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וַיִּקְרָא אֶל־מֹשֶׁה וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֵלָיו מֵאֹהֶל מֹועֵד לֵאמֹֽר

vayikra el-moshe vay'dabeyr adonai eylayv mey'ohel mo'eyd leymor

"ADONAI called to Moshe and spoke to him from the tent of meeting. He said,"


This is the beginning of the book of Vayikra (say “vah-yeek-rah”), also known as Leviticus. The English title comes from the fact that the book is primarily written about the many functions within the Levitical priesthood. Our Hebrew title comes from the ancient practice of naming a book or portion after one of the opening few words. The Stone edition TaNaKH has this to say about the book of Vayikra:

In the lexicon of the Talmudic Sages, the Book of Leviticus is called Toras Kohanim, the Torah of the Kohanim, or priests, because most of the Book deals with the laws of the Temple service and other laws relating to the priests and their responsibilities. The opening chapters of the Book deal exclusively with animal “korbanos,” a word that is commonly translated as either sacrifices or offerings, but the truth is that the English language does not have a word that accurately expresses the concept of a korban. The word “sacrifice” implies that the person bringing it is expected to deprive himself of something valuable—but God finds no joy in His children’s anguish or deprivation. “Offering” is more positive and closer to the mark—indeed, we use it in our translation—but it too falls short of the Hebrew korban. Does God require our gifts to appease Him or assuage Him? “If you have acted righteously, what have you given Him?” (Job 35:7); God does not become enriched by man’s largess.
— Parashat Vayikra