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Shabbat Vayikra

03/13/2019 09:34:17 AM



This week we begin Vayikra, the third book of the Torah, the book of Leviticus. Vayikra begins with a call, as Rashi explains:

AND HE CALLED UNTO MOSES — This implies that the Voice went on and reached his (Moses’s) ears only but all the other Israelites did not hear it).

The call is the moment of beckoning. There is a need for explanation here, because we have completed one book, and begun another. There is a pause, of indeterminate time, between the end of the book of Shemot (Exodus), when the pillar of cloud descends upon the sanctuary, and the revelations of this book, Vayikra(Leviticus). Moses could not enter the sanctuary because of the cloud (Exodus 40:35), so a call must precede his entry.

But the call is also the expression of affection, the sweet intimate call of love. It is the call of the Angel to Abraham to prevent the sacrifice of his child, "Abraham, Abraham" (Genesis 22:11), or the call to the sleeping child Samuel in Shiloh, "Samuel, Samuel" - the whispering voice to this young boy who has not yet discovered he is a prophet (I Samuel 3:1-10). It is a voice that is only heard to its intended one.

The Voice, however, is also the powerful booming voice: 

What does it mean by the Voice? It was the Voice that is so minutely described in Psalms, (29:4, 5) “The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. The voice of the Lord breaketh the cedars. But if this be so (that it was a very powerful voice), why does Scripture state, “[and the Lord spoke to him] from the appointed tent” (מאהל מועד and does not state באהל מועד)? Because it intends to tell us that the Voice broke off and that it was heard only in the tent).

Thus, the voice has a double nature: inside the tent, it is omnipotent, thunderous; outside of the tent, it is not heard to anyone. It drops off. It reaches only Moses alone, as a still silent whisper, to awaken him and call him inwards. Once he enters the tent, it is the Voice of majesty, the Voice of the all powerful one. 

Is it only Moses who hears the Voice? The entire people look to Moses; but Moses's wish, his message, to Joshua his most prized student is "Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all God's people were prophets, and that the God would place his spirit upon them!" (Numbers 11:29). Moses wishes for everyone to hear the Voice. 

Because it is so. Some have a moment of experiencing the booming voice of the creator of the World, the Voice that breaketh cedars. But each one of us has a moment of the still small voice, the voice heard only from within, that utters our name to us, and calls to come forth, to act in the service of the most high. May we always be guided by that voice, and seek it out. 

Fri, July 10 2020 18 Tammuz 5780