March 18, 2021


3.19.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

Do you hear that?  It’s a whisper, or a chorus, or sometimes thunder that you can feel even if you can’t hear.  You are called.  It’s the intercom from the program facilitator office when you know you’ve messed up: “Attention residents: Kerry C, please come to the PF office.  Kerry C, please come to the PF office.”  It’s Ryan answering the phone at the front desk when you need someone to talk to: “Beit T’Shuvah.  This is Ryan speaking.  How can I help you?”  And he really meant it: how can I help you?

The call to recovery comes in so many ways – quietly, loudly, publically, privately.  It’s persistent and powerful.  It comes in pleas from family and friends, interventions, deaths of friends, even from judges and DAs.  But we don’t always hear it.  And if we hear it, we don’t always act on it.  We may tell ourselves “what I do doesn’t hurt anyone,” or “this is just who I am,” or “they don’t really care about it.”  And all of these stories about who and what we are plug our ears and bind our hands so that we will not hear and respond to the call to recovery.

This week’s parsha, VaYikra, begins with a call:

Adonai called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying: “Speak to the Israelite people and say to them” (VaYikra 1:1).

Moses is called by God to speak to the Israelites and relay God’s instructions to them.  From the burning bush, where God calls on Moses to return to Egypt, to Egypt itself, to the Red Sea and Mount Sinai, and ultimately the wilderness between Egypt and the Promised Land, God instructs Moses how to lead and guide the Israelites to freedom.  Over and over, when God calls Moses, Moses hears the call, and whatever his reservations or fears, he responds to it.  He meets God’s call with action.

All of us are asked to hear the Divine call and to meet that call with action.  When we hear it, we make space for the Divine – for something to exist beyond ourselves.  When we act on it, the Divine makes space for us.

The space, the Divine need, for our action is written into the text itself.  When the word VaYikra, “and he called,” is written here in the Torah, it is written with a small aleph (the last letter of the word).  This small letter is unusual, but it happens in other words sprinkled throughout the Torah.  Whether these small letters were intentional or scribal errors, they have themselves become a part of our written Torah, just as worthy of comment as the words themselves.  Many commentators ask: what is the purpose of this small aleph?  The Sefat Emet teaches: “deed has to be joined to the word.”  That is, there is literal space in the Torah for Moses’ actions to join to the words of the Torah itself.

When God calls to Moses, God makes space for Moses to speak to the Israelites.  God doesn’t speak to the Israelites for him.  He asks Moses to do it.  So too with us: God calls to us, but doesn’t do for us the action to which we are called.

God might have called you to be a part of the Beit T’Shuvah community, to enter treatment (again), to set down a resentment, and/or to make amends, but God doesn’t do those things for us.  God makes space for us to make the free moral choice to do so – or not.

You and I make space for the Divine to speak.  And the Divine makes space for us to act.

This is a holy relationship.  When the Big Book discusses a “Higher Power of your understanding,” it means entering a relationship with Something Beyond Yourself that you make space to hear, and that makes space for you to act.

Today, this Shabbat, how are you making space for the Divine call?  And when you hear that whisper, that welling up, that ultimately thunderous voice that says “this way to recovery; this way to living better,” will you respond to the Divine call with action?

For our community of addicts, our lives depend on it.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Kerry