You’re at the airport waiting impatiently for the most important person in the world. Standing above the escalator you can see the incoming passengers down below. They look like little distant images walking towards you. In your excitement, you want to reach out to this love of yours, this dot in the distance who is different from all the other dots. So strong is this feeling that everyone around you is forgotten. You raise your voice and call out to your loved one and then run towards this special person.
My children are at home, waiting for Mommy. “Where is Mommy?” they cry out. They see her in the distance, getting out of the car. As Mommy makes her way to our apartment building, the children run to the porch calling out from six floors up “Mommy, Mommy!” They are completely immersed in this act of connection. Nothing else matters.
The book of Vayikra is the third book of the Torah. Vayikra, the first word in this book, is also its title. The root of the word is “call.” Let’s try to understand this.
What is the significance of calling? What is the conceptual difference between calling and speaking with someone? What makes this word the fitting title of the third, the central, section of the Torah?
The book of Vayikra opens up, “Vayikra el Moshe, vayedaber Hashem ailav.” G-d calls to Moshe and speaks to him. These two terms “Vayikra” (calling) and “vayedaber” (talking or speaking) seem to be repetitive and redundant. This overlap means that each word has a necessary significance and a unique meaning. What is special about Hashem calling to Moshe?
It seems that Rashi is bothered by this very question. He emphasizes that the word vayikra has a unique meaning. Hashem is sharing something very special, a specific mode of communication with Moshe.
Rashi tells us that, “Vayikra (calling) connotes affection, honor and love (chiba). This is the language that the angels utilize when conversing with each other.” This statement by Rashi, however, leaves more questions than answers. Why does the term “calling” connote affection and love? How exactly did Hashem call to Moshe? Why do the angels use this term with each other?
Rashi follows with a second comment. “When Hashem called to Moshe, G-d’s voice would travel to Moshe’s ear and to Moshe’s ear only. The rest of the Jewish people did not hear.”
So, the term vayikra both specifies and excludes. Hashem calls specifically to Moshe. The Jewish people are excluded from the conversation. Something about “calling” is exclusive.
“Calling” is something we do when our target audience is far away. Therefore, when calling out you need to use high volume. In fact later on Rashi says “The voice of Hashem (that called to Moshe) is the voice of G-d that shatters trees.” Since Hashem is calling out to Moshe with a loud voice, Rashi must explain that the Jewish people couldn’t hear the conversation. They were excluded.
Let’s Bring This Together
When I speak to someone, that person is directly in front of me. I am speaking to him because he is here. But when I call out to someone, my voice extends to a much larger audience. By calling to my dear one, I am reaching out beyond myself and choosing a singular person out of all of the people in front of me. I choose this person not because of his/her presence, but because of my desire.
Remember back to the story of the airport. You’re waiting and full of excitement. You see your loved one in the distance, amid the crowd. You forget about the social setting and call out her name. Intrinsic in the calling out is the assumption that of all the faceless people, your dear one is more real to you, more vibrant, and more important. The act of calling is an act of affection, an expression of dearness, an expression of chiba.
The act of calling shows that a particular person stands out, contrasts, and has a place of distinction in our hearts and minds. The act of calling presupposes a world of sharp colors as opposed to faded greys. This is a world where love and affection triumph over apathy and indifference.
The world of calling is a world of preciousness. It is a place where we stand out. This is a world where the universe and G-d are constantly reaching out to us; calling our name. It is a world of mystery, a world of destiny.
Follow-Up Points for
1.) When we call out, when we show our unrestrained affection, we expose ourselves, and are vulnerable. Who are the people you feel comfortable calling out to? Why?
2.) What makes you stand out?
3.) What makes people call your name?
4.) Why do the angels call to each other?
5.) Do you feel that you have a calling? What is it?
6.) Do you ever feel that G-d is calling you?
To take this concept to the next level, look at the divergent expressions and formulations of “yikra” in the following places: Ecclesiastes 10:18, Psalms 36:8, Samuel 3:1, Esther 6:7, Proverbs 1:13, Proverbs 12:23, Samuel 6, Genesis 1:3.