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Dvar Torah - Vayikra (Shabbat Zachor)

Updated: Mar 14, 2022

This week we learn special verses. They are traditionally the first verses which are taught to Jewish children when they begin learning the Torah. Why do we begin our Torah study, which will hopefully stretch afterwards over our entire lives, with the first few verses of Vayikra? The secret lies in these verses' plain textual meaning.

The end of the book of Shemot explains when the Mishkan was first completed, nobody, not even Moshe, was able to enter it. The first verses of the book of Vayikra relate how Moshe was called to break through the divine barrier around the Mishkan and come into G-d's presence. Since that day, the process of learning the Torah is the process of answering G-d's call. It is the process, in the most literal way possible, of connecting with the divine. "If they are not prophets, then they are at least the children of prophets," relates the Talmud, about the Jewish people as a whole. As we learn Hashem's Torah, we can feel Him speaking to us, we can feel His presence, and hear the sound of His voice.

No festival relates this idea more strongly than Purim. The Megillah tells that, "the Jews established and accepted upon themselves and upon their children after them to observe these days of Purim." Our Rabbis explain that, "they accepted on high (in the heavenly court) what was established below." The Jews in the time of Mordechai and Esther were able to tap into the divine spirit which animated them, and understand that a new festival was needed, for all time. In our day, when we celebrate Purim, we reconnect, as did the Jews of Persia, to the invitation made to Moshe, and to all the rest of the Jewish people so long ago, to approach the Mishkan, to connect with the divine, and to take our place in the covenantal prophetic chain of Jewish history.

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