March 27, 2020 – Vayikra

Shabbat Message from Rabbi Rosenberg

Vayikra, Leviticus 1:1-2:16

As we prepare for Shabbat, I laugh just a little, as I wonder, “how much more rest or downtime do we need?” And yet, I know that so many of us are busy working from home and perhaps even a little stressed and anxious, as we try to navigate what it really means to balance work life and home life, and we really do need the peacefulness of Shabbat!

I am always in awe of the fact that Torah speaks to us when we need it most. This week’s parashah, Vayikra, could not be more perfect. Vayikra et Moshe, and God called to Moses from the tent of meeting… What does it mean that God called to Moses? Rashi suggests that God was speaking with affection to Moses and calling him to action in a way that only he could hear.

The Baal Shem Tov further explains that there is no one who cannot hear God speaking to him, with God’s voice coming through Torah, through history, through various events, and through reality. People hear God, but it is a person’s responsibility to listen and recognize the voice.

Earlier this week, a number of us, in a virtual study group, discussed the Book of Job. We talked about varying theologies and faith, and what we believe about how God acts in this world. There was no one answer, no right answer, no wrong answer – rather a lot of different ideas and questions about the presence of God in this moment.

Let me be clear that I do not believe that God has caused this pandemic, this virus, as some religious leaders would have folks believe. As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks eloquently states, “It is a viral mutation that was almost randomly caught and transmitted.”

Our world is at a virtual standstill as we try to slow the spread of this virus. With the daily news, with orders to remain at home, to distance ourselves from others, it is hard not to feel anxious and fearful, worrying about what will happen to us and to our loved ones. It is hard not being able to visit and be present with our family and friends, and it is quite unnerving to think about how we will pass the time.  And for those who live alone, there are likely feelings of loneliness in this time of isolation.

It is hard to slow down, but I cannot help but think that God is calling out to us in this moment. Vayikra . . . asking, what will you do in this moment? What will you do with this time? How will you make this experience a holy one?   Will you master a new skill? Study a little Torah? Pray? Spend time catching up with friends and loved ones over the phone and on social media? Checking in with someone who you know is alone? It would be so easy for us to spend this time kvetching and lamenting our circumstance, but in this moment, God is calling out to us to turn this circumstance into an opportunity, to better ourselves and to better our world. All we have to do is listen and recognize God’s voice.

Vayikra – God is calling – are you listening??

May we hear God’s voice and may God hear ours when we pray. We ask for an end to this terrible time and we ask God to send a refuah shleimah l’chol ha’olam – a speedy recovery for the entire world. And, we give thanks for all who are fighting on the frontline of COVID-19. The doctors, the nurses, the hospital and medical support staff, the paramedics and first responders, the people filling the shelves in our supermarkets and our pharmacies, and the many, many teachers who are working in new and different ways to bring school to our kids.

Wishing you all a Shabbat of peace!

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