Torah Reading for Week of May 6-12, 2012
“Come closer to Me”
By Belle Michael, AJRCA Fourth Year Rabbinic Student
We are counting the days now towards the festival of Shavuot. This Jewish holiday celebrates a mythical moment of revelation. We experience a wholesome encounter with G-d. As we are preparing ourselves both physically and spiritually for this sacred meeting, we read in our parasha (Leviticus 23:2):
“דבר אל בני ישראל ואמרת אלהם מועדי ה’ אשר תקראו אותם מקרא קודש אלה הם מועדי”
“Speak to the Israelite people and say to them: “These are My fixed times, the fixed times of the Lord, which you shall proclaim as sacred occasions” (JPS translation). The root KARA means “to call”; therefore, “Mikraei Kodesh”– could be understood to mean sacred callings. In Leviticus 23, G-d lists the times He/She would expect the people of Israel to come for a meeting. It is surprising to find out that the All Mighty G-d is the One who is calling us. Isn’t it amazing that G-d wants to meet us?
Not only does G-d want to meet us, but G-d also provides us with a detailed time frame and structured ritual for these sacred encounters. At these sacred meetings, the priests play a significant role mainly by officiating with “Korbanot” (that is, sacrifices). The word “Korban (sacrifice) in its different conjugations and variations appears repeatedly in this passage. The medieval commentator, Rashi, explained that “Korban” comes from the root KARAV, which means to come closer.
Reading this week’s parasha, I got the sense that G-d is calling us, “Come closer, Come to meet Me,” and makes sure that we have many opportunities to do so. Like a longing parent or companion, G-d wants us to know when, where, and how we can meet: “Come for Shabbat, “Come for Rosh Hashanah,” “Come to see me on Sukkoth.”
Apparently, it is not only G-d who is longing for connection and meeting; we all are. We all are waiting for someone to call us and reconnect. Some of us do so in lightning and thunder, and others with a still, quiet voice.
Coming closer to G-d starts with coming closer to Adonai’s creatures – to human beings. Martin Buber stated that the way to a relationship with G-d is through real contacts with people and nature. ”In each Thou, we address the Eternal Thou.” According to Buber, “All real life is meeting.”
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel heard G-d’s call and urged us to act, saying that our deeds and actions are responses to that call. Through deeds and actions, we meet G-d.
This understanding of G-d’s calling aroused in me a personal memory. I thought of my grandmother, Baba Koka, calling in her gentle voice: “Come to see me on Shabbat –I’ll bake you shtrudel”; “Come for Shavuot”– I’ll make you blintzes..”
Unfortunately, we have lost Baba Koka to Alzheimer’s disease, and I can no longer connect with her. I miss her so much.
This painful memory makes me regret missed opportunities for meeting. It also makes me wonder what other opportunities I am missing to come close to others. How can I come closer to G-d without coming closer to Adonai’s human family?
On this Shabbat, maybe this will be your question too. On this Shabbat, surely each of us can find the time to call and make somebody happy to hear from us.