Answering the call
Leviticus 1:1 – 5:26
This Shabbat we begin a new book of the Torah, Leviticus. Notable for its unending commandments concerning sacrifices and temple rites, Leviticus easily blurs the eyes and dulls the senses. Do we really need to continue to study outmoded practices and actions which few if any of us ever hope to resume?
And yet, as the Sidra opens, we hear two of the most powerful words in all of Torah: Vayikra Adonai — God called! That simple statement, so easy to skip, says so much to all of us. Our God calls us! God requests our attention! God seeks us! God wants communication with us!
The opening words of the portion remind us that we exist in relationship with God. No matter how far we may roam, no matter how far our questioning or lack of belief might lead us, God still needs us. We live in covenant with the Almighty; both we and God need the other.
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God calls to Moses, and through Moses, to each of us. God desires that we engage, that we connect, that we interact. God calls us collectively and individually. We are called to gather, and we are called to rise to our highest selves.
Nowadays when the phone rings we can see who is calling and decide whether we wish to answer. All of us have made the choice at one time or another to ignore a call. Some of us only answer a call if we recognize the number. Others of us are more willing to answer any call.
In beginning of the book of Leviticus, with a call, our text reminds us that we have choices. We can choose to follow the commandments literally or not. We can choose to answer the call and engage or to ignore the call and try to blur into the background. We can choose to be a part of the great endeavor of Jewish peoplehood, or we can go our own way. But make no mistake: God wants us to engage!
Pesach will soon arrive, and after that, the counting of the Omer and Shavuot. Our tradition calls to us to connect with our past, to look to the future, to interact with each other as sacred partners. God calls us — each one of us. And each of us in our own way answers.
Vayikra Adonai. God calls. Va’anachnu magivim. We respond. May the weeks of reading Leviticus remind us of our shared commitments — us to God and God to us. And when God calls, let each of us be motivated to answer, to respond, to connect with the Almighty and each other. PJC
Rabbi Daniel J. Fellman is the senior rabbi at Temple Sinai. This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Jewish Clergy Association.