ויקרא אל משה וידבר ה' אליו מאוהל מועד לאמר.
“And [He] called to Moshe and Hashem spoke to him in the Sanctuary.” (Vayikra 1:1)
Rashi points out that the word “Vayikra – and [He] called” seems unnecessary. The Torah usually uses the words, “and Hashem spoke to Moshe.” Rashi explains that this shows us that wherever it says “Vaydaber – and [He] spoke,” Hashem first called Moshe lovingly, and then spoke to him.
The verse continues, “…when a person sacrifices a sacrifice for Hashem, from your livestock, your cattle and your sheep you shall sacrifice your sacrifices.” The verse’s frequent use of the word sacrifice seems superfluous; by calling the offering a sacrifice it is automatically understood that it was sacrificed. It would have been simpler to say, “when a person brings a sacrifice… you shall bring your sacrifices.” Furthermore, the words “your cows and your sheep” seem unnecessary, because they are already included in the word “bahema - livestock.”
There is an important lesson that can be derived from this verse. Why did Hashem send our neshamos to this world? Our souls were in such a special place on High, basking in the light of Hashem. What could a soul accomplish in this world that it couldn’t have done in Heaven?
The purpose of our existence is to serve Hashem by elevating the mundane, the material and physical. Hashem created us with two separate forces within us: the nefesh Elokis – the G-dly spirit, and the nefesh habehamis – the animalistic spirit. The animalistic part of us draws us to all earthly pleasures and desires. The purpose of life is to elevate the nefesh habehamis and fuse both parts of our existence, they should serve Hashem together. We must use our animalistic part for Hashem’s honor, and to make this possible, Hashem has planted within us the yetzer tovwhich helps us do what’s right and fulfill Hashem’s commands.
How can a person fulfill the purpose of his existence and overcome his nefesh habehamis – his animalistic inclinations? By stopping to think! He should distance himself from his momentary desires for the moment and remind himself what Hashem commanded of him. The tactic of the yetzer hara is to blind a person and rush him into sin, before he can stop and think how badly he will regret his actions afterwards.
Sometimes a person forgets why he was placed in this world. Sometimes he gets so wrapped up in his earthly pursuits that he forgets the calling of his nefesh Elokis – his G-dly spirit. Then he needs a reminder from Hashem. “Vayikra – and [He] called!” The verse doesn’t say who called. Hashem calls a person in various ways, and often the person doesn’t realize who’s calling him. The call may come in the form of an illness, a sudden loss of money, a minor disappointment, or any other hardship. The person only realizes that Hashem is calling him when he stops to think for a moment; otherwise he may miss the call and need more reminders, until he will finally understand who is behind the vayikra – that seemingly anonymous call. Someone is calling him to wake up!
The word korban – sacrifice, which is used in the verse so many times, can also mean “close.” A person must strive to become close to Hashem, and to bring other people close to Hashem. He must bring his nefesh habehamis – his animalistic spirit close to Hashem. We can now read the verse as follows: “When a person wants to become close to Hashem, you shall bring your nefesh habehamis close to Him (min habehema – your livestock).” The person should think, ‘Why do I have this animalistic spirit? Why do I have earthly desires? Hashem placed it in my heart so that I shall serve Him with my physical being!’
“Min habokor umin hatzon – from your cattle and your sheep.” The word bokor – cattle can also mean “morning light,” and the word tzon – sheep can also mean “go out.” When a person desires closeness with Hashem and wants to bring his animalistic spirit close to Hashem, he shall remember the “light” of the yetzer tov that Hashem placed in his heart to combat the yetzer hara. He shall “go out” of his daily rush for a few moments to stop and think, and this will usually break the grip of the yetzer hara. When a person is in doubt about the propriety of a certain action, he shall distance himself in his mind from the pressing nisoyon, from his momentary desire, and then the truth will become clear to him.
“Vayikra el Moshe.” Every Jew can be called Moshe. Rashi points out that vayikra is a loving call; Hashem called Moshe lovingly before addressing him. So too, Hashem calls out to each and every Jew with love. Regardless of his spiritual state, each and every Jew is a beloved child to Hashem.
With the above explanations, the verse can be understood to mean: Hashem calls (vayikra) every Jew with love; when a person desires to become close (yakriv/korban) to Hashem, he shall offer his animalistic inclination (min habehema) by utilizing the inner light (bokor) of the yetzer tov, and by distancing himself of his momentary desires (tzon), in order to get close to Hashem (takrivi korbanchem).
Pesach is approaching. Before Pesach, the Jewish people were commanded to take a “tzon” sheep (Shemos 12:21) for the Pesach offering. Rashi explains that the Jewish people were commanded to cleanse themselves of idol worship while taking the sheep. Our holy sefarim tell us that thirty days before Pesach, Hashem begins to elevate us, taking us out of the depths of impurity. May we indeed merit becoming close to Him, and may this coming Pesach, the Festival of Redemption, indeed bring the final redemption. May this month of Nissan be the Nissan of Redemption (Rosh Hashana 11b), and may we merit greeting Moshiach together.