Pay Attention! by Zev Kahane


This week’s Parasha opens with the word VaYikra. Chazal (see Rashi to VaYikra 1:1) interpret this word as a call of Chibah, love and affection. When Hashem calls to someone, He is telling him to prepare to listen and to give Hashem his undivided attention. The Torah is stressing the importance of listening and hearing, as well as understanding what Hashem says.

The importance of listening to Hashem is repeated elsewhere in Tanach. When Shaul failed to listen to Hashem’s commandment to totally destroy Amalek, Shemuel posed him a rhetorical question: “Does Hashem delight in offerings as He does in [a person] listening to His voice? Behold, to obey is better than a choice offering” (Shemuel 15:22). Shaul lost his kingship because he failed to listen to Hashem.

On the other hand, Moshe was able to listen to the word of good with full attention. The reason Moshe possessed such good listening skills was because of his humbleness. In fact, this is alluded to in the word VaYikra. VaYikra (of our Parasha) is spelled with a small letter Alef, because Moshe intended to write the word “VaYikar,” “And He happened upon.” Moshe did not want to appear as such an amazing person; therefore he is suggesting that his conversation with Hashem be considered just “a happening.”

The idea that arrogance leads to disobeying Hashem’s word is alluded to later in the Parasha. When the Torah speaks of a leader sinning (VaYikra 4:22), it says, “Asheir Nasi YeCheta,” “When a ruler sins.” The Rashei Teivot (first letters) of these three words spell the word“Ani” which means “I.” The cause of a ruler’s sin is his pride and ego. This is true in the case of Shaul, and avoiding this pitfall made why Moshe an excellent leader.

Another good leader who had great humility was David HaMelech; he also understood the importance of listening to Hashem. He extols the virtue of listening, praising this ability over the willingness to bring sacrifices, stating, “Neither sacrifice nor offerings did You desire, receptive ears You opened for me” (Tehillim 40:7).

As the book of VaYikra introduces Korbanot, it is extremely important to learn from the greatness of Moshe and David, as well as the mistake of Shaul. The Torah is teaching us a very important lesson. Yes, every Korban is extremely important, but Korbanot are not Hashem’s priority. He desires that we all listen to Him and give Him our undivided attention. Both Shemuel and David express how Hashem desires an attentive listener more than a beautiful sacrifice. As demonstrated by Moshe and David, this can be accomplished through humility and modesty. This important lesson does not only have to be applied to Korbanot; it could be applied to every Mitzvah which we do. Although it is important to beautify our Mitzvot, it is more important to listen to Hashem’s commandment with an open and attentive ear. Through the trait of humbleness may we all continue to listen to the word of Hashem, and thereby merit bringing the Korbanot which are spoken about in out Parasha.

-With thanks to Gabi Wiseman

Humble Yourself by Doniel Sherman

With the Whole Nation in Mind by Dan Atwood