Shalom Orzach

Collect Call

Perhaps a little Purim Torah, is a way of circumventing the conundrum of having thoughtful insights on the arduous details of the Sacrifices that take up much of the portion if not the Book of Vayikra. 

You would think that “The Calling” would be an apt title for Megillat Esther, after all our heroes and heroines are almost exclusively focussed on calling things out, Haman, his gruesome decree, and being called on not to remain silent- כִּ֣י אִם־הַחֲרֵ֣שׁ תַּחֲרִישִׁי֮ – On the contrary, if you keep silent in this crisis… Raise your voice. Yet intriguingly,  the term Vayikra occurs just once throughout the action packed thriller! Are the stars too bashful to reappear for the curtain call? With this anticipation if not suspense we are certainly not going to be disappointed when we  discover where it does appear; (Esther 6:11) 

וַיִּקַּ֤ח הָמָן֙ אֶת־הַלְּב֣וּשׁ וְאֶת־הַסּ֔וּס וַיַּלְבֵּ֖שׁ אֶֽת־מָרְדֳּכָ֑י וַיַּרְכִּיבֵ֙הוּ֙ בִּרְח֣וֹב הָעִ֔יר וַיִּקְרָ֣א לְפָנָ֔יו כָּ֚כָה יֵעָשֶׂ֣ה לָאִ֔ישׁ אֲשֶׁ֥ר הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ חָפֵ֥ץ בִּיקָרֽוֹ׃

So Haman took the costumes and the horse and arrayed Mordecai and paraded him through the city square; and he proclaimed before him: “This is what is done for the man whom the king desires to honor!”

This is one of the most dramatic turning points in the Megillah, such an unlikely and unimaginable event. The most powerful and despotic character, Haman, is humiliated by having to call out  Mordechai, the ultimate symbols of the people he wishes to annihilate, as the model and consummate subject in the Kingdom. To  accentuate the profound significance of this unimaginable sequence of events, the Torah Temimah (Rabbi Baruch Epstein 1860-1941) brilliantly brings an additional parallel example, that of Joseph, who is brought up from the deep pits of imprisonment, and after solving the puzzling dreams of Pharaoh,  is appointed to serve as the second most powerful official in Egypt. That dramatic moment is astonishingly if not prophetically portrayed in Bereishit, 41:43;

וַיַּרְכֵּ֣ב אֹת֗וֹ בְּמִרְכֶּ֤בֶת הַמִּשְׁנֶה֙ אֲשֶׁר־ל֔וֹ וַיִּקְרְא֥וּ לְפָנָ֖יו אַבְרֵ֑ךְ וְנָת֣וֹן אֹת֔וֹ עַ֖ל כּל־אֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃

He had him ride in the chariot of his second-in-command, and they called out  before him, “Abrek!” (Understood by some as arising out of the term Berech- knee- “Bow the knee,”) Thus he placed him over all the land of Egypt.

Both occasions are inconceivable in real time and serve as perhaps the penultimate examples of V’nahafoch hu- a moment where the opposite of what was expected, occurred. In the words of Rabbi Benay Lappe, Purim becomes a celebration of subversion, inversion, and transformation. – We are aptly and agonizingly praying for this to happen speedily in our days too.

To underscore the magnitude of the moment of Vayikra even further, the primary and earliest connotation of the term occurs at the very beginning.- Bereishit. The Creation occurs through this very word, or dare we say, calling!

This is where it appears for the first time. (It continues to occur frequently as the central motif for the inception of the world.) Bereishit 1:5;

וַיִּקְרָ֨א אֱלֹהִ֤ים ׀ לָאוֹר֙ י֔וֹם וְלַחֹ֖שֶׁךְ קָ֣רָא לָ֑יְלָה וַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר י֥וֹם אֶחָֽד׃

God called the light Day and called the darkness Night. And there was evening and there was morning, a first day.

This year Vayikra with its staggering implications is not simply the title of this week’s portion, and third Book of the Torah, rather it succinctly describes our reality. We have been demonstratively calling for some time now, and since October the 7th, calling for the immediate release of the hostages. We tragically are not just entering the Book of Vayikra, but this cry that astoundingly also captures the essence of Purim too, is who we have become and must continue to be.

About the Author
Shalom is a senior educator and consultant for The iCenter and serves as faculty for the Foundation for Jewish Camp . Prior, he served as the AVI CHAI Project Director and Director of Education in the Shlichut and Israel Fellows unit for the Jewish Agency. He has served as a consultant for the Jim Joseph Foundation and the Jewish Peoplehood Committee. Shalom was also a scholar on the prestigious Jerusalem Fellows Program, after which he served as the Executive Director of Jewish Renewal for United Jewish Israel Appeal (UJIA). Shalom is an acclaimed public speaker on contemporary Israel who brings extensive knowledge, humor and passion. He feels privileged to live in Jerusalem and loves sharing stories about life in the Land of so much Promise.
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