Rabbi Cantor Russell G. Jayne | Thursday, March 23, 2023
What to make of the book of Vayikra (Leviticus). It is often seen, quite unfairly so, as detailed, dry, and mostly irrelevant. Of course, there are many good reasons for this. First of all, the sacrifices and other services mentioned within it require the presence of a Temple. Secondly, most of the laws contained in this book are the sole responsibility of the priests and thirdly, as a topic for study, procedural ceremonies are tedious. Occasionally we are treated to a story or two, but for most part Vayikra appears limited to Temple functions and priestly services. The truth, however, is that Vayikra is ultimately trying to describe for us life as it should and could be. When the Temple stood, it was a place where individuals came to recalibrate their outlook on life. It was a place of intensity and serenity. The atmosphere was charged with focus and purpose and self-sacrifice was seen as an expression of humility, not martyrdom.
Wouldn’t it be great to just stop for a moment and take a breather? Time and events move around us so quickly that we sometimes can forget why we do all the things we do. From playing to school, from work to sleep, we can go through the motions of life and living without ever taking a moment to ask ourselves, “Why?”. This week’s parashah and, indeed, all of Sefer Vayikra are intended to answer these questions. Am I serving those I can to the extent that I can? Do I live my life with a smile on my lips and a song in my heart? Do I revel in the gift of giving, just as the priests rejoice in their gift of service? When our ancestors witnessed the priests at their service and the Levites in their song it forced them to evaluate their own lives by the scale of that sanctity and purpose. Vayikra is a challenge. It confronts each of us, wherever we are in our lives, with a choice. Will we continue to eke out a mundane existence, or will we embrace life as an opportunity to sanctify the mundane in the service of the Divine and humanity?
We each need the time and the space to step back and evaluate who we are and what we are doing. Sefer Vayikra give us that space so that we can take the first steps into an existence that draws us close to each other and Divinity rather than one that continues to push us apart.