Yonatan Sinclair

Former Shaliach (Cape Town, 2004-05)
Currently Head of Hachshara Department, World Bnei Akiva



Following the Calling

This week we will start reading the book of Vayikra, a book focusing mainly on the sacrifices and the work of the kohanim in the mishkan. Vayikra is the middle book of the 5 books of Moses – it is right in the center of the story of Am Yisrael. The midrash tells us that it is customary for young children to start their learning of Torah with the book of vayikra “R’ Issy said: Why should the children start learning Torah from Vayikra; let them start from Bereshit? Rather, God Almighty said: Since sacrifices are holy and children are holy, let the holy come and learn about the holy” (Vayikra Raba 7:3).Vayikra is the foundation of Torah learning, but can it teach us more than what sacrifices were brought to the temple and what the kohanim did in the Temple?
I believe it can, and that the messages of Vayikra touch our very core and being. This all starts from the first word of the book and of the Parasha – “Vayikra – and he called.”
The first Pasuk of the book of Vayikra goes as follows:
“The LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying:”Rashbam, in his style of focusing on the plain meaning of the text, explains that the seemingly superfluous use of the similar terms “called” and “spoke” is because at the end of the book of Shmot, in Parashat Pekudei, Hashem had filled the Tent of Meeting with his presence. As a result, Moshe needed to leave, and so in order to communicate with God once again Moshe needed to first be summoned, and only then, once he arrived, could Hashem speak to him.
But Rashi, Rashbam’s grandfather, takes a more emotional approach – “Vayikra” is out of love. Hashem wanted to show Moses that he cared about and loved him, and therefore He called out to him.
Rashi continues to bring a quote from Yishayahu, where the angels also call out to each other: “Vekara ze el ze” (Yishayahu 6:3) and if we look at Rashi on that Pasuk in Yishayahu he explains: They ask permission one from the other.This idea is different from love. Here, the word “To call” doesn’t indicate love, but respect – they respect each other and seek permission to praise Hashem, so that they don’t upset one another.
In bringing these two explanations together, Rashi wants to teach us a fundamental lesson, not just about how Hashem spoke to Moshe, but how we should relate and act when it comes to learning of Torah.
Hashem was about to teach Moshe about the most central and essential active Mitzvot pertaining to Judaism, the sacred service in the Sanctuary. But he cannot and does not start before he calls Moshe – speaks to him out of Love and out of respect.And so the message is carried through the generations – When we come to learn Torah, when we come to apply the Mitzvot to our daily lives, we must approach it with love and respect. Moreover, we must remember that before the halachot and the written text, we must show love and respect to those around us, and only then delve in to understanding the text.If we can emulate Hashem’s ways and make sure that we are calling to all those we encounter and learn with, showing them respect and love, we have internalized one of the main messages of the book of Vayikra, and of Judaism as a whole.

Shabbat Shalom

comments: yonatan@worldbneiakiva.org