Torah Portion: Vayikra (And He Called) (Leviticus) Vayikra 1-5
Haftorah Reading: Isaiah 43:21-44:23
This Torah portion is the first of the third book of the Torah. “Vayikra” translated to English is “And He Called.” This term is usually seen as a term of endearment. This term is frequently followed by a mission or task that only that person can do. Another example in the Prophets is the book of Samuel where the exact same words are used when G-d calls Samuel. (I Samuel 3:8)
The reason I mention this is to take us to one of the questions I sent out this week. What is the difference, if any, between being happy and finding meaning in our lives? I think this is so important for each of us to understand for our own life today. First let me give you a few thoughts about these words. Happiness is largely about how you feel in the present. It is about satisfying need and wants in our life.
Meaning, on the other hand, is about how you judge your life as a whole. It is not about what happens to us but how we interpret what happens to us. There can be happiness without meaning, and there can be meaning in the absence of happiness. There is so much more to life that being happy. Happiness is usually about taking while having meaning in our life is about giving. The pursuit of happiness can result in a shallow, self-absorbed life. Much of what we see today is people running after those things that they believe will bring them happiness. It is even inscribed in our Constitution, “the pursuit of happiness.”
Meaning in our life involves the search for something larger than self. It is the search for G-d’s purpose for our lives. We ask, why we are here? Victor Frankel wrote a book about his experience in the camps during the Holocaust called, “Man’s Search for Meaning.” Even though he had no faith in G-d he came to the conclusion that often the difference between life and death hinged on whether or not the person had a reason to live. We all have a reason to live. That reason is why did G-d put me on this earth. What does He want for my life? For each of us there is a job only we can do. There is a person only we can touch. There is a cause that calls out to us. We feel this as Samuel did. G-d calls us and He waits for our answer. We are here because G-d wants us to be here. He has a task He wants us to perform. So the search for meaning is the search for this task. It may bring us happiness or it may not. Hearing and understanding G-d’s call is one of our greatest spiritual challenges.
Now let’s speak about the offering brought for the inadvertent sin found in Leviticus 4. Remember this is the only sin for which an offering could be brought. This begs the question of why would this even be classified as a sin. If we did something without knowing it was a sin why would it be necessary to bring an offering? What guilt is involved? One answer is ignorance is no excuse. We as G-d’s people are expected to know His Word. We should know what we are doing all the time – if it is right or wrong. Our actions matter. They have consequences. We can’t say or plead ignorance. One of the most glaring examples of this can be found again in the Holocaust and even in our world today with anti-Semitism. In the Holocaust, many good decent people did nothing to protest the greatest crime of man against man in history. They probably thought that it had nothing to do with them. They bore the Jews no ill will so why would they feel guilty? Yet their inaction had real consequences in the physical world.
So the sin offering here should remind us that the wrong we do, or let happen, even if we never intended it, still has an effect in the world. In Vayikra 18:30 we read these words, “You shall guard My ordinance”. So what does this have to do with us in our world today as believers? In Mark 4:24 we read, “Take care what you listen to. With the same measure you use it shall be measured to you.” We must exercise caution over what we allow ourselves to listen to. In I Cor. 8:9 we read, “Take care lest this liberty of yours becomes a stumbling block to the weak.” Galatians 5:15 talks about fights, even at a verbal level, will destroy them. All of these are sins that we can easily fall into because we do not know what scripture says about them. If we sin, deliberately, accidentally or out of ignorance we still show that sin is our master. We have a choice to make. We are dedicated to G-d or we still walk after the world. There is no gray area.