In the times of the Bible, instead of responding to a text or tweet, people would hear the call of theshofar, the ram’s horn. Interestingly, in today’s world of Facebook, Twitter, blogs, text messages, Blackberries, emails, and other forms of electronic communication, we seem to have returned to those one-way instant messages reminiscent of the shofar. Actually picking up the telephone and having a fully interactive conversation with someone seems to be outdated and old fashioned. In place of saying “just give a call” we now make all of our plans through text message, making James Taylor’s famous lyrics, “Winter, spring, summer or fall, all you’ve got to do is call,” seem sadly out of touch.
But what about when God calls? Or when we want to call God? In Biblical times, this often involved a sacrifice, but how does it work in a world of flashing alerts on our smartphones or caller id? This week we begin sefer Vayikra, the third book in the narrative of the Torah. Literally, Vayikra means “and he called,” and this section of text is largely about God calling out to us and us calling up to God through sacrifices and living a holy life. But, the word is written in a unique way in the Torah. In the text, the aleph, the last letter of the word, is written smaller than the rest of the letters. One reason for this oddity might be that if you remove the aleph from the end of Yikra, he called, you are left with the root Yakar, meaning precious or dear. Perhaps the small aleph is there as a reminder of the small, silent, precious cries that we have to listen really closely to hear and look really hard find.
Sometimes our cries are big, but stay hidden within us. Other times we call out to each other, whether in the Facebook status asking for help on a project or the mass email hoping to get a ride from the airport. Perhaps the call is a call for attention like a scream on the playground or acting out in class. Maybe our calls to each other are small like the look in one’s eye or a frown instead of a smile. I know that when I see the flashing red light on my Blackberry alerting me that I’ve missed a call, I often get a flutter in my heart. Was my ringer volume too low? Did I step away from my phone for too long? Did I miss someone important needing help from me? Did I miss a call that could have changed my life or their life forever? We’re often so caught up in the flashing signs and alert sounds we hear constantly that we sometimes miss that low, monotone call asking us to open our eyes to something right in front of us.
However we call out, to whomever we cry, may our cries be heard, our prayers answered, and on this Shabbat of calling out and connecting, may we feel the blessings of God’s answer.
Family Discussion Questions:
- Our ‘ethical covenant’ teaches that to be respectful is to have Shmiat HaOzen, being a good listener. What can your family do to make sure that everyone is heard and listened to?
- If you could leave God a voicemail, what would it say?