This Shabbat we open the third of the five books of the Chumash. This book is called Torat Cohanim or Sefer VaYikra, noting the first word of the first verse.

He called to Moshe, and Hashem spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying . . . (VaYikra 1:1)

What is meaning of this calling to Moshe? Usually when Hashem speaks to Moshe the Torah uses the verb “to speak”. Here Hashem calls to Moshe before He speaks to him. Why?

The Ramban, in the opening of the Parasha notes:

At the end of the Sefer Shemot (40:34-35) it says, “The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of Hashem filled the Tabernacle. Moshe could not enter the Tent of Meeting, for the cloud rested upon it, and the glory of Hashem filled the Tabernacle”. Therefore, Moshe needed a special invitation from Hashem that allowed him to enter the Tabernacle.

The Sifra as quoted in Rashi, however, notes that this is not the only instance of a calling out to Man preceding speaking. All the commands of Hashem were preceded by Hashem calling out lovingly “Moshe, Moshe”. The Sifra comments that when Hashem called out to Moshe and all the other prophets, their names were called out twice. This shows the great fondness Hashem has for them. The Midrash also teaches us that each prophet would respond to Hashem’s call with the word Hineni – I am here.

Rav Kook, in his Siddur, Olat HaRaya when explaining the Binding of Isaac, says that the name of a person is his essence. When Hashem calls a person by name, He is calling that person to strive for and achieve his uniqueness and essential being. A person is called to abandon all of the external layers by which he is bound and his fleeting desires and to connect to his truthful desires and to Hashem who speaks to him and who reaches within him. When we respond to Hashem’s call with the word Hineni, we are saying that we are prepared to receive the Divine word. We are declaring ourselves vessels prepared to accept Hashem’s word and to live a life based on the Divine directives.

Prophecy has ceased in our day, and Hashem no longer speaks directly to us, yet Hashem does communicate with us through Providence. Surely, when Hashem spoke to us directly it was easier to understand and accept His messages, yet today we also have the ability to attune ourselves to the Divine messages that shout out to us from the natural events in our lives.

Yehi Ratzon – May we merit hearing the voice of Hashem calling out to us, and be prepared to answer Hineni – I am here.