Parashat Vayikra – Erev Shabbat March 20th,2021
Week of March 14th-19th
Torah portion: Lev.1:1-5:26 Haftarah: Is.43:21-44:22
Theme: The Call to Holiness
Vayikra, God called Moses! There are only four times that God calls Moses and all took place at Mt Sinai except this one recorded in Leviticus. The first is the scene of the burning bush when God had called Moses by name and commissioned him to return to Egypt to be an instrument in delivering God’s people from slavery. This call changed his life forever! The second call was at Mt Sinai when the Israelites had first arrived and again at Sinai when the Ten Commandments were given. Now the fourth time, God calls Moses from within the Tent of Meeting. This was an I-Thou encounter. “By first calling Moses, God creates a situation whereby God’s presence has withdrawn inward to create room for Moses in the conversation. Moses can now be a partner, rather than a passive recipient. Thus, it becomes clear from the very first word that the content of this book is about relationships. God structures the relationship with Moses so that it is a partnership. One that can have true intimacy.” (Women’s Torah, 186)
In making the dwelling place for God, the Israelites had helped with willing hearts. Earlier when God spoke at Sinai amid thunder and lightning, the experience was too much for the people and thus they needed a go-between. With Moses as an intermediary, they felt they could relate because God’s presence was in their midst.
The book of Leviticus consists of details regarding the construction of the sanctuary, the observance of feasts and holy days, dietary laws and the principals and values by which the people are to live. It was actually a manual for the priests to assist in the religious needs of the people. Children beginning to study God’s Word are first introduced to this book because it teaches them that God is first in their lives.
The concern for anyone is always the question, “What is fitting worship of God? How do I/we worship God and therein place our trust? These are very searching and fundamental questions. The book of Leviticus instructs and demonstrates how an individual and a people are to respond to God, “You will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. (Ex. 19:6)
Central to this call to holiness are the words, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Dt. 6:7)Prayer and sacrifice became the means of worshiping the Divine. Offering sacrifice was the only form of worship the Israelites had seen or known. To offer what was most precious seemed to be the proper way to worship. The very word for offering is ‘korban’ which means to bring close or to come close.
In offering a sacrifice, whether that of an animal, fruit or grain spoke of a person’s prized possession and this was given to God. It was a giving over or a giving up, signifying their gratitude to God, their creator and provider. Viewed as the giving of one’s life, it expressed their love and commitment, that intimate relationship with God which was unique to each person and to the people as a whole.
The Israelites began their sojourn in the desert as recently freed slaves and on entering the promised land, they had been formed into a people. “ I will take you as my people and I will be your God who brought you out from under the yoke of Egypt.” (Ex. 6:7) We need to remember the power and efficacy of worship, “A Hasidic master taught that we enter the sanctuary as individuals but the experience of worship leads us to transcend our separateness and become part of the community.” (Etz Hayim 587)
For Reflection and Discussion: 1.) Recall an experience of a call or a revelation of God? What was your response? 2.) Did your response bring meaning and fulfillment to your life?
Bibliography: Lieber, David L., Etz Hayim, Torah and Commentary, (New York, NY. 2001), Goldstein, Rabbi Elyse, The Woman’s Torah Commentary, (Woodstock, VT, 2000).
This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Rita Kammermayer, nds, Alumni 2001