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Can You Hear the Call?

Parshat Vayikra

Leviticus 1:1 – 5:26

Vayikra means “God called out.” (Lev. 1:1).  With this new book of the Bible, Leviticus, God calls out to Moses.  Exodus ends with the building of the Tabernacle. It has exquisite detail of the design and the construction of the Tabernacle, God’s earthly home. Now God wants to draw even nearer to the Israelites  More than just taking up residence in the Tent of Meeting, the book of Leviticus, is a recipe for ways to draw closer to closer to God.

In this week’s portion the sacrificial system is introduced in detail.  Guilt offerings, sin offerings, well being offerings are just three of the sacrifices described in detail this week.  The instructions make for dry reading.  Couple that with our contemporary Jewish practice that no longer uses this system (and frankly the slaughter of animals as a way to rid ourselves of sin is truly revolting) makes it difficult to hear the call of this book of the Bible. Couple that with fundamental changes in the way we contemporary Jews see and understand the world and the book of Leviticus seems to push us away from the God idea rather than draw close which was the idea of the sacrifices in the first place!  The word for sacrifice in Hebrew, korban, is rooted in the idea of karov, or nearness. The Leviticus of death sentences, bloody sacrifices and misinterpreted verses that have caused the persecution and death of gay people throughout the centuries are just a few of the ways we can no longer hear the call of God and is explicit in the opening words of this week’s portion.

 And yet in the book of Leviticus and this week’s portion the call of God is still present if we open our ears and our hearts.  This week’s portion reminds us that if we harm another person we must make restitution and add a fifth.  Elsewhere in Leviticus we can hear God calling out to us through the ethical ideals that teach us how to treat one another, “Love your neighbor as yourself” is found in Leviticus as is “You be holy because I am holy”.  

 Our challenge this week and every week is to try and hear the call of God. Just as God called out to Moses this week with the word, “Vayikra”, can you hear God calling you to draw nearer?