Parshas Vayikra

Parshas Vayikra:
And He called (Vayikra) to Moshe . . . (Vayikra 1:1)

By: Rabbi Pinchas Winston

AND HE CALLED TO MOSHE: A “calling” preceded all sayings and commands. It is an expression of love, an expression that the Ministering Angels use, as it said, “One called to the other” (Yeshayahu 6:3). However, to the gentile prophets He revealed Himself with an expression of happenstance and uncleanness, as it said, “G-d happened upon Bilaam” (Bamidbar 23:4, 16). (Rashi)

All of this because of a reduced “aleph.”

If you look into a Sefer Torah at the very first word of this week’s parshah and into the Book of Vayikra, you will see the word “An He called” spelled: vav-yud-kuf-raish-aleph, as it ought to be. However, what is unique here is that the aleph at the end of the word is written smaller as a matter of tradition, making the first four letters – vav-yud-kuf-raish – stand out on their own almost as an independent word, vayikar, with an independent meaning: He happened upon.

Thus, Rashi’s incredible explanation, and I say “incredible” because from a SMALL aleph we are being taught a BIG difference between the relationship the Jewish people are supposed to have with G-d, and that of the other nations of the world. The Jewish people are supposed to have an ongoing, continuously open relationship with G-d, whereas the relationship of the gentile nations to G-d is more of an on-and-off type.

We saw this all the way back at the beginning of Parashas Vayaira. It was just after Avraham Avinu performed Bris Milah and was at home recovering, at which time G-d came to visit him. However, in the midst of the prophecy three strangers showed up, and Avraham dutifully provided them with hospitality, not so much as asking G-d His permission or even stopping to say “Good-bye for now!”

Even more bizarre is that after Avraham finished taking care of his guests’ needs and returned to his conversation with G-d, he was able to pick up just where he left off, as if G-d had been waiting for him the entire time. Indeed, it was as if the conversation never broke off even for a moment, even while Avraham Avinu focussed his attention on more mundane matters.

Which, of course, it didn’t, since everything Avraham did in this world was always part of his service to G-d and was never for selfish reasons. His life was one ongoing dialogue with the Creator. Though the mode of communication may have changed from prophecy to chesed, everything else regarding Avraham’s relationship to G-d remained the same.

Pardon the analogy, but it is like using cable for Internet versus a regular modem.

When a person uses a modem to connect to the Internet, he has to dial up the server, “get in,” and wait until all the inter-computer protocol has finished before being able to access everything from e-mail to websites. This takes time, is not always successful the first or second time, and can build Internet costs on a momentary basis.

However, the beauty of cable is that you are always connected. The connection is continuous and therefore “getting in” is quick as is using the “Net.” Furthermore, you usually pay a flat monthly rate for the use of it, regardless of how often you actually access it.

This is how it is supposed to be with the Jewish people, at least spiritually-speaking. When it comes to our relationship to G-d, we are supposed to be “on-line” all the time. Indeed, there is never a moment that we are supposed to think that we are “off-line” from G-d, which is why halachah dictates levels of conduct and modesty even in the most private of places and moments.

This is not just a crucial and very beautiful Torah thought, as we shall now discuss, G-d willing. It is a description of the essence of the Jewish people and ultimately, the reason for all the suffering of the Jewish nation throughout the ages, and especially today in Eretz Yisroel.


Absolute Power:

By: Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky

This week we begin the Book of Leviticus, the third Book of the Pentateuch which deals primarily with the laws of the kohanim and the sacrificial service in the holy Sanctuary. Although this weekly bulletin is too brief and cursory to expound upon the deep and difficult significance of sacrifices, there clearly are many lessons that could be garnered from many of the nuances and expressions which the Torah uses to describe the offerings.

It is interesting to note the varied expressions concerning the korbon chatas, the sin-offering. The Torah discusses a variety of individuals who unfortunately sin. They must bring a korbon chatas or asham a sin-offering. In describing the unfortunate incidence of sin, the Torah does not use a definitive word to describe the circumstance that caused a need for penitence. Instead it talks about the circumstance in terms of hopeful uncertainty: “If an individual person from among the people of the land shall sin unintentionally” (Leviticus 4:27); “If the anointed Kohen will sin, bringing guilt upon the people” (Leviticus 4:3); “If the entire assembly of Israel shall err, and a matter became obscured from the eyes of the congregation” (Leviticus 4:13).

However when referring to the nasi, the ruler or prince of the nation, the Torah does not choose the tentative words ki or im which denote an uncertainty, rather it uses the definitive, asher. “When a ruler sins, and transgresses one from among all the commandments of Hashem that may not be done unintentionally — and becomes guilty.

Why, when it comes to the ruler, does the Torah use the definitive term, when the ruler sins, yet, when referring to the sins of the common man, kohen, or even the entire assembly, it uses the tentative words, “if they shall sin”? Second, the verse seems to be phrased with a strange syntax. Instead of stating “when a ruler sins, and commits one from among all the commandments of Hashem that may not be done unintentionally and becomes guilty, the Torah should use proper grammar and state: “When a ruler unintentionally sins, and commits one from among all the commandments of Hashem that may not be done and becomes guilty.”

From the strange juxtaposition it seems that the ruler transgressed a crime so egregious that people do not even transgress unintentionally. Can that be?

Charles Maurice de Talleyrand, the French foreign minister under Napoleon, led a complex life. Lame as a child, excommunicated by the pope, a supporter of the French revolutionaries, he sought refuge in England and later in the fledgling United States. He finally rose to power when he was appointed French foreign minister in 1797.

After those tumultuous years, one would have expected that the appointment would have prompted caution and humble responsibility. This was not the case. Upon receiving news that he was named minister of foreign affairs he flew into transports of joy. According to Gerald Tomlinson, in his coach he crowed repeatedly to his friend. “I’m now Minister of Foreign Affairs! Minister of Foreign Affairs! I’ll make an immense fortune out of it! Truly an immense fortune!”

Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin explains that the Torah makes prescient predictions about a ruler’s rise to power. Unfortunately the question all too often is not if a ruler will go wrong, but rather when. And so the Torah uses a definitive expression “when the ruler will sin.” And the type of misdeed is also alluded to.

There are certain infractions we may accidentally overlook and there are those that we would not do even under the most dire of circumstances. Yet the Torah tells us that “when the ruler will sin” it is possible that the type of sin will not be a mere infraction of a minor crime, it may also be a sin that is so heinous that it is the type of mistake that “would not (even) be done unintentionally.”

And so the Torah clarifies for us that old adage made famous by Britain’s Lord Acton who in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton, in 1887 stated, “Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely!”

A Complete Recovery

By: Rabbi Label Lam

He called to Moshe, and HASHEM spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying, “Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them; ‘When a man from (amongst) you brings an offering to HASHEM from animals- from the cattle or from the flock shall you bring your offering.’” (Vayikra 1:1-2)

When a man sacrifices from you: When a man sacrifices, it should be from your essence, with verbal confession and ultra-humility. “We will pay with the bulls of our lips” (Referring to prayer) “The sacrifice to G-d is a broken spirit” (Tehillim 51), because HASHEM does not desire the foolish to come close without having subjugated themselves first… (Seforno)

The Seforno emphasizes the central point in presenting a Korbon and that is as our sages have said, “The Merciful One wants the heart!” Even in prayer, “the bulls of our lips”, which is all that’s actionable nowadays from the institution of sacrifices, true devotion makes the recital of words work. Verbosity alone is comparable to writing a check. If there is no money in the bank to back it up the paper is worthless. The impact of the petitioner is limited to the depth of the sincerity of his heart.

It was after Kol Nidre on Yom Kippur night, the holiest time of the year, two years ago. One of the congregants, tugged on my Kittle insisting he had a story he needed to tell. The story begins fifteen years earlier in a New York area suburb. This man tells me his daughter was getting engaged in Florida and so he and his daughters and other family members traveled with him to celebrate. Only his wife remained back home to care for the grandchildren. While they were away, a knock came to the door and three men with hoods brandishing weapons forced their way into the house. They threatened his wife and pushed her around and made her open the safe from which they took all her jewelry and many thousands of dollars-worth of valuables. Afterward they handcuffed her to the banister. They left and were never caught.

 

That’s not the end of the story though. Why, I wondered was he telling me this now? Fifteen years later, between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, just a few days earlier, his wife received a mysterious call. There on the other end of the phone was a Rabbi and another gentleman that had an urgent message he needed to convey. Who was it? It was none other than one of the three invaders from that terrible day fifteen years earlier. The Rabbi explained that although he was a young man, he suffered a stroke and he’s begging for forgiveness. He gets on the phone and begins with one word, all he can muster to speak, “Mechila!” (forgiveness).

They wife answers him, “It’s you! I should call the police on you! Where’s the money? Where’s my jewelry? Where are the other two bums?” All he can answer is his pathetic refrain, “Mechila!” She berated him, “What is this, some kind of word game!? You say “Mechila” and I say “Forgiven!” and suddenly all’s well?! No! I refuse to play!” She understandably denied him what he sought. (At this point in his story I began to realize that I know who this fellow is. I had visited him in jail for almost eight years. He had been a guest in my house many times. I had heard that he had had a stroke subsequently. I was certain that it was him!)

She called up her daughter, who is a therapist, to ask her what she should have done and her daughter boldly recommended that she confront him. Amazingly, a meeting was set up. There she saw the poor- pathetic fellow face to face and she gave him the lecture of his life as she described in rich detail the sheer terror of the incident as it unfolded and the emotional scars that she has born since. In the middle of her rant he burst into a torrent of tears and pleaded repeatedly, “Mechila!” At that moment her heart turned around and she told him, “I feel so sorry for you! Look at you! You’ve suffered so much! You lost your health. You’re so broken! Not only am I willing to forgive you now but I want to give you a Brocho! May HASHEM grant you a complete recovery!


Quote Of The Week:

“Is there a direct path to Gan Eden?

“Rebbe,” someone once asked the Chazon Ish, “Is there a direct path to Gan Eden?” “Yes, ” he answered, “The direct path to Gan Eden is open to you if you never insult anyone. Never insult someone and you’ll go straight to Gan Eden.”

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