Wednesday, March 21, 2012

“On-line” With Hashem

Dear Friends,
This week we are starting the new book Vayikra which is all about Hashem’s calling to us, and our calling to serve Him. Parashat Vayikra coincides with Rosh Chodesh Nissan, in which we are supposed to work on our speech.[1] Perfecting speech corresponds essentially to refining our communication. In this parasha meditation I discuss communication between parents and children as an analogy and springboard for improved communication with Hashem. As we clean our cabinets for Pesach, let us work on cleaning our speech so we can emerge with improved communication in time for Pessach, which also means “ Pe -sach --the mouth speaks. By the time of the Seder, b”H, our improved communication skills will optimally bring us to the highest relationship with Hashem and our family.

Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov!
With Blessings of the Torah and the Land
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Click here for Rebbetzin's commentary on the special haftorah reading for Rosh Chodesh

Plus click here to read Rebbetzin's teaching on the beautiful blessing for Nissan on blossoming trees

Parasha Meditation Vayikra
Vayikra 1:1- 5:26
This week, we begin reading the book of Vayikra – Leviticus. Literally the word vayikra means “He called.” “He called (vayikra) Moshe, and Hashem spoke with him from the Tent of Meeting saying.”[2] The last word “לֵאמֹר – saying” is extra. If Hashem spoke, obviously He would be “saying.” Whenever the extra word “saying” appears, it teaches us about the ongoing continuous prophecy applying to all future generations. Just as Hashem called Moshe, He continuously calls us throughout the times, for an ongoing relationship.

Calling – An Expression of Love
Rashi explains that a “calling” preceded all sayings and commands. It is an expression of love, an expression that the Ministering Angels use, as it said, “One called to the other”.[3] However, to the gentile prophets He revealed Himself with an expression of happenstance and uncleanness, as it said, “G-d happened upon Bilaam”.[4]

The Small Alef
Rashi[5] learns this from the small alef at the end of the word וַיִּקְרָא, making the alef stand out and emphasizing the difference between the word וַיִּקְרָא – He called, and the word וַיִּקְר – He happened upon. This small alef teaches us a big difference between the relationship of the Jewish people with Hashem, and that of the other nations of the world. The Jewish people are supposed to have an ongoing, continuously open relationship with G-d, whereas the relationship of the gentile nations to G-d is more of an on-and-off type.

On-line with Hashem
Rabbi Pinchas Winston makes the following analogy: This can be compared to using cable for internet versus a regular modem. When a person uses a modem to connect to the internet, he has to dial up the server, “get in,” and wait until all the inter-computer protocol has finished before being able to access everything from e-mail to websites. This takes time, is not always successful the first or second time. However, the beauty of cable is that you are always connected. The connection is continuous and therefore “getting in” is quick as is using the “Net.” There is never a moment that we are supposed to think that we are “off-line” from G-d, which is why halacha dictates levels of conduct and modesty even in the most private of places and moments. However, there is a difference between this analogy and true relationships. Whereas, keeping the lines of communication constantly open between two computers takes very little effort on our part, just maintaining an ongoing, upbeat and loving relationship with another human being requires a tremendous and continuous act of will; how much more so with G-d!

The Mother’s Calling
The relationship between children and parents is a great practice for having an ongoing relationship with Hashem. A dear friend came crying to me, her son had called her when she was in a meeting, and when she tried to return his call, no one picked up. She thought that perhaps they don’t hear the phone, (which had happened beforehand), so she continued to call again and again, frustrated that no-one picked up. When her son finally called her back, he reproached her, “Why did you continue calling and calling, didn’t you realize that when no-one picked up, that it wasn’t a good time to call. By calling so much, you were disturbing the children from going to sleep!”

Off-line with their Mother
My friend couldn’t believe her ears, “I would never do this to my mother or mother-in-law” she told me. “First of all I would never let them call again and again if I was home, even if it wasn’t a convenient time for me to talk, I would certainly pick up the phone and let her know that I’m sorry I can’t talk now, but I would call back as soon as I could.” She explained. “This way I would save my dear mother or mother-in-law from the frustration of having to repeat calling without anyone picking up. Not only did my children, not pick up, they moreover had the nerve to reproach me for keeping calling.” This mother felt hurt because, her children chose to be “off-line” from communicating with her. It is painful when we reach out and are not met, but rather being rejected. I told her, to embrace the pain, and just sit with it, trying to connect with the pain of the Shechina (Divine indwelling presence). When our Divine Mother calls us continuously do we pick up the receiver? Or do we let Her call and call? Hashem constantly reaches out to us, but we often chose to be “off-line”. We can learn from this incident to be more attentive to the call of the Shechina, whether through the difficulties we experience, or through becoming more aware and recognizing the Divine Supervision in our lives. Let us decide to pick up every time Hashem calls!

This meditation is not going to be limited to when you sit down and take some deep breaths. This meditation also applies when you walk on the way, work in your kitchen or in the office, when you feed your children, when you clean the house, and prepare for Pesach etc. Whenever you are happy and whenever you are sad, always remember to stay “on-line” with Hashem. Whenever, it is hard, imagine the oneness – the small alef, from the word Vayikra always at your side, always calling you back to be close. When we are continuously “on-line” with Hashem we can learn to experience all the difficulties Hashem sends as a mirror to learn where we can improve ourselves to get even closer and strengthen our relationship with Hashem. When we are “on-line” with Hashem we learn to accept, realizing that everything is a gift, and there is never a moment, or an incidence, which should make us upset.

The reduced alef also hints at the fact that Moshe humbled himself by making himself small. He was reluctant to record the word vayikra in the Torah, indicating Hashem’s special relationship with him. In his humility, he did not want to be distinguished from the nations with whom Hashem relates in an off and on relationship, indicated by the word vayiker.[6]

A third interpretation of the small alef is to teach us that as great as Hashem’s call to Moshe was, it was still incomplete. Perfect “on-line” communication can only take place when the Shechina will dwell in its permanent home – the Beith Hamikdash in Yerushalayim. It is impossible to attain the highest kind of communication with Hashem on foreign soil, outside Eretz Yisrael – the Holy Land, in a tent like dwelling-place erected only temporarily for Hashem. Therefore, the small alef illustrates that the ultimate goal has yet to be achieved, may it be soon!

[1] Bnei Yissaschar, Article 1 on the month of Nissan
Vayikra 1:1
Yeshayahu 6:3
Bamidbar 23:4, 23: 16
Rashi, Vayikra 1:1
Vayikra 23:4, and 23:16

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