Parshat Hashavua

Late Posting of Parshah Vayikra: To Err is Human, to Forgive is also Human

I apologize for this week’s d’var being delayed. I hope everyone had a restful and relaxing Shabbat. This week’s parshah, Vayikra, focused on sins, expiations, burnt offerings, and mediation through the priestly class. What do you bring, why do you bring, and to whom do you bring? These are the questions we receive clarification on in this week’s parshah. Vayikra, our title this week, translates as “and he called”. In Leviticus 1:1-2, “The Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying: Speak to the Israelite people, and say to them; when any of you presents an offering of cattle to the Lord, he shall choose his offering from the herd or from the flock.” The aleph at the end of the Vayikra is written smaller than all the other letters in the Torah. Many commentators spend countless pages in an effort to provide textual analysis. Moses our teacher was the last prophet to speak with God. We are informed in this week’s parshah how to ask for forgiveness.

How do we understand this week’s parshah in 2018? How do I ask for forgiveness if I have transgressed, either knowingly or otherwise. Life is complicated. I have been married for almost nine years to my beautiful bashert. I am a very proud Aba of my almost five month old daughter. I work full time as a spiritual care practitioner, and I am the Director of Jewish life for a non-profit assisted living home, Shalom Home. My life is fulfilling and I am happy.

As I preach today I will also provide a concrete example from own life. I consider myself a mensch and always strive to do my best, but sometimes I get it wrong. Just as Moses struck the rock, I too have moments where my emotions get the better of me. When I read this parshah I think about how our world has evolved. Today there are so many ways to communicate with one another, by the same token it can be challenging when deciding which method of communication is most appropriate. Is a text sufficient, or does the situation call for a phone call or to meet in person? The Torah tells us which sacrifices to make for which transgressions. It is black and white. Everything was laid out, for better or worse there was clarity.

What do we do today when we have transgressed? Of course a heartfelt apology is always in order. An additional gesture, beyond words, is also called for. We know that it is not enough to ask for forgiveness, words without actions are hollow. A verbal apology is not enough.

Growing up I recall from middle school that one of my teachers kept a jar in our classroom. That jar was used to collect a quarter every time a student, or the teacher on rare occasions, said something negative, disrespectful, or unproductive. Once the jar was filled our teacher informed us that the funds would be donated to a local non-profit organization and explain how giving to this organization improved our community. I did not know it at the time, but my teacher was providing us with a lesson with roots in this week’s parshah. Though we are imperfect, our transgressions can have a beneficial impact.

Why have we, by and large, shied away from the collection jar? In our society donations of funds are often prompted in order to honor someone. We generally give to mark happy and/or momentous occasions. When we come up short, for whatever reason, the answer is not to dwell or overanalyze, bur rather to act to repair the relationship. This is not an oversimplification, it is a mitzvah. While we repair the relationship, why not also repair the world?

Shavua Tov!