We begin the Book of Leviticus this Shabbat. A book that focuses on laws and rituals, sacrifices and the workings of the priestly cult. No doubt as you work your way through the book, the varied ideas and interpretations of sacrifices will be discussed. For this week, however, I want to begin at the beginning and Leviticus 1, where we read that God “called” to Moses. Note right away that in this first verse that the aleph of the first word, vayikra, is written smaller. The traditional comment is that this is refelctive of humility.
But what of the use of the word “called”? Why not just read it that God spoke to Moses, as it appears so many other places? (v’yidaber). So I ask, what is “calling” us, now, at this stage of our lives? For some, our reaction is, don’t call me anymore, I have done my thing, just let me “be”! For so many of us as we march through the pandemic, we wish to be called by friends and family and our community. But on a more spiritual level, what is really calling us now? The majority of our communities have fared well in this pandemic and articles and studies have shown that elders have made it through with a sense of resilience, especially those blessed with social and economic resources. But, our souls?
Are we being called to re-examine our own priorities? Our legacy? Our hopes and dreams for the rest of our lives now that we have been shown in dramatic fashion again how fragile life can be? Are we being called to re-engage with the world given the rise in so much hate and division? Or are we being called to the realization that time has once again shown us that we, try as we might, cannot control time, and once we understand this, the call we hear is to try and use whatever time we have left to make sure what we leave behind stands for something sacred. Is this call a call to holiness? Is this call a call to revision how we can bring a sense of holiness to our world, our family, our self? The fact of the matter, as Leviticus 1:1 tells us, is that we are being called every day. How can we answer? How do YOU wish to answer?
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.