In this week’s Torah portion, the word Vayikra (and he [God] called) is written in a very unusual way. The last letter (an aleph) is written in a smaller size than all the other letters. Why is the aleph smaller in Vayikra, hence creating more white space around this word than most?
In the Zohar, we read that the Torah is written in black fire (the letters) engraved on white fire (the parchment). Both are important. The black fire is more concrete: I think of it as Divine revelation condensed into words. I think of the white fire as silence, the type of silence in which we connect directly to our Source.
Maybe the aleph is smaller in the word that means “and God called” to make space for silence. In silence we can realize and know so much. We can get in touch with our inner wisdom, or with the wisdom of a Higher Power. May we all be blessed to take the time to be and listen to our highest inner stirrings in order to discern what we are called for.
I’m wishing you Chodesh Tov- a good month! We’ve just entered Adar 2, the “leap month” in the Jewish calendar. The sages in the Talmud tell us, "Mishenichnas Adar marbin b'simchah," "When Adar enters, we increase joy" (B. Ta'anit 29a).
This month we celebrate Purim, a joyous holiday in which God is not mentioned directly, but is alluded to throughout, and a woman is the hero. And just a few days ago we celebrated International Women’s Day, in which we acknowledged the myriad achievements of women around the globe, many of whom have advanced the cause of humanity, such as Malala, Gloria Steinem and countless others.
The achievements of women certainly stand out in the Purim story. Esther, a young queen with seemingly little power saves all the Jews in her kingdom from death, with the support of her cousin Mordechai. Esther’s predecessor Vashti paved the way for Esther’s heroism by bravely standing up to the king and refusing to be treated in a demeaning way. Vashti’s way of proclaiming her self-sovereignty was obvious and bold. Esther (whose name is related to the word nistar which means hidden), accomplished her goal in a mostly quiet and understated way. And we need look no further than our everyday lives to find women (including ourselves) who have overcome challenging obstacles and accomplished hard-earned goals, some in a grand and bold way, and some in a quieter, smaller scale fashion that nevertheless has enduring ripple effects.
May we celebrate how far we have come as women, and with this joy and pride fueling us, may we continue to make this world a better place, each in our own unique and important way. May we connect to the strength of the Divine, whether She is obvious in our lives or hidden, and support each other in our movement forward.
At the mishkan, the portable sanctuary in the desert, the base of the laver (from which the priests ritually wash themselves before entering the inner sanctuary) was directed to be made from mirrors. Why would the foundation of the laver, where one prepares for holy service, need to made from mirrors? Rabbi Dalia Marx tells us, “…just like a person looking into the mirror, entering holiness requires us to look inside into our hidden motives, to see ourselves as we are, in all the totality of the brighter and darker sides of our reality.”
The holy service I enter into may be as a clergy person or as a mother caring for her children, or a child caring for her parent, or something else. Whatever it may be, before beginning a holy task, I find it helpful to look deeply at myself. Where am I at in this moment? What is my kavannah (intention)? Do I have any lingering resentments or doubts or fears about the service I will do or the people I will serve? What can I bring of myself, my love and my caring to elevate this work? I take some time to sit and be with myself, looking within and compassionately acknowledging any thoughts or feelings that may be arising. Then I offer it all up to a Higher Presence, for cleansing and purification. Only then am I truly ready to enter into holy service.
May we take the time to look deeply within ourselves in preparation to enter into our holy work, so that we can be refreshed and purified, and bring our best.
I am a Rabbinic Chaplain in the Jewish Renewal tradition who brings a light-filled and joyful Judaism to others who want to experience the beauty of Jewish spirituality.