D’var Torah: Loving Leviticus is as Easy as 1, 2, 3….
When I worked at the JCC in Houston, our adult education program had a class entitled, “Learning to Love Leviticus.” Clearly, you do not need a title like that unless it’s a subject that is difficult to enjoy. As we continue to unscroll this Sefer Vayikra into its second parsha, Tzav, I want to share three reasons why I find Leviticus so inspiring.
First, the book’s Hebrew name is – Vayikra, or ‘God called.’ From the start, we read that God calls to Moshe. Rashi is quick to comment that the call was loving and, even though it was loud, the Israelites were unable to hear the divine voice. Immediately, I was left wondering whether I am paying attention to my Divine mission and asking myself, what should I choose to embrace or ignore? It is in this moment that I know that Leviticus is just as much about the “big questions” as it is about the fine details of the sacrifices.
Second, in Tzav we read about the five different sacrifices of the priest. While reading it, I realized we could all use a good sin or guilt offering. There are times in our lives when we all do things we regret. It is part of being human. In Leviticus, the Israelites were given a tangible way to express their teshuvah (repentance) and let go of its accompanying guilt. Leviticus inspires us to think about how we can offer our apologies and move forward in new and healthy ways after we have hurt ourselves or others.
Finally, Leviticus reminds us of our communal responsibility to pursue justice. The end of the sefer (book) describes the Jubilee year, the cancellation of debt, and our obligations to the poor. We learn that piety and religiosity do not mean much unless we are also creating a more just world.
Each new book of the Torah is a renewed opportunity to learn and challenge ourselves. May we all be able to find new questions to ask that keep us inspired. Shabbat Shalom!