Friday, April 26, 2019 -
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Next Shabbos, it is Yom Kippur. It feels intimate. Whereas Rosh Hashanah is the birthday (technically, the conception) of the entire world, Yom Kippur is that special moment in time between the Creator and His people — us, the Congregation of Israel.

We are the people that has been called by name. Isaiah says (36:1): “But now says Hashem that has created thee . . . O Israel, fear not; for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art Mine.”

The primary Torah readings for Yom Kippur are from the book of Vayikra, the book of Leviticus. The first word of the book is just that, Vayikra, literally, “And G-d called” [to Moses]. In Isaiah, we as a people are called by G-d on a macro level, as a people; at the beginning of Leviticus, G-d calls Moses personally to come forth in order to be instructed in the laws of the sacrifices.

There is an intimacy, an affection, to this word, to this calling.

The commentators explain that vayikra is the language of the ministering angels. To this day, it is the pinnacle of the verbal repetition of Silent Prayer when we repeat the angels calling out to one another in public prayer, declaring G-d’s sanctity: “And one called to another and said, Holy, holy, Holy is the L-rd of hosts . . . ” (Isaiah 6:3).

The angels do not communicate with one another, they do not speak; rather, they call to each other, in order to be with each other. Kulam ke-echad onim: in unison they express their closeness to and praise of G-d.

Maharal explains that the word vayikra indicates a closer degree of affection than other forms of address. When vayikra is used, it means not simply calling someone, but calling someone by name, as in the opening of the book of Vayikra where G-d specifically calls for Moses, by name. In other words, vayikra is an intimate invitation, a seeking of someone in order to be with him, to be in in his presence.

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Tehilla R. Goldberg

IJN columnist | View from Central Park

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