The LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting. — Leviticus 1:1
The Torah portion for this week is Vayikra, which means “and He called,” from Leviticus 1:1–5:26, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 43:21–44:23.
If there’s one word we hear just about every day, it is our name. However, every time our name is said, it doesn’t always carry the same meaning. Let’s say your name is Jane. There’s the “Jane” that is said sweetly and means “I love you.” Then there is the “Jane” that is said sternly and means “You’re in big trouble!” There can also be the “Jane” said pleadingly which might indicate that someone is about to ask you for a favor. There are many meanings to any name depending on how it is said!
This week’s Torah portion begins with God calling out Moses’ name. The title of the portion is Vayikra, meaning “and He called.” The fact that this entire portion – and the third of the five books of Moses for that matter – is named after this word tells us that there is a significant message within it.
The Jewish sages teach: “Every time that God communicated with Moses – whether it was with the expression ‘He spoke,’ ‘He said,’ or ‘He commanded’ – it was always preceded by God first calling Moses by name, for calling his name was an expression of affection.”
In other words, when God called Moses’ name, it wasn’t just to get his attention and it wasn’t to punish him or ask for a favor. When God called Moses’ name, it was to tell him that He loved him. Only then would God go into whatever subject was at hand – be it a commandment, a reproach, or whatever. First came the love, everything else came second.
The sages explain that this deeper understanding of the word vayikra, “and He called,” teaches us that God’s love for us comes before anything else. God’s love is unconditional and unwavering. As it says in Jeremiah: “I have loved you with an everlasting love . . .” (31:3).
Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, a rabbi and musician who died in the 1990s, often said: “We need to teach our kids to love God, but it’s even more important to teach how much God loves them!” It’s so important to teach our kids and to know ourselves how much we are loved by God. This knowledge cannot be underestimated.
People who know they are loved by God know that they are valuable and loveable no matter what anyone else says. People with that knowledge will have the courage to do what is right and the resolve to treat themselves right. Moreover, they will have the love to pass on to others and give back to God.
So as you go through your day, remember — God loves you! More than any of us will ever know.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President