Vayikra – How are You Called?
The first word of not just our parsha, but of all of the book of Vayikra, is the word “Vayikra“, meaning “and they called.” In our case, it is a reference to God calling to Moshe. The incredible parsha raises questions from the very first moment.
Looking closely at the word “Vayikra” as it actually appears in the torah, the last letter of the word, “א”, is written smaller than the other letters. The commentators have puzzled over the reason for this for centuries.
Without the “א”, this word would be “vayikar” which means, “and he happened upon him.” So the “א” is the difference between God calling Moshe, with intention, and God “happening upon” Moshe.
This hints at a deep lesson about one’s approach to life. Is someone going through their days and actions with intention, seeking out meaning when they speak to people and in how they act, or is someone just ambling along “happening upon” events in their lives? Are we stumbling through life, or are we filling our days with meaning?
Moreover, are we as human beings making opening ourselves to noticing the world around us with intention? Are we open and listening for God calling us in our own lives? Are we stopping to notice the many details and systems which may seem to have just “happened,” but without which we would not be able to live?
A moment like the one the world is experiencing now with the coronavirus lays these differences bare and makes us appreciate, or perhaps notice for the first time, the many processes and people that make our daily lives possible.
We don’t realize how much we all rely on one another until one link in this chain of humanity is threatened, from the makers of medical supplies to the essential workers keeping things going outside of hospitals, from grocery clerks to custodians to people stocking shelves at Target, and many more.
Each of these exemplifies how “Vayikra” means waking up to the thousands of people around us who are answering the call of exactly what they need to be doing right now for the good of everyone else — including those of us who are answering this call by staying home from work and school!
But here’s the thing. Once we’re home, “Vayikra” doesn’t end.
Are we stumbling through these homebound weeks and this new reality, or are we trying to find moments of intentionality and connection, challenging as this may be?
The difference between “Vayikra” and “vayikar” is clear. Perhaps a reason why the “א” in Vayikra in the Torah is so small is to teach us that it is up to each and every individual to make this choice about the intentionality we will bring to our lives and to our place in the world.
It’s a distinctly human choice, “small “א”” choice, that nonetheless has the power to change our entire worldview.
Questions for the Shabbat Table:
- Take a moment to think of something from this week for which you are grateful. Were you grateful for it in the moment, or only now that you’re thinking back on your week?
- Take a moment to think of some of the people who you may have never thought about before, but who make your daily life possible. Share with those at your Shabbat table, who are these people who make your life possible? What do they do? Why do you think you’ve never appreciated them before? What could you do, moving forward, to show your appreciation for what they do?