Call-Waiting: Vayikra 2017

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: How have technological advances changed the unwritten rules of communication? What kinds of conversations that used to take place over the phone now take place in other ways (text messages, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)? How do we best teach these unwritten “new rules” to friends and colleagues?

As the book of Leviticus opens, God doesn’t simply speak to Moses; God “calls” to Moses, raising questions about how the relationship between the two has transformed:

The Pitch: “The Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying …” – Leviticus 1:1

Swing #1: “Even though Moses attained the highest level, he never became impressed with himself because of it. He regarded himself with an exceedingly humble spirit. Like a person who stands on top of a high mountain, to whom it does not occur to magnify himself because of his high position (for it is not on account of himself but on account of the mountain), Moses knew that his exaltation was on account of God. … And this is the meaning of ‘God called to Moses.’ Even though God summoned him and brought him up to the heights, despite all this he remained modest and humble – a small alef.” – Simchah Bunem of Przysucha

Swing #2: “Wherever there is a ‘call’ it implies a definitive placement … ‘Jacob called to his sons’ (Genesis 49:1) means he came to define permanently their placement; … ‘Moses called Hosea ben Nun Yehoshua’ (Numbers 13:16) means that he attached him to where he needed to be. This is also the meaning of ‘called to Moses’ – that he might exist as he must.” – Zohar

Swing #3: “Moses, of course, reported what he heard. It was precisely when the report of the voice did the work of the voice that tradition was born. Absent the fire, there is the altar. And absent the altar, there is its successor: the synagogue. … That is why the religion survives. But it is also why the impatient son chafes in his love, why the obedient son ponders the withholding of ecstasy.” – Leon Wieseltier, from Congregation, edited by David Rosenberg

Late-Inning Questions: According to our commentators, what does the notion that God “calls” to Moses reveal about Moses’s character? About God’s character? Likewise, what factors cause us to adjust our style of communication?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: Tomorrow is April Fool’s Day. All I can say is, prepare for some surprises at services, beginning at 9:30AM.

The Big Inning at the End: Thomas Boswell once wrote a book called “Why Time Begins on Opening Day.” With that in mind, I wish all of us a Happy New Year, beginning with this weekend!

Shabbat Shalom!