When you think about the most exciting parts of the Torah and Judaism, the cold hard truth is that the book of Vayikra probably isn’t on too many people’s highlight reels. It’s hard to get too worked up about the census; the architecture, construction, and layout of the Mishkan; the sacrifices; the holidays; Shemita and Yovel; and the other miscellaneous sections that don’t seem to fit anywhere else.
Of course, that’s not to say that they’re not important – they absolutely are. But unlike, say, most of Bereishis and Shemos, it’s not story or character driven, so the lessons and morals are much less obvious.
The Torah offers a beautiful exposition of blessings and bounty that follow from observing the Torah, and a gruesomely detailed description of all the terrible things that might befall the Jewish People should they fail to uphold the law properly.
What immediately follows this grim reading is an abrupt change of tone, a ponderous section about the valuation of pledges – Parsha Archin.
When the Mishkan and Beis HaMikdash stood, they maintained a public fund for operations and maintenance, which people could contribute to. Aside from cash, people could pledge property; animals; and interestingly, humans. There are volumes of tomes that discuss the exact parameters of how it works, but essentially, all individuals have a particular value, so donating a person would entail calculating their value, and simply redeeming that value by contributing the equivalent amount to the public fund.
We could make peace with the notion that the Torah is like all things; some parts are more interesting, and some less. Some parts are impactful stories, and some parts are technical and arcane laws. But what if it isn’t, and there is a flow to the apparently miscellaneous appendices?
The Ishbitza suggests that if we find the technical details of the census, architecture, and sacrifices riveting, the Torah showers us with blessings, which is great.
But if instead, our eyes glaze over, and we become disenchanted with the arcane technicalities the Torah charges us with, the intimidating future the Torah predicts for us is that our world will fall apart with curses and suffering.
It is precisely this doom and misery that the Torah addresses by giving us the laws of valuations here.
The Ishbitza suggests that the idea of redemption should be understood more broadly. Faced with a disheartening list of punishments, the Torah tells us that all is lost; people are still worth something.
All humans have a fundamental and intrinsic inalienable worth that can never be destroyed.