It was so good to get back to our class this morning, and this time we actually made it past the first word, Vayikra. And as is proper, we re-introduced ourselves to Rashi, to see what he had to say about this book’s beginning words. Rashi started with “vayikra”, the call itself. The call came first, and he said it came with affection, acknowledging a relationship between God and Moses. In fact, Rashi said that each time God spoke to Moses, there was a “call” first, implied, something that got Moses’ attention so that whatever God said next would be really heard. Moses, we said, was on some sort of special God-frequency; he was both a receiver and a transmitter.
I’m reminded of when my son was little, to get his attention, I literally took his face in my hands and said, “Give me your face”; then I’d speak. I needed to focus him so he would be ready to hear me. My son and I had an established, affectionate relationship. (At least back then…he’s a teenager now). I got to thinking this morning, though, about the difference between the Prophet and the Priest in this setting.
If you’re not the designated prophet like Moses, how do you experience God? How do you get on God’s wavelength? Is it in the rituals ? The priests were given all these instructions (Ramban says that Vayikra is basically a how-to manual for the Priests) about how to make an offering- a “korban”, which is the same root as “close (to), as in, getting close to God through the ritual. Certainly we can’t be on the same frequency as Moses was, so how close to God can we really get? Is the ritual offering, and in today’s language, the liturgical offering, always going to fall short? If we can’t dip our toes into the God-stream at least sometimes, why would we continue with prayer?
I wonder how often any of us reaches a place in a service, with any given prayerful language, where we feel closer to God? I know certain words resonate for me (is that my frequency?) like “Mah gadlu ma’asecha Adonai” (How great are your works, Adonai!) and “Min a metzar karati Yah” (from a narrow place, I called out to Yah). Those phrases make me aware, focus my attention, even for a brief moment. It doesn’t happen all that often, actually.
It should be interesting to see how (or if) the God-frequency moments in my own offerings change as my beloved study partners and I delve further into Vayikra.