Wednesday, March 13, 2013

“Online” With Hashem

Flowering Fruit Trees
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 the month of Nissan, which is the time 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. While we clean our cabinets for Pesach, let us work on cleaning our speech, so we can emerge with improved communication in time for Pesach, which also means Pe–sach – the mouth speaks. By the time of the Seder, with Hashem’s help, our improved communication skills will optimally bring us to the highest relationship with Hashem and our family!

With Blessings of the Torah and the Land
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Read Rebbetzin's commentary to Haftorat Vayikra: "Praising Hashem Through Song"

Parasha Meditation Vayikra
Vayikra 1:1-5:26
This week, we begin reading the Book of Vayikra – Leviticus. Literally the Hebrew word vayikra means “He called.” “He [Hashem] called (vayikra) Moshe, and Hashem spoke with him from the Tent of Meeting saying.”[2] The last word “לֵאמֹר – (l’emor) – 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.[3] 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 states, “One called to the other.”[4] However, to the gentile prophets Hashem revealed Himself with an expression of happenstance and uncleanness,[5] as it says, “G*d happened upon Bilam.”[6]

The Small Alef
Rashi learns this from the small alef at the end of the word וַיִּקְרָא– vayikra, making the alef stand out and emphasizing the difference between the word וַיִּקְרָא – vayikra – “He called,” and the word וַיִּקָּר – vayikar – “He happened upon.”[7] 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 His relationship with the gentile nations is more of an on-and-off type.

Online 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, and 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 when we are supposed to think we are “off-line” from G*d. This is why halacha dictates levels of conduct and modesty even in the most private of places and moments. There is still 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, maintaining an ongoing, upbeat and loving relationship with another human being requires a tremendous and continuous act of will; how much more so with Hashem!

A Mother’s Calling
The relationship between children and parents is a great practice for having an ongoing relationship with Hashem. A dear friend once came crying to me. Her son had called her while she was at a meeting. When she tried to return his call, no one picked up. She thought that perhaps they don’t hear the phone (which had happened in the past), so she continued to call again and again, frustrated that no-one answered the phone. 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, 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 exclaimed. “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’ll call you back as soon as I can.” 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 the phone. Not only did my children not pick up, they moreover had the nerve to rebuke me for repeatedly 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 being met, and even rejected. I told my friend to embrace her 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 within our lives. Let us decide right now to respond every time our Divine Mother calls!

This meditation is not limited to when you sit down and take some deep breaths.

1. This meditation 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 “online” with Hashem.

2. Try to feel G*d’s presence before you always. שִׁוִּיתִי הַשֵם לְנֶגְדִּי תָמִיד – “Shiviti Hashem l’negdi tamid” – “I have set Hashem before me always.”[8] When you are continuously “online” with Hashem, you can learn to experience all your difficulties and hardships as a mirror for improving yourself to get even closer and strengthen your relationship with Hashem.

3. 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.

4. Accustom yourself to say: “Thank you, Hashem” whenever something good happens, even the smallest thing such as when the glass bowl fell to the floor without breaking.

5. Stay “online” with Hashem always, and learn acceptance, realizing that everything is a gift, even the challenges. When you are “online” with Hashem, there is never a moment or incident which should make you upset.

Besides emphasizing the difference between the word וַיִּקְרָא – vayikra – “He called,” and the word וַיִּקָּר – vayikar – “He happened upon,” the reduced alef also hints to 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 on-and-off relationship, indicated by the word vayikar.[9]

An additional interpretation of the small alef teaches us that in spite of the specialness of Hashem’s call to Moshe, it was still incomplete. Perfect “online” communication can only take place when the Shechina will dwell in her permanent home – the Beith Hamikdash (Temple) 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.
[2] Vayikra 1:1.
[3] Mechilta, Parashat Beshalach, parasha 1.
[4] Yeshayahu 6:3.
[5] The Hebrew word Vayikar can mean both “happened” and “seminal emission.”
[6] Bamidbar 23:4 and 23:16.
[7] Rashi, Vayikra 1:1.
[8] Tehillim 16:8.
[9] Vayikra 23:4 and 23:16.

No comments:

Post a Comment