Parashat Vayikra: “Give for Your Happiness” - Vital Transformation

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Parashat Vayikra: “Give for Your Happiness”

Weekly Pearl of Wisdom for Your Shabbat Table

Parashat Vayikra: “Give for Your Happiness”

This week, we begin the third book of Moses, Sefar and Parashat Vayikra. We are also approaching the very happy holiday of Purim!

Our Parasha, Parashat Vayikra is a portion that focuses on animal sacrifices. We do not just mean the literal sheeps, goats, etc ones. We are also focusing, in a metaphorical sense, on the animalistic parts of us that should be sacrificed. In this world, there are four levels to life: the mineral, the vegetable, the animal, and the human. When we focus on desires of the body; for example, on food and sex, we lower ourselves to our animal parts. Those body impulses derail us from the path that follows God and that is why we must sacrifice the animal part that exists in all of us. We all get led astray by the impulses of greed and lust because we gain pleasure from it, and can even be addicted to them. We are searching for happiness and pleasure, but especially via a shortcut instead of the hard way via work and effort.

What is real happiness?

True happiness comes when we do the hard work and put in effort for it. Why is this so? Hard work shows our faith in God. If we take the easy route, we show our impatience and underlying doubt that success is on its way to us. If we wait and work hard, we show we trust in the Creator to deliver our blessings at its right time. Although the temptations from our evil inclination for the easy way are strong, God created the tools we needed to overcome it!

How can we defend ourselves from the drive to take the easy road?

Our Parasha begins with Vayikra, God “calling” to Moshe. Why is God calling Moshe? Now the Mishkan is completed, the resting place of God’s presence, and our leader Moshe is standing at the entrance frozen in place by awe of God and the recognition of how holy His home is. He didn’t think he was holy enough to enter the space. So God “calls” out to him to invite him in! This is a display of real humbleness and real awe. To defend ourselves from the evil inclination’s desire for the easy road, we must humble ourselves before God in two ways: Firstly, we have fear of His punishments, of letting Him down. And secondly at a higher level that Moshe teaches us, we must feel a sincere awe for the Creator. We must recognize that where we are small, he is great. He is endless and infinite. All that we have is thanks to Him. When we combine fear with that deeper knowledge of awe, this is how we will receive protection from the evil inclination. God created evil for us to overcome it! And when we overcome it,  we give more pleasure to Him and to ourselves than we can ever imagine. In our Parasha, we learn that a Korban means a sacrifice or to get closer. Sacrificing and hard work will allow us to get closer to God. Now, we will fall at times, perfection is not expected. When this happens, remember that it’s an opportunity to learn and improve. Sometimes we fall so we can pick up something we’d lost in the first place.

Kabbalah teaches us a wonderful lesson in falling; when we are aware of our faults, we should celebrate! When we hear the voice of spirituality that is telling me what’s wrong with me, celebrate! Being able to recognize our faults is a powerful sign that we are on the right path in our spiritual journey. If you can’t see your faults, this is a dangerous sign of how far you are from reaching your potential and being in touch with your true self. If someone on the streets of Manhattan yells at you, “You’re lazy and jealous!”, go on and celebrate! Scream back “I was just telling myself that the other day!” Don’t search for compliments, search for faults because this is the way to improve.

Every night when we sleep, two things happen in the upper worlds:

One: our soul dials into a meeting with God to talk. The soul tells God “The body You put me in, that person doesn’t take their faults and negativities seriously”. And so to help, God sends the soul back down to the body with judgments, sometimes painful ones. Ones that we chose. Our soul asked for them. Our soul asked for a wake up call! We change more from desperation than inspiration! Knowing what we need to sacrifice and change will help us clear the path to make room for more Divinity and more happiness.

And two: During the night, the dark forces wander around to find bodies to effect. Yet they are afraid to damage the people who spent the day deeply working on themselves. This teaches us that a good night’s sleep is dependent on what we did during the day. The people who uncover and work to overcome their faults are granted a light around them and are protected all day and night.

In this way, we see even more how hard work on ourselves leads to real protection and happiness. In the fight to control our lust and impatience, everyday we must choose which path we wish to follow. Although mistakes may occur, we must always strive to follow God. This is how we sacrifice our evil, animal selves to reach real happiness.

Happiness is very strongly in the energy of our month, Adar, and our approaching holiday, Purim.

We learn that all service to God should be done with happiness. But it is very difficult to be in a happy spirit in the case of bringing a korban, a sacrifice, for a sin. We learn that while at the moment of the service for a sin, as performed by the Cohen, we are to be serious, there is a place for happiness. The happiness comes after sacrificial service. After offering a sacrifice, the Levites would sing to raise our spirits. The Levites come from the right column; the column of happiness, joy, mercy. In the service, first comes Cohenim, serious judgment, then comes Levites, happiness. The perfect recipe is both; both Cohen and Levi; both judgment and mercy. Both awe and love. On our spiritual journey, we have seriousness and happiness.

How can we be happy on Purim?

In the month of Adar, with Purim approaching, give! Give time, give money, give service. Acts of giving and generosity is the way to correct the ego to make room for real happiness. We live in the world of action so it is critical to perform the acts of giving and acts of service, not simply think or talk about giving. The way to give is also through acts of service to others. Today we do not have a Mishkan guiding us, so the ego can dominate, God forbid. The cure is to give and serve, especially to those we respect. Open your heart to give, remove the judgments and ego, and be generous. Don’t look if the homeless man on the streets really needs your money, just give. Don’t look at who is asking, if someone turns to you for help, give. Take off your glasses, you don’t need to see, simply, give. Purim allows us to give and give; gifts to our friends, presents to the poor, service to our community. May we all keep giving!

Shabbat Shalom and Purim Sameach!

-Rabbi Eliyahu Jian



Eliyahu Jian May 22, 2024

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