I used to be very on top of things. I never missed a moment, a birthday, a call, an email. And then, as the needs of my children changed, and later as much of the world shifted to online communication, I suddenly wasn’t as on top of communication as I had been. I found myself constantly apologizing for missing reaching out to someone in need or missing those key moments I was previously present for. If you’re like me, you’re now discovering the challenge of reversing a long period of inactivity and disconnection. So how do we re-engage?
This week we read Parshat Vayikra, and we begin the third book of the Torah, which details the many sacrifices and the daily, active mitzvot of living as an Israelite. This begins with an explanation of the sacrifices that we are to give daily, weekly, and yearly. We learn that there can be a sacrifice made in times of joy and in times of sorrow. There is a special sacrifice for being guilty of a sin and others for complete thanksgiving. As Sefer Vayikra continues, we learn about the laws of how to treat one another, how to engage in holy relationships, and how our earthly needs like keeping our calendar and eating meals should be rooted in our faith.
As we read the extensive list of sacrifices for wrongdoing, I’m drawn to the notion that we’re held responsible, by God, for those things we should have done, but didn’t. I love this moment of Torah. Why? Because it’s yet another reminder that Judaism compels us to act, whether that’s checking in on a friend or standing up to injustice. It reminds us that when we fail to act, we’re guilty of inaction. Have you heard the phrase “easier to ask forgiveness than permission”? It’s true in some circumstances, and it’s one way of looking at the Torah of Vayikra.
This is not to say we should act irrationally or without purpose. Rather, it means that we’re asked to listen to the needs of others and take a stand when required. To me, the idea that I’m held accountable for the times when I don’t act is something of a wake-up call. If you’re looking for an excuse to re-engage, answer the call with me.