Perhaps Man’s greatest fear is his ultimate irrelevance, that we really don’t make a difference and that in the greater scheme of things, our lives are for naught. This is why people yearn to leave a legacy, and it is often for this reason that people have children. The historical tendency to value male babies over females is due to the fact that it was (is?) the male who would carry on the family name and legacy. Upon marriage, females were typically absorbed into the family of the husband.
One of the fiercest debates amongst Biblical commentators of the medieval period was to what extent, if at all, parts of the Torah may be seen as allegorical. No less a personage than the Rambam claimed that stories such as the three angels visiting Avraham, or Yaakov’s struggle with an angel, were prophetic visions that did not actually occur. As one can imagine, views such as these—and more radical ones, which allegorized such mitzvot as the “sign on our arm”, i.e., tefillin—met with vociferous opposition.
Modern man finds the notion of sacrifices primitive, archaic and a form of Divine service that is no longer necessary. Yet to ancient man, nothing came more naturally than offering sacrifices to G-d. Cain and Hevel, Noach and Abraham instinctively offered sacrifices to G-d, without being commanded to do so.
Sefer Vayikra serves as the “central” book of the Chumash; on one side flanked by Breisheet and Shemot, which detail the founding of the Jewish people; and on the other side by Bamidbar and Devarim, detailing the long and arduous struggle to reach the land of Israel. Smack in the middle is the smallest and I dare say, the least interesting of the books of the Chumash.
This week the focus of the Torah reading shifts from the construction of the Mishkan to the korbanot, one (but only one) of the purposes of building the Mishkan in the first place and its successor the Beit Hamikdash.
When making reference to biblical verses, we tend to identify them by chapter and verse. This most convenient system is of non-Jewish origin and occasionally deviates from the division of texts as understood by our Sages. While one might be tempted to say that a more traditional approach would divide the text according to parshat hashavua (the weekly Torah reading cycle), that, too, is of later origin. Our division into 54 parshiot was only finalized in the middle ages, hundreds of years after the close of the Talmudic period.
Modern psychological research has shown that infants begin processing information even before they are born, and impressions made on children have an everlasting effect. It is for this reason that the Mishna in Pirkei Avot (2:11) heaps praise upon the mother of Rav Yehoshua for bringing him to shul as an infant. The Torah itself commands that little children, and even infants, be brought to Jerusalem on certain special occasions; the atmosphere of holiness experienced by these children would stay with them forever.