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Parashat Vayikra

March 24, 2023
2 Nisan 5783
Leviticus 1:1 - 5:26

Dear Friends,

Has the world has gotten smaller? Sometimes it seems like it is spinning out of control. Or maybe it’s that we receive so much information so quickly that our internal processors are overloaded. The world and what happens at every level has always been complex with a multitude of simultaneous moving parts, but we were simply not aware. Information was not instantaneous, though it might have been more carefully vetted. Those able to see the big picture were often thought to be brilliant.

With all of this information hurtling at us at lightning speed, what are we to do? How do we respond? Slowly and with care seems to be a reasonable answer. Picking that one thing (or maybe two) that we are able to address with care makes our lives manageable.

We have just entered into the month of Nisan, the month where the new moon is considered one of the four new years on the Jewish calendar. Although Passover is around the corner, let us prepare for it gently, reminding ourselves that this is a time when, along with the Exodus from Egypt, we celebrate the arrival of spring. The weather is finally warming up, the daffodils are in bloom, and we are getting ready to be with those we love and share stories with one another: stories of our people and stories of our connection to those with whom we have gathered, those who are present, and those who are not. It is the perfect time to push the restart button and take a deep breath. It is a time for renewal.

We also begin the third book of the Torah: Leviticus, Vayikra (“and he called”). It is the book of the Torah often referred to as the holiness code. The question before us at this moment is what are we being called upon to do and to be? When grappling with this book of the Torah, what emerges is the importance of community. Although some may say that the underlying theme of Vayikra is purification and atonement for the ways in which we go off the path, it it goes beyond that. These rituals, the offerings described, are done in community -- public.

If we imagine that the rituals described were happening while the people journeyed, those rituals had the capacity to anchor the people even as they were in a rapidly changing environment with no clear sense of where they would end up. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it!

Those rituals bring us to the question of the moment. What are we being called to do as we ready ourselves for Passover, the holiday of freedom and liberation? First, we need to be with others and not alone. We need to be in community. In order to go forward in these complex times, we look for support and strength from one another and recall that our journey from Egypt to freedom was not a solitary journey. We were and are a mixed multitude journeying together.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

Wed, February 21 2024 12 Adar I 5784