Parshat Vaykira- A Call to the Future

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וַיִּקְרָא אֶל-מֹשֶׁה; וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֵלָיו, מֵאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד לֵאמֹר

This week’s פרשה, which discusses the various קרבנות brought in the משכן, opens up with “ויקרא אל משה וידבר ה׳ אליו באהל מועד לאמר- And [G-d] called out to Moshe and G-d spoke to Moshe from the Tent of Meeting saying…” When G-d had commandments for the Israelites in ספר שמות, whether in Egypt, in the desert, or at Sinai, He would have a private communion with Moshe, and Moshe would then pass on the message to בני ישראל. Yet here, G-d opts to have a more public discussion with Moshe, with Him speaking from within the אוהל מועד to משה who was presumably waiting outside the משכן. This begs the question; Why does G-d give the commandments of the offerings to Moshe here in such a public way? And why does G-d speak to משה from within the אוהל מועד? Couldn’t משה have entered the משכן to have a more intimate conversation with G-d?

In באר יצחק, Rav Yitzchak Elchanan Spektor, a 19th Century Rabinic figure in Russia, answers that we can learn from the nature of this discussion about the spiritual level that בני ישראל were on at the time of the construction of the משכן. Previously, when G-d would communicate with the Israelites via Moshe, the prophet had to maintain a high spiritual level to merit this intimate connection with G-d. Now, with the משכן in their midst, בני ישראל were on a higher מדרגה, something they would need to maintain to merit the continued presence of the שכינה in their midst. G-d, therefore, spoke to משה publically from the משכן- to remind בני ישראל of their high spiritual level- that they too can receives G-d’s commands directly, and as a warning that they must maintain this high standard in order to continue to have the משכן and the שכינה  with them. Therefore, the public nature of פרשת ויקרא’s revelation is emphasized in this פסוק.

This teaching of the באר יצחק teaches of a pattern seen throughout Jewish history- that we, the Jewish People, are at our highest level when we are united in our service of G-d- by publicly learning of G-d’s commandments and proudly serving Him together. Judaism, the world’s oldest and longest lasting religion, has only been able to survive for so long through its people uniting in small, tight-knit communities, and zealously guarding the Torah and Mitzvot. History has shown that whenever the Jews have abandoned the תורה in an attempt to assimilate into their surroundings, they are eventually rejected by their neighbors, often violently, and forced to move on to somewhere else. The lesson we can learn from this interpretation of the publicity of פרשת ויקרא’s revelation is that in order to pass on the מסורה and the history of the Jewish People, we must stick to our traditions and maintain close communities so that we can maintain the high standards of our forefathers and serve G-d in this holiness.

While this is an important lesson for passing on the Jewish past and maintaining the Jewish present, I believe there’s an important lesson that can be learned from the first word of our פרשה for ensuring the Jewish future:

Our פרשה and ספר open with one small word, huge in its implications: “ויקרא”- looking into a ספר תורה or חומש, one will notice that the א, the last letter in this first word, is smaller than the others. This change, like most of the nuances of ספרות, is not just a coincidence, leading us to wonder what the significance of this small אלף is.

The זוהר (תוס׳ הזוהר א׳), one of the main kabalistic sources in the Judaism, answers by reminding us, as above, of the high spiritual standing of the Jewish Nation- בני ישראל were at a spiritual peak, having just built the משכן themselves, and were now closer to G-d than they’d ever been, receiving direct communication from him. However, no matter how high of a level they were on, there was one thing that was not right- their location. In Real Estate, everything is about location- a house’s value can go up exponentially depending on where it’s located- even more significantly than the worth of the building itself. The משכן was G-d’s ‘starter home,’ a mobile home which traveled through the wastelands of the Sinai desert. While this was definitely an improvement over no home, it pales in comparison to G-d’s future home, the two temples in Jerusalem, mainly in location. The זוהר teaches that true perfection can only be achieved in the Holy Land, in Israel. Since this revelation was coming from the משכן, G-d’s ‘starter home’ outside of ארץ ישראל, it could not be perfect, despite בני ישראל’s high spiritual level, and this amazing revelation at the beginning of ספר ויקרא could only be described as imperfect at best. This is why the אלף in ויקרא is made smaller- to show us that despite the enormity and holiness of the encounter of פרשת  ויקרא, something was still missing- the קדושת ארץ ישראל.

This teaching of the זוהר has enormous implications for us. As we’ve mentioned above, the best way to remember our past and maintain our מסורה is for the Jewish People to unite in our service of G-d and to gravitate to communities where we can serve Him together. However, while this will help continue the Jewish past and present, maintaining this level will not ensure the future of the Jewish nation. Three times every day, in the 17th ברכה of שמונה עשרה, we pray to G-d to return us to Zion so that we can resume our temple service in His permanent home. We do not do this merely to pay lip service to G-d- we, like the זוהר, know that our highest levels of עבודת השם can only be reached in Israel, not in G-d’s temporary dwellings in our communities in the תפוצות/Diaspora. Unfortunately, most of our Jewish brothers cannot appreciate this yet- they instead gravitate to G-d’s temporary dwellings in communities in the Exile, ignoring the call of the Redemption and the Jewish future. However, the only way to truly continue our heritage, and ensure the Jewish future is to leave the tragic cycle of Jews in the גלות, and embrace the גאולה by moving to the Jews’ eternal homeland and the center for the Jewish future in Israel. Only through this can we ensure the continuation of the future of the Jewish Nation, and with Hashem’s help, we will see the continued קיבוץ גליות until the coming of the משיח very soon.