You have not brought me sheep for burnt offerings,
nor honored me with your sacrifices.
I have not burdened you with grain offerings
nor wearied you with demands for incense. — Isaiah 43:23
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.
The following story is told in connection with this week’s Haftorah reading from the book of Isaiah: There was once a businessman who arrived home after his travels and hired a porter to carry his luggage from the train station to his home. When the porter arrived at the businessman’s house, he set the luggage by the door and approached the man for payment. However, the man looked at the porter closely and then said, “That’s not my luggage. It looks like the same suitcase as mine, but it isn’t mine.”
The surprised porter said, “But if it looks the same, how can you tell that it isn’t yours?” The businessman replied, “Because you look tired and weary from hauling it. My luggage was light and it would have been easy for you to carry. That luggage can’t possibly be mine!”
Likewise, true service to God shouldn’t be a burden, either. In this week’s Torah reading, we learned about the sacrifices and service in the Temple. In the Haftorah, we read about a time when the service and worship in the Temple was far from what it should have been. The prophet Isaiah reproached the people because they brought countless sacrifices to the idols they worshiped, but neglected making the proper sacrifices to God.
God said to the people through Isaiah, “You have not brought me sheep for burnt offerings, nor honored me with your sacrifices. I have not burdened you with grain offerings nor wearied you with demands for incense.” It was as if God were saying, “Israel, if you are weary and tired, it is certainly not from serving Me. Service of the one true God is never debilitating; in contrast, it is refreshing.”
A few chapters earlier in Isaiah, we read, “but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31). The service that God outlined in the Torah reading, and which the prophet accused Israel of abandoning in the Haftorah reading, is a service that lifts up the worshiper and never drags the worshiper down. True service to God breathes life and inspiration into our souls – if only we would embrace it.
Friends, oftentimes we hear God call us to service, and sometimes we pause for a moment to consider: “Can I really handle that? Do I have the energy, the time, and the resources? Will I be left tired and weary, depleted and lacking?”
While we need to make wise decisions and never take too much upon ourselves, we also need to remember that God invigorates those who work on His behalf. God doesn’t burden us with more than we can handle and He blesses those who serve Him with strength, vitality, and grace.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President