Biblical Tabernacle with altar (Shutterstock/Illustrative) (Shutterstock/Illustrative)
Biblical Tabernacle

Why is Adam making an appearance right here in Leviticus after an absence of more than 2,000 years? 

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

This week’s Torah portion is “Vayikra” (Leviticus 1:1–5:26), and in it we read all about the sacrificial system that existed in ancient Israel. Although sacrifices were brought for a number of different reasons, it is well known that they were also used to atone for transgressions. It is these sacrifices, sin offerings and the like, with which the reading opens.

In introducing the laws of these sin offerings and sacrifices, the Torah says, “Adam Ki Yakriv….” which translates as “A man who wishes to bring a sacrifice…” The verses then continues with the relevant laws.

The commentators take note that the Torah uses the unlikely and uncommon word “Adam” for “man” to introduce these laws. For starters, women were almost equally obligated to offer sacrifices as men. As such, we would have expected the Torah to use the more common “Ish oh Isha ki yakriv…” meaning “a man or a woman who wishes to bring a sacrifice.” There are other oddities with the use of the word “Adam” as well.

As such, the commentators teach us that the word “Adam” is used here to remind us of the individual with that same name, Adam, as in Adam and Eve! Remember him? The Garden of Eden. The start of Creation. It’s in the first few pages of your Bible!

Why is Adam making an appearance right here in Leviticus after an absence of more than 2,000 years?

As mentioned, we are learning about sacrifices that were offered for sins. It is explained that the mention of “Adam” is in order to remind us of the sin of Adam and Eve. Their sin owas essentially minor. They ate something they shouldn’t have eaten. Nevertheless, it was a sin and there were major ramifications.

So lesson number one is: When it comes to sacrifices and making amends for our sins — there are no minor sins. Sure, eating something we shouldn’t eat isn’t murder. But it is a transgression against God, it is wrong, and it requires atonement.

Adam and Eve made all kinds of excuses and justifications for their sin before, during, and after transgressing. But none of that mattered. If God said it was forbidden, it’s forbidden. Period. We, too, should not try to justify even the small transgressions. We have to improve ourselves in both big and small areas. Evenif those actions that are socially acceptable or justifiable, they are still forbidden if the Torah says so. We must strive to avoid not only major sins, but minor sins as well. We must bring our “sacrifices,” our repentance, with a full heart and recognition that what we did was wrong.

Another reason Adam is invoked at the start of Leviticus is to teach us what kind of animal must be offered as a sacrifice. The commentators teach that just like Adam’s sacrifices were never stolen — he would only offer an animal that truly belonged to him — so, too, we must be sure never to sacrifice anything stolen. God doesn’t just want our food to be kosher, He wants our money to be kosher as well.

There is an all-too-familiar extension of this issue nowadays. How many of us look for money that is “not kosher” but we justify “earning” it because we promise to use it for charity or for some other commendable purpose. The “Adam” here teaches is that this is unacceptable. There is no such thing as using something that is stolen or otherwise not truly ours in the service of God. Mitzvot (Torah commandments) performed with such items are abominable and rejected by God.

As we work on ourselves and our service of God, we are reminded about Adam and to live our life in an “Eden-like manner” as much as possible.

Of course, we sometimes stumble and fall. We all make mistakes. The sacrificial system (then) and repentance and good deeds (now) are ways to fix our mistakes, make amends, and get close to God.

For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah reading, click on the links below.

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