Portion Vayikra: Leviticus 1:1-5:26
In Hebrew, the five books of the Torah derive their names from either the first word in the text or from a central word of the first sentence in the text. The book of Leviticus is called “Vayikra”. In many other languages, the title Leviticus hints at the fact that the book came to be viewed as a sort of “law of the Levites” because it deals with the tasks and actions of the priesthood in the temple service.

The book of Leviticus speaks about God as a holy God, and about the essence and purpose of the sacrifice, as well as providing rules about living a life of high morality and sanctification.

In chapters one through five, we find descriptions of:

“Olah” - Burnt sacrifices, of the herd, of the flock and of the birds (chapter 1);

“Mincha” - Grain offerings, of fine flour, unleavened cakes and of the first fruits (chapter 2);

“Shlemim” - Sacrifices of peace, of the herd and of the flock (chapter 3);

“Chatat” - Sin sacrifice, of the herd, of the flock, and of the birds, or, one tenth of an ephah of fine flour;

“Asham” - Unintentional sin/trespass (regarding the holy things of the LORD) – a ram without blemish of the flock (Leviticus 5:14-26)

Looking ahead, chapters 6-7 of Leviticus provide explanations for the priest regarding the sacrifice: the preparation and use of the sacrifice, as well as detailed information regarding the different kinds of sacrifice.
Why blood and sacrifice?
We find the answer in Leviticus 17:11

For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.
Life in exchange for Life
After their disobedience, God showed Adam and Eve, though we read about it indirectly, that there is a need for a sacrifice as atonement for sin. In other words, someone else must give his life in order to atone for sin and he, thus becomes the sacrifice. God taught them this principle when He used skin, animal skin, and made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them (Genesis 3:21).

God receives the life of the sacrifice as atonement (payment) for my sin. Simply put, someone else is being punished in my stead, and covers the debt.

In chapter 4 of Genesis we read that Cain and Abel, the offspring of Adam and Eve were already in the habit of offering sacrifices to God. Later, following the great flood (Genesis 8), when Noah and his family descended from the ark, Noah’s first action was to offer a sacrifice to God (verses 20-21)

20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. 21 The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.
The animal sacrifice (first initiated by God in Genesis) was the hint or shadow of the human sacrifice that would be needed to take care of the human sin problem once and for all. In that sense, animal sacrifice was a shadow of the Messiah’s sacrifice.

This principle of the shadow is taught by the apostle Paul in Colossians 2:16-17

16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in the Messiah.

Here, Paul names the commandments regarding food, drink, religious festivals, the New Moon celebration and the Sabbath day as shadow of the Messiah. The Messiah is the center and focus, and these commandments were intended to teach us about the identity of the Messiah and they are completed in and by Him.

In light of this, the book of Leviticus also serves, among other things, as a shadow of the Messiah and His action.

God’s Law, in general, kept us safe and made temporary provision for sin until the work of the Messiah would be revealed. Galatians 3:23-24

23 Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Messiah came that we might be justified by faith.

In the Messiah, the “Seed” (Galatians 3:16), we are made righteous through faith, like Abraham (Verse 25): 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.