Weekly Sermon





Make a Place for Gd in Your Life and He Will Fill It

Today we began the 3rd book of the Torah. It begins with what I think is the most heart-felt word in the whole Torah: Vayikra (And He/Gd called). Let me unpack that for you and analyze this amazing word. The book begins: Vayikra Hashem el Moshe, vay’dabeyr (Gd called to Moses and He said). Our Sages ask: Why the double phrase, “called” and “said”? Why not just say, “And Gd said”? After all, the phrase, Vay’dabeyr Hashem el Moshe, “And Gd said to Moses,” is the most common phrase in the whole Torah? Perhaps the additional use of Vayikra (called), is to teach us that unless we feel the call of Gd, the vay’dabeyr—what Gd says, what Gd tells us to do—won’t mean very much.

“Call” is an old sacred word that has been secularized, almost beyond repair. Christians still use it. Their Ministers still say, “I have a calling.” As you know, I just returned from London this week and I noticed that The London Jewish Chronicle still uses it. When they announce that a Rabbi has taken a new position, they put it this way. “Rabbi so-and-so has received a call to such-and-such a pulpit.” It is a reminder to the Rabbi, the congregation, and the readers that a Rabbi is not just an employee—and a pulpit is not just a job.

But for most of us, the word “call” has lost its spiritual meaning. We talk of “calling up” to reach someone, of “calling off” to postpone…of “calling down” when we mean to chew someone out, and then there’s a “call girl”—a term I won’t define here in shul. But we seldom speak of “having a calling.” In fact, for many the phrase is embarrassing. And yet, that’s what the Torah is saying with this word Vayikra (called). In fact, as you will soon see, each of us has a calling.

How do we hear the call of Gd? As I mentioned, Vayikra (called) is the 1st word of the 3rd book of the Torah that we begin today. Since the Torah has 5 books, it is the central book, and Vayikra is then the central word of the Torah, perhaps containing its central message—a message about being called.

Now let’s look at the narrative and we’ll see why else this message is here. Last week’s parsha completed the 2nd book of the Torah—Shemot/Exodus. Moses had just finished building the Mishkan portable Temple and the people watched with awe as Gd’s Shechina—His holy Presence—descended in a cloud to fill it. Today’s Torah portion begins with Vayikra—with Gd calling Moses to come in and be with Him. How awesome is that!?

The lesson here is so exquisite. If we, like Moses and the generation that built the Mishkan make a place for Gd in our lives, His Shechina, His Presence, will fill it and He will call out to us.

What does it mean to make a place for Gd in your life?

·       Does your home feel like a Jewish home when you enter with Jewish books and Jewish symbols like a Seder plate and menorah displayed—a place where Gd would feel welcome?

·     Do you make time every day to spend a few minutes with Gd in either prayer, meditation, and the study of Torah or all of them?

·       Do you regularly visit with Gd in shul—in His house?

·   Do you celebrate with Him His special times like Shabbat and Yom Tov?

·   Do you share what Gd has blessed you with by generously giving tzedakah—which then will give Him a reason to bless you with more?

If you’ll ask, who am I that Gd should call me—even if I make a place for Him in my life? Let me share with you with a gorgeous commentary—a favorite of mine—by Shlomo Carlebach, a”h, on this word Vayikra (And Gd called).

         Friends, Gd is calling everyone us, and the Midrash says that [in his time] only Moshe Rabbeinu heard Gd’s call. You know something? There is a calling from Gd which is meant for every one of us—a different “calling” [for each of us]. But the deepest question is: Are you hearing it? ... Friends, I want you to know something, Vayikra el Moshe, I want to bless you and me, that whenever Gd is calling us, it’s because Gd needs [us] for something special.

         You know something else? Moshe Rabbeinu should have asked all the Yidden [all the Jews when he heard the call]: “Did you hear that? [If they said] No?” [Do you think] Moshe [might have then] said: “I’m going to see my therapist…I hear voices, am I crazy?”

         You know something, if you hear something and nobody else can, why can’t you trust yourself? What do you think Gd is doing? You think Gd is ashamed to call you? [Do you think you’re not worthy of such a call?] If you can get yourself together, then you’ll hear Gd’s voice. You know Gd is talking to you [to all of us. He needs each of us for something special].” (Y. Fogelman, Vayikra 2001, Solk55@aol.com)

Shlomo Carlebach’s message is so sweet, so deep and so holy at the same time. Vayikra is the call of Gd to each and every one of us. In this sense, Gd needs us. He has a shlichut, an essential job for each of us. Each one of us is an agent of Gd. My question is: Are we too wired up listening to the constant chatter of nonsense—to the constant call of our phones, our tablets, our computers, the call of Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram, WeChat and TikTok…to hear Gd’s call?

One more thing about this word Vayikra. If you look carefully, you’ll see that its last letter alef has a small font. When a font changes in the Torah it usually means there’s a message behind it. Rashi writes that the word Vayikra (called) is lashon chibah (a term of endearment). Moses makes a place for Gd in the Mishkan, and Gd then lovingly calls out to him.

The Baal Haturim, in his commentary, suggests that Moses was embarrassed at this display of Gd’s love because he felt he was unworthy of direct contact with the Shechina (Gd’s holy Presence). And so he sought to write in the Torah the word Vayikar (met) without the alef instead of the word Vayikra (called). But Gd insisted on writing the alef because the full word Vayikra is indicative of a much more intensive and intimate encounter with Gd. So, Moses reluctantly wrote the alef as Gd commanded, but he made it smaller. This small alef thus became a symbol of the humility of Moses.

 My friends, each of us has a calling. Each of us was brought into this world with a shelichut—a Gdly mission. Each of us is called by Gd because He needs us to be His hands in this world—to perfect this world, to make it a more compassionate world, a more loving world, and a more Gdly world. This makes each of us very special—and that, as with Moses thought, is so humbling.

So my friends, make a place for Gd in your life. And when you do, Gd will call out to you in love to be with Him as well in an intimate encounter. The only question is, are you listening? Amen!



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