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Parashat Vayikra: He Called

What does it mean to be called, or to have a calling? This week’s Torah Portion, Vayikra, starts with a call from G-d. Literally the first word of the Book of Leviticus is, “Vayikra And He (G-d) called…” Then it continues, “to Moses, and the Lord spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: When a man from [among] you brings a sacrifice to the Lord; from animals, from cattle or from the flock you shall bring your sacrifice. (Leviticus 1:1-2).” A call that leads to detailed descriptions (blood, gore and all) of the different types of sacrifices the Israelites are to make to G-d: Ascending Offerings, Meal Offerings, Peace Offerings, Sin Offerings, and Guilt Offerings. There is a sacrifice to give for various aspects of life. Some just burnt on the altar for G-d, and some the Israelites were to not only offer to G-d, but also to offer to the priests to eat, and partake of themselves. This is how we as a Nation are to serve G-d. So, what does this specific call mean? What does G-d want from Moses and the Israelites?

According to some of the Chassidic Masters these sacrifices are a representative of our inner selves, “The offering must come from within the person. It is the animal within man that must be “brought near” and elevated by the Divine fire upon the altar.” We must offer a piece of our inner selves to connect with G-d, and our way of life. This was G-d’s mysterious way of helping the Israelites confront their deeper inner selves, in the next phase of their lives after the building of the Tabernacle, the dwelling place of G-d that they built with their hearts. It was a way for G-d to define what their future interactions would be like. More than that, it was also a way for the Israelites to find their purpose within the laws G-d created for them, their new way of life. This way of serving G-d also gave them a measure of accountability for their actions as individuals, and as a larger community. Checks and balances for how they were living with G-d’s laws.

Now fast forward to today, what does this call mean for us? What is our calling as a Jewish People, and as individuals? How do we serve G-d? How do we find ourselves accountable for our actions? Obviously we no longer sacrifice animals, that all changed after the destruction of the Temples. Instead we serve G-d through prayer, studying Torah, and acts of loving-kindness. Tonight at your Shabbat table, think about how you serve G-d, the larger Jewish community, and the world. Think about all the question I posed above. Think about how your own calling in life adds to the bigger picture. We are all part of this together. We all make a difference in the future.

Shabbat Shalom!