D’var Torah: Parashat Vayikra
In this week’s D’var Torah, the Chief Rabbi asks “How can we bring God into our lives?”
How can I bring God into my life? The answer comes at the commencement of the book of Vayikra, which we begin this week.
After calling upon Moshe, Hashem delivered the opening mitzvah to us, which concerns sacrifices: “Adam ki yakriv mikem korban l’Hashem” – “if any one amongst you wishes to make a sacrifice to the Lord.” The Hebrew wording seems to be a bit clumsy. “Adam ki yakriv mikem” literally means “a person, if he wants to sacrifice from amongst you.” Rather, it should have said “Adam mikem” – “if any person amongst you wants to sacrifice.”
The Alter Lubavitch Rebbe gave a beautiful explanation here.He noted that it all depends on where you pause in the verse. This is how it should be read: “Adam ki yakriv, mikem korban l’Hashem” – “if any one of you wants to come close to the Lord, that closeness must be initiated by you.” Don’t spend a lifetime waiting for God to reach out to you. Rather, we must initiate that connection, and we will find that the Almighty responds magnificently.
Indeed, our Sages of the Talmud teach us: “Pitchu li petach shel machat v’ani eftach lachem pitcho shel ulam” – Hashem says to us, “open for me just the space of an eye of a needle, and I will expand that to become a very large space.”
There are a number of ways in which we can reach out to Hashem to start that process. An obvious way is though the practice of mitzvot; to keep Shabbat, to keep YomTov, to perform deeds of kindness, and so on. But there is a further great opportunity. It is found in relating the praise of Hashem, seeing his presence in our everyday lives, and in exclaiming ‘Baruch Hashem’ – thank God for what is happening – regardless of the circumstances. If that is how we conduct ourselves, Hashem will respond in a tremendous way.
I believe that the finest example of this can be found in what is surely the most emotional of our prayers. We recite every day: “R’faeinu Hashem, v’neirafei” – “heal us Hashem, and we will be healed” – “hoshi’ainu v’nivoshei’a” – “save us and we will be saved” – “ki tehilateinu ata” – “because you are worthy of our praise”.
If, in the midst of illness, or challenging circumstances, we offer praise to Hashem, and recognise that he gives us what we call ‘chizuk’ – encouragement and support – indeed he will respond. He will keep us going and guarantee that we will ultimately succeed.
The book of Vayikra opens with the words “Vayikra el Moshe” – “God called out to Moshe.” Do not presume that this just suddenly happened in a vacuum – rather, it followed Moshe calling out to Hashem, whothen responded magnificently, “Adam ki yakriv”.
Let us remember therefore, that if any person wants to come close…“mikem korban l’Hashem” – we need to initiate that closeness.