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03/19/2021 12:44:39 PM


Irene Falkenstein Case

My D’var Torah is about the word VAYIKRa (ויקרא) which is the first word in the Book of Leviticus and the first word of this week’s Torah Portion. I will discuss the 3 parts of the word VAYIKRa.  I use HaShem for G-d because HaShem is the only name for G-d that is used in the Book of Leviticus.  HaShem is the Name of G-d that a human being can have a personal relationship with.  


VAYIKRa starts with the Hebrew letter ‘vav’ meaning “And” indicating that this week’s Torah Portion is a continuation of the end of the Book of Exodus.  The construction of the Mishkan, an abode for the Divine Presence in our world, and the return of the cloud and the Glory of HaShem indicated that the relationship between HaShem and the Jewish People could continue to exist, even after the Sin of the Golden Calf.  


VAYIKRa contains the Hebrew word “yikra” (יִקְרָא) which means “He called”.  To call is to contact another for the opportunity to build a relationship and exchanging information.  


To call is an analogy to the cell phone that we are all too familiar with. The cell phone contact list is like a list of Mitzvot.  There are 7 mitzvot (contacts) for non-Jews.  There are 613 mitzvot (contacts) for Jews, 248 positive and 365 negative.  The word Mitzvah contains the word Tzav, which can mean connection.  The mitzvot we perform are the connections we make with HaShem in building a relationship with Him.  The more Mitzvot we perform the stronger the relationship can be.  If we perform very few Mitzvot, then our relationship with HaShem will become weaker.  There are several different opinions on how many Mitzvot can be observed today since currently there are no Animal Offerings, no Priesthood duties, no Temple, etc.  Currently, only 26 Mitzvot can be observed in the Land of Israel.  Some Mitzvot are further limited because they are based on time, calendar, age, sex, role in Jewish society, etc.   


For example, using the cell phone contact list analogy, if you perform a Mitzvot meant to be performed only in the Temple, you may hear a message like this “This Mitzvot is temporarily suspended.  Please try again when the Third Temple has been built.  In the meantime, you are encouraged to study this, and other Temple-based Mitzvot.”


If you are not a Kohen, and you perform a Mitzvah meant only for a Kohen, you may hear a message like this “Your phone is not registered to a Kohen, either please enter your Kohen password, or please do not perform these Mitzvot due to lack of authorization.”  


If you are outside the Land of Israel, and you perform Mitzvot meant only to be performed in the Land of Israel, you may hear a message like this “Your phone’s GPS indicates that you are currently not in the Land of Israel.  Please perform these Mitzvot when you return to the Land of Israel.”  


VAYIKRa ends with the silent Hebrew letter Aleph א. This specific Aleph is elevated and small.  The following are some ideas about the meaning of this elevated and small letter Aleph and how to have a personal spiritual relationship with HaShem.  

  • In Hebrew Numerology, the letter Aleph א represents the number 1, such as the Oneness, Unity, At-One-ment with HaShem.  The Shema states that Hashem is One.  


  • The letter Aleph א is the first letter of the Hebrew Alphabet.  First often refers to the best.  We are required to dedicate to HaShem our first fruits as well as our first-born son, without knowing if there will be any more in the future.


  • The letter Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew word emet (אֶמֶת) meaning truth.  The Ashrei prayer states “HaShem is close to all who call upon Him – to all who call upon him in truth.”  Truth is one of HaShem’s 13 attributes. The Hebrew word emet contains the first, middle, and last letters of the Hebrew Alphabet.  Something is true, only if its beginning, middle, and end are all true.  


  • The letter Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew word ahava (אהבה) meaning love.  HaShem loves us unconditionally.  He gives us life and so many more blessings.  In the Shema, we proclaim to love HaShem with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your resources.  Without love of Hashem, observance of mitzvot eventually recedes and dies.  With love of HaShem, the mitzvot can be observed with happiness and a good heart.  The VAYIKRa Torah Portion describes the many sacrificial offerings a person can give HaShem.  One can give because of an obligation to give, or one can give because of love, but one cannot love without giving.  Giving out of love is an expression of that love.  Giving from love of HaShem is what I believe sacrificial offerings were all about.  If the sacrificial offerings are given as a bribe to receive something from HaShem, then this kind of giving is close to idolatry.  The giver thinks that HaShem can be controlled by gifts.  


  • The letter Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew word Emunah (אמונה) meaning faith in HaShem.  Emunah has the same root as the word Amen.  Rabbi Shalom Arush defined Emunah as “the firm belief in a single, supreme, omniscient, benevolent, spiritual, supernatural, and all-powerful Creator of the universe, who we refer to as G-d.”  Emunah, as defined by Rabbi Mordechai Kraft, is: “To let your heart go where your mind cannot go. The finite cannot understand the infinite.”   


  • The letter Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew word ani (אֲנִי) meaning “i” (lower case).  When you have a relationship with HaShem you should be humble.  Do not be arrogant.  The ultimate and Eternal Thou is HaShem.  With humility and humbleness, you can have a Holy i–Thou relationship with HaShem and spiritually elevate your “i” to be closer to Hashem.  In this Holy i-Thou relationship the “i” can connect to HaShem via thoughts, words, actions, and Mitzvot.  During Biblical and Temple times the “i” could also connect to HaShem via sacrificial offerings.  


  • The letter Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew word Anachnu (אנחנו) meaning we.   Most Jewish prayers are expressed in the first-person plural, "we" instead of "me," and are recited on behalf of all the Jewish People. This form of prayer emphasizes our responsibility for one another and our interconnected destiny.  While Jews can pray individually, the presence of a minyan (a quorum of 10 or more Jewish adults) is required for certain prayers and religious activities. The Jewish People can have a Holy we–Thou relationship with HaShem. 


Today is the first Shabbat in the month of Nissan, the beginning of our spiritual year.  Starting today, let us build a personal Holy i–Thou relationship with HaShem.  There is no better time to undertake this challenge than now.  


Shabbat Shalom

Irene Falkenstein Case

6 Nissan 5781, March 19, 2021

Fri, September 17 2021 11 Tishrei 5782