Torah Fax

Friday, March 18, 2005 - 7 Adar II, 5765

Reading:Vayikra (Leviticus 1:1 - 5:26)
Candle Lighting time: 5:48 PM
Shabbat ends: 6:48 PM
Shabbat Zachor
Give Or Take
The third book of the Torah is usually referred to as the Book of Leviticus because it revolves around the role of the Kohanim (Priests) and Levites, both of whom are descendants of the Tribe of Levi. However the name that is more commonly used in Jewish tradition is Vayikra ("And He called"), because the very first word of the book is Vayikra. One might have thought that the name Vayikra is an arbitrary name and does not reflect the character of the book, as opposed to the name Leviticus.
However, the very fact that the book begins with the word Vayikra is no accident. If, as the Baal Shem Tov taught, everything that occurs is by Divine Providence, certainly, the placement of the word Vayikra at the head of the central book of the Torah conveys a profound message.
When G‑d would communicate with Moses, the Torah always introduces the dialogue with the words, "And G‑d spoke to Moses, saying." Yet, here, the Torah prefaces that G‑d called Moses before He spoke to Him. Why was it necessary for G‑d to call him? And why do we not find a reference to G‑d calling Moses in the preceding book of Exodus? Rashi, the Torah's principal commentator, explains that calling Moses was a sign of affection. When one wants to order someone to do something, they might just begin their declaration without any introduction. "Do this!" or "Don't do this!" When one is engaged in a loving relationship, one will usually find a way of initiating a dialogue in an endearing fashion before demanding something of the person.
The difficulty still remains. Why does G‑d express His love and affection for Moses and the Children of Israel specifically in this book? The answer lies in a better understanding of the nature of this book. Vayikra begins with and devotes much of its content to the subject of "sacrifices." In truth, the Hebrew word the Torah employs, "Korban," conveys an entirely different meaning from the word sacrifice. The word Korban denotes doing something that brings a person, and everything else, closer to G‑d.
Upon deeper reflection, there is a pronounced difference between the two translations that reflects a fundamental difference as to how we view life in general, and our own existence in particular. The word sacrifice connotes giving up something for another cause. Whenever we use one thing, person, situation, etc. for some cause or benefit, we are, in a sense, sacrificing that thing for another, more noble cause. In extreme situations, this mode of behavior might be labeled opportunistic or exploitative. In its mild form it is the way our universe operates. One creature uses another for its survival and growth. Without realizing it, we are always trading or sacrificing one thing for another.
The notion of Korban, however, revolutionizes the way we think. N othing, according to Judaism, was created simply to be used and discarded. Everything was created, the Torah teaches us, to serve G‑d, to "elevate the material."  Simply put, this means, that the purpose of all existence is to be brought closer to G‑d. Whenever we "use" something for the purpose of facilitating our own journey of getting close to G‑d, the thing we used has now "graduated" from being a neutral object, to becoming a part of our own experience of closeness to G‑d. Would anyone say that our elementary education, which serves as a stepping-stone to our advanced education, is sacrificed for a higher level? Obviously not. Rather the fundamentals we learn in our early stages of life become absorbed by and incorporated into the more advanced stages of our lives.
This notion of Korban helps us in properly viewing the thousands of years of exile that serve as a preparation for the ultimate period of Redemption. Rather than viewing it as years of sacrifice and waste, we should realize that these years are all part of a process of Korban. When Moshiach ushers in the Messianic Age, all of the thousands of years that we've been waiting will all be preserved and incorporated in the more sophisticated experience of Redemption.
We can now understand why the central book of the Torah that revolves around sacrifices (or: more precisely: objects that are to be brought closer to G‑d) was introduced by, and named: Vayikra-And He called.. As stated, the concept of a Korban is not simply following G‑d's commandments. It is the way we cultivate an intimate relationship with G‑d, and how we ultimately get the entire world to experience this intimacy with Him. It is therefore fitting that this book commence with, and be named Vayikra, to underscore that G‑d views all of the challenges of life as ways of developing a closer connection to, and intimacy with, Him.
Moshiach Matters
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, said: "If all Jews would join together, great and small alike, and say, 'Father, enough already. Have mercy on us and send us our Redeemer, then certainly Moshiach would come!"
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