Parshat VaYikra Shabbat HaHodesh
A few years ago, I was running a session on prayer during staff week at Camp Ramah in New England. Every half an hour I got a new group. When each new group entered the room, they saw pieces of paper all over the room; taped to benches, to walls and to pillars. When they looked closer at the pieces, they saw that the same things was written on each of them: “You”. Then we sat and listened to an old Hassidic song, A Dudele. The point of the exercise was to expand our notion of what prayer is and where it can be done. Can we see “You” everywhere? What do we do when we see “You”?
This week we begin the book of VaYikra. The parsha begins with a calling. “The Lord summoned Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying/וַיִּקְרָא אֶל מֹשֶׁה, וַיְדַבֵּר ה' אֵלָיו, מֵאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד לֵאמֹר.” The Midrash explains this verse through a parable.
"And He called to Moses." What is written above this matter [of these words "And he called to Moses"]? Parshat Mishkan [the building of the Tabernacle]. This can be compared to a King who commanded his servant and said to him, "Build me a palace." On every item which the servant built he wrote the name of the King on it. When he built walls, he wrote the name of the King on them. When he stood up columns he wrote the name of the King on them. When he installed beams, he wrote the name of the King on them. After a while, the King entered into the palace. On everything which he looked, he found his name written. He said, "All this great honor was afforded to me by my servant and I am on the interior and he is outside?!" [The King] called [the servant] to enter into the inner part of the palace. So too, when The Holy One, Blessed is He, said to Moses, "Build me a Sanctuary," on every single matter Moses wrote, "As Hashem had commanded Moses." The Holy One said, "All of this great honor was given to me by Moses and I'm inside and he is outside?!" He (God) called to him (Moses) to enter the inner place, and therefore it says, "And He called to Moses."
For all of Moses’ hard work for the sake of Heaven, he did not feel ready to come inside the Tent until he was called.
The Sfas Emes teaches that Moses drew so much from the spiritual heights in the building of the Mishkan that even he did not feel as though he could enter. Moses brought intense holiness down from the Heavens into our reality in order to build a dwelling place for God on Earth. Moses performed his task with the utmost humility. To build something that holy for the right reason requires an extinguishing of the ego. And for his victory of his ego, Moses is rewarded by being called into the Tent of Meeting.
There is a little bit of Moses inside of each and every one of us. Our challenge is to access it and act on it. Many of us feel comfortable with taking on parts of his role. We give to our communities in a variety of different ways for the purpose of loving God, Torah and Israel as a community. And still sometimes we feel as though we do not belong. What happens inside the sanctuary is too intense for me. Even though I helped build it to ensure that it was built, every inch of it, with holiness in mind, I still cannot go in. This week we are rewarded for our true service and called back in. And if we step back in on Shabbat, we will find that the holy crowns we once adorned will be waiting for us to don once again. May we all have a sweet Shabbat.
 Composed by Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev: One approach to addressing the Divine was offered by Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, a Hasidic rebbe in the second generation of followers of the Baal Shem Tov. He offered his theology in the form of a song, known as a dudele (from the Yiddish word du for “you”). Levi Yitzchak presents us a way of looking at the world through the eyes of the teaching “Everything is God and nothing but God.” A good version can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDEz07XSONc
 Lev. Rab 1:7
 Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter (Hebrew יהודה אריה ליב אלתר, 15 April 1847 – 11 January 1905), also known by the title of his main work, the Sfas Emes (Yiddish) or Sefat Emet שפת אמת (Hebrew), was a Hasidic rabbi who succeeded his grandfather, Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter, as the Av beis din (head of the rabbinical court) and Rav of Góra Kalwaria, Poland (known in Yiddish as the town of Ger), and succeeded Rabbi Chanokh Heynekh HaKohen Levin of Aleksander as Rebbe of the Gerrer Hasidim
 Sfas Emes 3:2
Rabbi Ezra Balser has been the rabbi at Temple Beth Sholom since July 1, 2016. He received his “smicha” (ordination) in June 2017 from Hebrew College while also earning a Master’s Degree in Jewish Studies. He has also received the iCenter's Certification in Israel Education.