once brought a handful of fine flour for the meal offering. The Kohen belittled her: See what these ladies offer! What is there to eat? What is there to offer? But then, in a dream, the Kohen was told: Do not belittle her, for it is as if she were offering her life!
Yalkut Shimoni Isaiah 457-458
Sharing Defeat and Victory
“This people that I fashioned for Myself,
that they might declare My praise:
You have not called Me, O Jacob,
indeed you have grown weary of Me, O Israel…”
This is reflected in:
“The Children of Israel continued to do evil in the sight of the Eternal:
They worshipped the idols of Baal and Ashtoreth,
and the gods of Aram, Sidon, Moab, Ammon, and Philistia,
and they forsook the Eternal and worshipped Him not.”
These words make clear that the Children of Israel
did not even serve the Eternal in partnership with the idols!
Said Rabbi Abba bar Kahana: Is not the Kohen’s wife at least as good as the innkeeper’s?
Rabbi Yosi bar Chanina expressed the regret of the Holy One, blessed be He: My children did not consider Me even as dessert that comes at the end of the meal.
Said Rabbi Yudan: This may be compared to the king’s servant who arranges a festive meal for all of the king’s house without inviting the king himself. The king laments: Would that they considered me equal to the members of my house! But, “Me have you not called, O Jacob!”
“They called upon the name of Baal
from morning until noon, saying,
‘O Baal, answer us!’…
even hopping over the altar…”
(I Kings 18:26)
“Indeed you have grown tired of Me, O Israel!” You stand and hop all day and you do not tire, but of worshipping Me you have grown weary! Jacob stands and hops all day without growing tired, but when another invites him to pray, he says, “I cannot!” Yet for Baal “they call from morning until noon, shouting, ‘O Baal, answer us!’” Indeed, “you have not called to Me, O Jacob!” Would that I never knew you, O Jacob! Why? “Because you have wearied Me, O Israel!”
“You did not bring Me sheep for your burnt offerings…”
Only two lambs without blemish every day, one in the morning and the other at twilight (cf. Numbers 28:3-4)!
“…and with the blood of your sacrifices you did not honor Me…”
These are the most holy with which Aaron made atonement only once a year (cf. Exodus 30:10)!
“…I did not burden you with the meal offering…”
This requires only a handful (cf. Leviticus 2:2)!
“…and I did not weary you with frankincense.”
This also requires only a handful (cf. Leviticus 2:2)!
“You spent no money on cane…”
This is an ingredient of the sacred anointing oil (cf. Exodus 30:22-25) which, according to Rabbi Judah in the name of Rabbi Yosi, grew so abundantly in Jerusalem that goats and gazelles ate it freely!
“…and with the fat of your sacrifices you did not saturate Me…”
Yet only these portions of sacrifices of lesser holiness were burned on the altar (cf. Leviticus 4:35)!
“…but you have burdened Me—by your sins,
you have wearied Me—by your iniquities!”
See how your iniquities so burdened Me that they caused Me to destroy My own house, to burn My Temple, and to exile My children to all the nations of the world—
“How she sits solitary,
the city once full of people…”
̶̶̶̶̶—so that I, the Shechinah, dwell Alone: “How she (the Shechinah!) sits solitary…once full of people, now bereft like a widow…” (Lamentations 1:1)!
“But I am the One who wipes away your sins for My own sake,
and I remember not your transgressions.
So remind Me, and together let us enter into judgment:
You speak in order to be vindicated!”
These words partake of the Prophet’s preceding comment:
“The Eternal desired, for the sake of His righteousness (tzidko),
that the Torah be made great and widespread!”
Read: “The Eternal desires to vindicate him (tzadko) (Jacob!)…”
These words partake also of His following characterization:
“Who is This coming from Edom…?
‘It is I, Who speak in righteousness (bitzedakah),
Who am great in salvation!’”
Read: “’It is I, Who advocate for her (Israel’s!) vindication (bitzadekah)…’”
In these words (cf. Isaiah 43:25-26) says the Holy One, blessed be He: As we enter into judgment, I desire that you should succeed in your case. Consider us like two litigants who enter into court: each one tries to advance his case first in order to squelch the arguments of his opponent. But the Holy One, blessed be He, says to Israel: Come, “let us enter into judgment together!” They ask: Who will speak first? The Holy One, blessed be He, says to them: “You speak (first!) in order to be vindicated!” Why? If I defeat you in judgment, I am the One who loses; but if you defeat Me, I benefit.
When I defeated the generation of the Flood, I lost virtually all who populated the earth: “All of the living who were upon the face of the earth, from man to beast..to the birds of heaven, were destroyed from the earth…” (Genesis 7:23). “When the Children of Israel made a calf at Horeb and worshipped the molten image (Psalms 106:19),” Moses defeated Me: “God thought to destroy them (Israel), except that Moses, His Chosen One, stood up to Him to allay His wrath from destroying His own people” (ibid. 23)!
This is what is meant by the first words of the Psalm:
“For the leader (lamenatseach) a song (mizmor),
In Your strength, O Eternal One,
the king rejoices;
how greatly he exults
in Your salvation!”
“Sing (zameru) to the One
Whom they defeat (lamenatsechim Oto)
and is happy!
In your strength, (O Israel!),
the Eternal One, the King, rejoices;
how greatly He exults
in your victory!”
Yalkut Shimoni II:908 Job 23:13
Tanchuma Exodus 18
Song of Songs Rabbah 1:9
Power or Justice?
“I am the First, and I am the Last,
and besides Me there is no God.”
“He is Unique:
Who can change His mind?
Whatever He wishes to do
When a man makes up his mind,
a stronger man may override him,
but who can override the Holy One, blessed be He?
Rabbi Pappias expounded on the verse: Because He is Unique in His world and therefore no one can object to His decision, “whatever He wishes to do He does!”
Rabbi Akiba said to him: No, Pappias, we do not interpret the verse thusly.
Pappias responded: Then how do you understand the words, “He is Unique: Who can change His mind?”
Rabbi Akiba answered him: Just as one is expected to debate [sho’eyl] in the deliberations of the Sanhedrin below (in this world), so is it above (in God’s world)! Whence do we have it (from Scripture)?
“By the decree of angels is the word,
the saying of holy ones is the result [she’eylta],
in order that the living shall know
that the Most High rules the kingdom of men
and shall give it to whomever He wishes
and set up over it the lowest of men.”
Interpret: “The saying of holy ones (above) is (the result of) debate [she’eylta]!
Just as they argue back and forth over what the law is below, so do they argue back and forth above. And all of this is within (the parameters of) Justice, as he said further:
“But I shall declare to you
that which is inscribed
in the writing of Truth,
and there is not one [v’eyn echad]
who acts strongly with me against these…”
“And One does not [v’eyn Echad] join with me against these (holy ones over their debate)!”
Indeed the Holy One, blessed be He, Himself is involved in their debate. He argues back and forth with them in the cause of Justice. He asks them how a certain law might work. They would render their opinion, and the Holy One, blessed be He, would agree with them. This may be derived from the words of the prophet Michayehu son of Imlah:
“I saw the Eternal sitting upon His throne,
and all the host of heaven was standing by Him
on His right and on His left.”
(I Kings 22:19)
Are there actually “right” and “left” in Heaven? No, only right: “Your right hand, O Eternal One, is mighty in strength; Your right hand, O Eternal One, shatters the enemy” (Exodus 15:6)! So what the prophet saw was not literally “right” and “left” but two opposing camps of debate, those pulling to the “right” with a liberal argument and those pulling to the “left” with a conservative argument.
How did the Eternal respond to that?
“The Eternal says:
Who has a plan to entice Ahab, king of Israel,
to engage the Arameans in battle
at the Heights of Gilead,
so that he is defeated?”
(I Kings 22: 20a)
“One party proposed one plan,
while the other party proposed another plan!”
This teaches us that all of this is within (the parameters of) Justice: The parties argue back and forth on what is the law, and the Holy One, blessed be He, argues back and forth with them. Then (as Pappias challenged Rabbi Akiba) what is the meaning of the words, “He is Unique [Hu b’echad]: Who can change His mind [mee yesheevehNu]” (Job 23:13)? Once the debate has been concluded and a decision has been reached, the Holy One, blessed be He, enters into a place which no one else is allowed to enter and seals the decision, as was said, “He is in a singular place [Hu b’echad] so that no one can change His mind [mee yesheevehNu]” (ibid.)!
Rabbi Elazar explains the words: He seals the decision alone on behalf of all inhabitants of the world, and no one else seals it with Him.
And what is the seal of the Holy One, blessed be He?
According to Rabbi Bibi in the name of Rabbi Reuben: The seal of the Holy One, blessed be He, is Truth, in accordance with the words:
“But I shall declare to you
that which is inscribed
in the writing of Truth…”
If “that which is inscribed,” what then is the “writing of Truth?” If “in the writing of Truth,” what then is that “which is inscribed?” Is there a difference between them? (Otherwise they would appear to be redundant.) These are the two stages of establishing a decision (presumably in  debate and  decree): before the law is final, it is “inscribed” as a proposal or tentative resolution, and after the decree is sealed, it is “the writing of Truth!”
Said Resh Lakish: “Truth” consists of three signficantly-positioned letters, Aleph as the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Mem in the middle, and Tav at the end, spelling AMT, pronounced EHMEHT — the seal of the Holy One, blessed be He — to say:
“I am the First, and I am the Last,
and besides Me there is no God.”
“I am the First,” having received My Kingship from none before Me,
“and I am the Last,” not transfering it to any other that does not currently exist,
“and besides Me there is no God,” ruling without an associate—
the God of Last Resort!
So “who can change His mind?” There is no one, then, who can question His words, as “He is Unique,” knowing after debate the opinions of all of His creations!