An interesting question arises as to why the book is called “Vayikra”= “And He called” (And G-d called Moshe). Perhaps, it would be best to call it “Sacrifices” or “Atonement”. It doesn’t make sense that the book is named “And He called”.
For the almost 40 years in the desert G- d had spoken only to Moshe. Moshe would then deliver G-d’s words to the people accurately without additions or deletions. Following the delivery of the exact words G-d had spoken, Moshe would then elaborate and explain the meaning and application of G-d’s words. Matan Torah (Revelation-when we received the Torah) was the single exception. Matan Torah was the only time the nation heard G-d speak without the human buffer of Moshe’s ministry. This meant that for the better part of 40 years the Jews had to extend to Moshe absolute trust. They had to trust that the words he delivered to them were absolutely the same as the ones G-d had spoken to him.
It seems like there is a strong reliance of important information that had to be presented to the children of Israel. Therefore, it might be a splendid idea to explore the importance of the power of communication.
When one voices his opinion, is he understood? It’s frustrating at times, when one expresses himself and he’s not being conveyed correctly. I believe, many of us have gone through that experience at one point or another. Perhaps, not being understood with mundane matters is simply, just an annoyance; however one can only hope, that the more important feelings are expressed fully to the highest degree. This is a frequent problem when there is a culture gap between parents and children or teachers and students. However, even with one’s “own kind”, misunderstanding can be a dilemma.
Interestingly, one of the most famous routines, in American culture, by the 1940’s-50’s comedy team of Abbot and Costello, called “who’s on first”, involves misunderstanding. It was so popular; the routine was performed in front of the president of the United States, at the time. In the routine Abbot gives instruction how to play the game of baseball, by describing the position players. He starts off by saying “who is on first, what’s on second and I don’t know is on third”. It seems like he’s not familiar with the players’ names however, Abbot is, in actuality really mentioning the names of the players. The name of the first basemen is indeed “Who”; the name of the second basemen is indeed “Whats”; the third basemen name is “Idontno”. It frustrates Costello to no end.
It’s one of the most brilliant comedy routines ever made but, in reality, it is not a laughing matter. In essence we are laughing at ourselves. Perhaps, that is the reason for its popularity; it’s too close to home. We spend pain staking time and money, by taking courses, to make ourselves clear so we should not be misunderstood. It is said: “whoever has clarity, he possesses a gift!”
We see from the Torah how a misunderstanding can be detrimental to our existence.
This communication gap is demonstrated very sharply when Rachel, Yaakov’s beloved wife, sees that her sister Leah keeps delivering one child after another, she turns to him with an impossible request:
“Grant me children or I will die.”
The enraged and perplexed Yaakov answers:
“Can I assume G-d’s role? He is the one who prevented you from having children.”
Rachel then goes on to offer him her maidservant as a surrogate mother and the issue seems to have been settled, but the Midrash (scriptures from our Sages) does not let Yaakov off the hook that easily:
G-d told Yaakov: “Is this a way to answer a woman in distress? I swear that one day your sons are going to plead for their lives from her son!”
The Midrash is based on the reappearance in Bereshit(50:19) of Yaakov’s three first words, this time said by Yosef, his son from Rachel, to his sons from his other wives:
This conversation took place after Yaakov’s burial. The brothers feared that now that Yaakov is gone, Yosef is going to take revenge for the suffering they inflicted on him, to which he answered: “Fear not! Can I assume G-d’s role?”
The Midrash claims that Yaakov’s punishment for the inappropriate way of speaking with Rachel was the sibling rivalry that tore his family apart and eventually humbled his children from Leah, Bilha, and Zilpa, as they had to bow down to Rachel’s own son, Yosef.
Before Rachel comes to speak to her husband, she is engulfed in feelings of sadness and frustration seeing that she has no children, whereas Leah, the once rejected wife, now has a seat of honor as the mother of Yaakov’s growing family. She feels estranged and alienated and she doesn’t see in her husband’s eyes the same sparkle that was there before.
She decides to let her husband to father a child through her maid, a common practice in the Ancient Near East, already tried by Sarah and Avraham, but first she wants to know that he understands her, that he has compassion for her.
She wants to convey her emotional turmoil to him and does it with full force:
“Grant me children, or else I’ll die!”
Perhaps, she was simply saying that without her husband’s love, and being outdone by Leah, she is as good as dead.
What Yaakov heard, however, was: “You are responsible for my sterility! Solve my problem!”
He cannot solve it, and he says it: “Can I assume G-d’s role? He is the One who prevented you from having children.”
These words hit her like a sack of bricks. Even though he meant that it is G-d, and not him, who is responsible for her situation and there is nothing he can do, no solution he can offer, she heard the emphasis on the word – you. “YOU are the one who has no children” the words explode in her ears “I already have children”. As Rashi puts it:
“I have children, G-d has made YOU, and not me, sterile”.
Yaakov should have said: “I know how you feel.” She would have retaliated with: “No, you don’t. You have your children, and as a man you will never know what it means to be barren.” He would have answered: “You are right, but I remember how my mother’s eyes would fill with tears when she spoke about the twenty first years of her marriage, years of solitude, longing and despair.”
Only after commiserating with a woman, is the man allowed exploring possible solutions. Yaakov might have directed the conversation towards her thoughts on what should be done, and she would probably say that he should pray for her, spend more time with her.
It was a terrible misunderstanding and miscommunication which led to much strife in the family, and possibly even to the exile in Egypt. It is also an important lesson to all of us, to be better listeners and to try first to understand our conversational partner and only then offer, if applicable and necessary, a solution.
We learn much from Yehuda’s ability to be a leader. Immediately before Yosef’s dramatic confession that he is his brother, Yehuda steps up to the plate to confront Yosef.
In Yehuda’s entire passionate address to Yosef (Gen. 44:18-34), he added no information or arguments which weren’t already known to Yosef. What was his intention in reiterating the information to Yosef, and what did he hope to accomplish by doing so?
The Bet HaLevi explains that Yehuda realized that the brothers’ original interactions with Yosef seemed bizarre and mystifying. They told him that they came to buy grain, and he responded that they were spies. They answered that they were honest, and he told them that now they had proven his claim that they were spies. Since Yosef’s responses didn’t seem to correspond to the brothers’ statements, it occurred to Yehuda that perhaps the miscommunication was due to the translator, who wasn’t accurately relaying to Yosef the content of what the brothers had said, but was instead fabricating statements which they had never made.
In order to clarify whether this was the case, Yehuda asked for permission to review the entire dialogue directly in the ears of Yosef, without the involvement of the translator. In order to preempt Yosef from responding that he didn’t understand the Hebrew language that they spoke, Yehuda stated that Yosef was like Pharaoh. If Yosef would now claim to be unfamiliar with their language, this would imply that Pharaoh didn’t know it as well, an inference which would be disrespectful to Pharaoh and therefore forbidden to make.
We see the importance, on Yehuda’s part to clarify. One has to take lesson and not let the moment depart without clarity. Here, Yehuda put his foot down and made waves in order to do so. Although, there were different circumstances for Yehuda to do so then it was at a time for Rachel. The common denominator is that they both were under tremendous pressure. Yehuda’s Olam Haba-entrance in the next world was at stake because Benyamin’s, whom he swore to return unscathed, life, was as good as dead if he remained a prisoner in Egypt. Rachel’s pain and anguish, though, of not having children was enormous!!!
So we see the importance to go against the grain of life and to be supersensitive to make sure situations are not clouded.
In our efforts, though, to clarify and not be misunderstood we can come across some difficulties. Many Psychologists urge people to, “Share your feelings,” and “Talk it out until the problem is resolved.” However, this advice can be disastrous! Not everyone values emotional honesty. Not everyone has time to listen. And a lot of people will use your personal information against you!
The reality is that not everyone is capable of “hearing” and empathizing. In fact, empathy is a rare quality, which depends on one’s personality type.
According to the Myers-Briggs personality system – people are either dominant Thinkers or dominant Feelers. Thinking types (60% of men and of 40% women) have little interest in the world of feelings. They feel no urge to share personal feelings and are irritated and bored by those who do. They often do not even know what they feel and may not care. They are focused on functioning, not feeling. In fact, they feel more powerful and in control when they do not expose their feelings. In contrast, Feeling types (60% women, 40% men) are concerned with their feelings and distressed if they cannot share them. When these two types get together, there is likely to be a lot of mutual frustration, because each has demands which the other cannot meet.
One also has to be aware, when sharing will overwhelm others. It is “immodest” to share strong feelings of grief, fear or rage, especially around children, who need to see adults as a source of security and strength. To expose these feelings is just as immodest as exposing parts of the body which should be kept covered if the other person is incapable of receiving your pain with empathy and compassion.
Therefore we have to balance the ability to clarify without imposing on others, and divulging, information that can hurt us and our loved ones!!
The Book of Vayikra is called its name because its intrinsic complex laws need one to deliver the proper accurate detail. One person that’s trustworthy, that did not misunderstand G-d’s message and will not be misunderstood is Moshe.
Moreover, was the nation’s response at the time of Matan Torah. “…You (Moshe) speak to us and we will listen and do not let G-d speak, we are afraid that we will die.” In essence, at Matan Torah, the nation willingly relinquished a degree of control they otherwise would have had over the validation of G- d’s word. By asking that Moshe act as the intermediary between themselves and G-d they proclaimed their willingness to trust Moshe to faithfully deliver the word of G-d. Moreover than that was the implicit trust that they would listen to Moshe even if he had chosen to alter the word of G-d.
From that moment and on, because of their choice and because of their eventual sin, the nation did not hear G-d speak again. In its place they were given the prophecy of Moshe and the ongoing manifestation of G-d’s will in the universe through natural law and miracles. In its stead, G-d gave them exactly what they had requested. Moshe would speak and they would hear the word of G-d through him