This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Vayikra (5766)
This week's section opens the book of Leviticus where we learn about the animal sacrifices.
But strangely it opens with an apparently meaningless phrase: 'Vayikra el Moshe'
"And He (G-d) called to Moses."
And even stranger: The entire book of VaYikra is named after this phrase!
Rashi explains that "Vayikra" is a term of endearment and shows that G-d liked Moses.
But this also doesn't seem to make sense. Don't we know that G-d liked Moses? And why did the Torah wait for the laws of sacrifices to tell us?
Also the last letter of the word Vayikra, which happens to be an "Alef", is written smaller than the other letters of the Torah. Why is this?
To answer this here is a story.
Rabbi Yissachar Ber of Rodoshitz was a great Tzadik that lived in Poland some one hundred years ago. Like Moses over 3,000 years earlier whenever possible he did all he could to 'take the Jews from Egypt' namely alleviate them of their problems.
And one of the biggest problems for the Jews in Rodoshitz was burial.
Several thousand Jews lived in the town but strangely there was no Jewish cemetery there. Whenever a Jew died, the bereaved family had to hire a carriage and travel for some two hours, often through rain, blazing sun or sub-zero weather to the nearest town make the burial.
It wasn't that there was no available land in Rodoshitz, there was plenty of it. The problem was that the local Baron hated Jews passionately. The very sight of a Jew made him berserk and there was no way he would give them the land. In fact, the few times he had been approached about the cemetery, the Jews suffered for months thereafter.
As the Jewish population there grew the situation became more and more unbearable until finally the town elders decided they would have to do something radical; ask for the Rebbe's help.
They prepared themselves as much as possible; purified their thoughts, went to the mikva, gave charity, spent the entire 24 hours beforehand praying, learning Torah and reading Psalms and finally entered the Rebbe's office in fear and trepidation.
They poured out their hearts and waited in silence for the Rebbe's reply.
"Isn't there any plot of land that would be fitting for a cemetery here in Rodoshitz?" He asked.
"Yes" they answered sadly. "In fact there is a perfect place; a worthless plot of rocky and barren land about fifteen minutes from the town. True, it would be hard to dig graves there too but we figured that it was the only place that the Baron might be willing to sell.
"But he refused. We even offered him a lot of money. He just started screaming like a madman that he didn't want ANY Jews on his lands; dead or alive. Just that the live ones pay taxes. Then he raised the taxes!"
The Rebbe thought for a while and said. "Go again, offer him more money and if he refuses tell him in my name that if the Jews can't be buried there then someone else will."
They left the Tzadik's home and courageously headed straight for the Baron's castle without considering the consequences. They miraculously got in and even managed to get the Rebbe's mysterious message to him before he started screaming and cursing and had them evicted.
Two weeks later was the Baron's birthday and he decided to give his family a tour of his lands followed by a picnic.
His wife and four children dressed in their finest clothes and entered his enormous royal carriage pulled by four huge white steeds. The driver whipped the horses and they were off! It was a beautiful summer day and they were thoroughly enjoying themselves looking at the landscape and occasionally getting out to sit by a river or a tree.
Needless to say, the local farmers turned out and waved to the carriage (more from fear than from love) and everything was going perfectly...... Until the Baron decided he would show his family the hard barren plot of land that he was driving the Jews crazy with.
He gave orders to the driver and in no time they were there. It was bumpy and rough going but that just added to the fun. But suddenly the carriage slowed to a halt and all that could be heard was the driver shouting, cursing and whipping the horses.
"What is the problem?!" Yelled the Baron through the window.
"I don't know." The driver replied. "We're stuck in some mud and the horses aren't getting us out. They're up to their knees in whatever it is. I can't figure it out."
The driver got off the carriage and saw what seemed to be a large shallow puddle of water in the road that he drove through, turned out to be deeper than he thought.
Although he couldn't figure where such a puddle came from in the middle of the summer, suddenly he realized that he himself was beginning to sink.
Meanwhile the Baron opened his door and descended from the wagon figuring he would just take his family out. But as soon as he did, his feet also began to sink. It was only with the greatest effort that he and the driver managed to pull themselves from the muck and get back onto the carriage.
They shouted for help, the driver even blew a trumpet he had for such emergencies and in no time farmers had gathered around and began yelling advice. The puddle seemed to grow, pushing them further and further from the carriage. A few of them ran home and brought ropes to throw as life-lines but by the time they got back the water had spread out so that the ropes simply didn't reach the carriage.
Someone brought planks of wood but they simply sank in the mud as soon as someone stepped on them. A few farmers even set off desperately to the Castle for help, which was a good two hours drive.
After half an hour the wheels of the carriage were half sunk and going steadily down. The Baron's wife and children were screaming in panic while the Baron had his head stuck out the window alternately screaming and cursing the crowd for not doing anything and looking up trying to figure how to get his family onto its roof.
Finally someone in the crowd suggested that they call the Rabbi.
When the Baron heard that he immediately shouted "NO!!". But his weeping family gave him a change of heart. "Err. That is ... YES! YES! Certainly! Good idea!!
Run! Run with all your might!" He shouted.
It took almost a half an hour and when they finally returned with the Rebbe, the Baron and his family were sitting on the roof of the carriage, swooning; wailing and waiving their arms in helpless fear while only few feet of the carriage were jutting above the water.
"Are you willing to sell the cemetery land?" The Rebbe yelled to him.
"Yes, Yes!!" The Baron shouted back. I'll even give it to you. Take it for free!
Just get us out of here!!"
"No!" Answered the Rebbe. "I want to buy it and I want you to write up the deed."
"Good, Good!" The Baron yelled as he produced a pen and a large scrap of paper from one of his pockets, wrote what the Rebbe told him to, signed it, took off his shoe, put it inside and threw it to the Rebbe.
As soon as the Rebbe read it and was satisfied he yelled to the driver to get back in his seat and urge the horses, who were now up to their necks in mud, to move.
It seemed ridiculous but the driver had no other choice and sure enough...it worked!! The carriage actually began to move and in moments they had pulled the carriage, now completely black with mud, to freedom!
The farmers helped the Baron and his family down from the roof of the carriage and as soon as their feet hit the ground his wife was beside with gratitude to the Rebbe. She would have hugged him but his very being radiated such awesome holiness that she kept her distance.
The Baron then approached the Rebbe, curtly bowed and said quietly 'I will always be grateful to you for this. Please come to see me at my castle at your convenience and I will have all the necessary papers drawn up. You are welcome in my home'
Two days later the Rebbe visited the Baron, paid him the money and received an official deed of sale. The Baron then shook the Rebbe's hand and said,
"I have begun to think differently about your people. I see why the Bible calls you special and chosen and holy. I mean, you could have let me and my family die, which is what I would have done to you in such a case... but you didn't. I see I have a lot to learn from you. I have decided to change my attitude and help your people who I have so wronged . If you ever need anything please ask me'
This answers our questions.
The sacrifices are the most physical way possible of serving G-d; taking the blood, meat and very life of a brutish animal and converting it from being merely part of the 'creation' (which is G-d's external will; His word so-to-speak) to a commandment (G-d's inner will or thought).
In fact, the sacrifices to a degree, transform even death (the animals are
This is the job of the Jewish people. To reveal the Creator in the entire creation and to transform the entire world into holiness as it once was in the Holy Temple and the sacrifices.
Something like the physical mud, carriage and horses in our story revealed to the Baron that G-d was king of the world and the Jews are His people.
But our Torah portion section, in fact this entire book of Vayikra, tells us that it all depends on G-d's endearment of Moses; the humblest Jew in the world (hence the 'small' letter Alef) whose only goal in life is to help all the Jews to achieve the above goal.
Without Moses, or the Moses in every generation, the Jews forget their goal and the sacrifices as well as the Holy Temple become empty of blessing with no power to effect the entire creation.
In fact, this is why the Two Temples were destroyed.
But there is hope. Vayikra is hinting at Moshiach who will be a leader and even more humble than Moses.
And that is why Moshiach will build the third Temple and consequently gather all the Jews to Israel. Because ONLY he will awaken true Jewish identity and reveal G-d's endearment of all the Jewish people.
It all depends on us to do all we can to reveal and receive....
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