Friday, March 27, 2009

VaYikra 5631 First Ma'amar

וַיִּקְרָא אֶל־מֹשֶׁה .../God called Moshe …” (VaYikra 1:1) This first pasuk of parshas VaYikra relates the first time that God spoke to Moshe from the Mishkan. It teaches us, according to Chazal, that each time God spoke to Moshe, he first called him. What is the significance of this?

The first Midrash on this week’s parsha cites a pasuk in Tehillim (103:20), “בָּֽרְכוּ ה' מַלְאָכָיו גִּבּ­ֹרֵי כֹחַ עֹשֵׂי דְבָרוֹ לִשְׁמֹעַ בְּקוֹל דְּבָרֽוֹ׃/Bless God, His angels, strong warriors doing His bidding to hear His word.”[1] The word “מַלְאָךְ/angel” also means messenger. In fact, the word mal’ach refers to a human messenger in various places in Tanach. The Midrash explains that “מַלְאָכָיו/His angels” in this pasuk does not refer to angels but rather to human messengers. How are we God’s messengers? The Sfas Emes explains that every Jew is sent into this world to do the will of God. Essentially, we are God’s agents in this world. Angels are messengers because they, too, are sent to this world to do the will of God. The difference between angels and us is that we are able to choose whereas an angel has no choice but to do God’s will.

When we choose to fulfill God’s will with our actions we become, “עֹשֵׂי דְבָרוֹ לִשְׁמֹעַ בְּקוֹל דְּבָרֽו׃ֹ/doers of His bidding to hear His word.” This is a strange construct. Shouldn’t the pasuk state that we will listen to His word in order to do His bidding? How can we do His bidding before understanding what is required? The Sfas Emes explains that the pasuk is teaching us a deep concept. We don’t always know what God’s will is. In any given situation, what is it that God wants us to do? It is not always clear. The pasuk is teaching us the way to know God’s will. First we need to do His bidding. We do this by first resolving to satisfy His will with our action. Before acting we can think that we want our action to achieve God’s will. If we do this, we will merit understanding God’s will in those very activities.

This concept explains “גִּבּ­ֹרֵי כֹחַ/strong warriors” as well. In addition to strength, the word ko’ach means potential. God’s will is the potential of every action. We learn from this pasuk that a person who is determined to fulfill God’s will with his every action, who wants to be God’s emissary in this world, accomplishing that for which he was sent here, is someone who transforms the potential of God’s will into reality.

Moshe Rabbeinu was the archetypal emissary. Like an angel, he was so tuned in, as it were, that he was always ready to hear God and do His will.[2] One who is looking to carry out God’s will with his every action, always hears God. The Torah emphasizes this the very first time God spoke to Moshe Rabbeinu after the construction of the Mishkan with the words, “וַיִּקְרָא אֶל־מֹשֶׁה .../God called Moshe.” This, then, is the significance of the first pasuk of this week’s parsha.

God is constantly calling us. The difference between us and Moshe Rabbeinu is that he always heard it because he was prepared to hear it, prepared to always achieve God’s will through his actions. Like Moshe, God sent all of us to this world to be His agents. He gave each of us the tools we need to do it. Moshe Rabbeinu was the quintessential agent of God but the Midrash is speaking to each and every Jew. May we each merit transforming God’s will into reality in all of our daily activities.

[1] VaYikra R. 1:1

[2] Sifri Beha’aloscha 68 and Tanchuma Tzav 13

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