Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Vayikra - 5773

My friends,

Last Shabbat, we concluded the Book of Exodus, with the erection of the Tabernacle, G-d's glory descending upon the tabernacle in the form of a cloud during the day and fire at night. From now on, when G-d communicates with Moses, Moses hears G-d's words coming from between the two Cherubim above the Ark.

This Shabbat we begin the third book of the Torah called Vayikra, the Book of Leviticus. It is called Leviticus because most of it deals with the laws of the Levites and also the laws of holiness. We are commanded, "Kedoshim Tihyu" - "Be Holy, because I, G-d, am Holy." At the center of all the Mitzvot of holiness is the mitzvah of "Veahavta Lere-acha Kamocha" - "Love your neighbor like yourself."

The first verse in this Book is "Vayikra el Moshe, Vaydaber Hashem elav, meohel moed lemor" - "The L-rd called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting saying." Normally, when G-d speaks to Moses, it begins with the words, "Vaydaber Hashem el Moshe lemor" - "G-d spoke to Moses saying." Why does this book begin with "Vayikra el Moshe" (G-d called Moses) and then "Vaydaber Hashem" (G-d spoke to Moses)? Why not the usual way of "G-d spoke to Moses saying"?

A beautiful commentary in Rashi explains: G-d's voice comes to Moses' ears and he enters the Tabernacle, the sanctuary. Only Moses hears the voice, not the rest of the Isralites. In other places in the Torah the Voice of G-d is described as a powerful and loud voice that can break the mighty Cedars of Lebanon. So how come only Moses hears this voice when G-d calls on him? Why don't the rest of the Israelites hear the voice? It would seem that G-d's voice is out there but only one who enters the Tabernacle and prepares himself/herself to hear the voice would hear the voice.

This is a basic tenet in Judaism. A person does not accept the yoke of Mitzvot because he/she heard the Voice of G-d - because this person had some great revelation. No, the Voice of G-d comes to a person who accepts the yoke of Mitzvot, and is involved in searching for G-d thru the practice of G-d's commandments. Faith is not given to a person from the outside - it comes when he/she had entered the Tabernacle - in our case, the synagogue. That voice comes from within.

Shabbat Shalom,