Parshat Vayikra: Calling the Jewish People

What is the call of “Vayikra” for the Jewish people today?

Numerous commentaries explain that parshat Vayikra is a direct continuation of Shemot, which ended with Moshe outside the mishkan. Even Moshe, the greatest prophet of all time, could not enter the holiest place at all times. Vayikra teaches that when an individual was impure, s/he too could not enter the mikdash. Human experiences of holiness have a rhythm of ebbs and flows, highs and lows. Similarly, Rabbi S.R. Hirsch teaches that the root of the word “korban” is “k.r.v,” to come close. The korbanot in the time of the mikdash (and today our tefillot) are a way to draw closer to Hashem – highlighting that one cannot stay in a continuous state of holiness. We are human beings, not angels.

Perhaps Rashi alludes to this in interpreting “Vayikra” as an expression of God’s affection (חבה) for Moshe and invitation to draw closer to holiness and hear God’s words. Rashi relates this to the call of angels in Isaiah – which we say in the kedusha of the amidah – “And one called (ve-karah) out to the other, holy, holy, holy…” In entering the ohel moed, Moshe becomes angel-like. In standing with feet together and saying kedusha we strive to be holy like angels (whose feet were like a straight foot). However, we can’t stay this way permanently.

Regarding the position of feet in prayer, Rav Kook writes that our feet are for both walking and standing. When we walk, legs apart, we advance and grow in Torah knowledge. When standing with feet together in prayer, we solidify ourselves through unity (achdut).

There is also a rhythm within the Jewish nation. There are times we as a people can debate constructively and withstand moving in different directions, at different paces. And then there are times we need to pause in order to solidify, to draw closer in holiness and focus on achdut. Shabbat Shalom🌸 -Karen Miller Jackson

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