The beginning of the Book of Leviticus tells us how God calls out to Moses. It uses the somewhat unusual verb of “Vayikra” whose simple translation is “And He called out,” as opposed to the more common Vayidaber “and He spoke” or Vayomer “and He said.”
The Chidushei HaRim on Leviticus 1:1 explains that before God spoke to Moses, this time and all other times, He called out to him first. God calls out to Moses before speaking further so that Moses can prepare himself for the meeting. The initial call is both an invitation and an opportunity to prepare for an encounter with the divine.
The Chidushei HaRim states that in all matters of holiness, it is vital to have these two elements before proceeding. There must be a summoning, an invitation, even if it’s to oneself to engage in God’s command, and there must be preparation, there must be a mental determination and affirmation that one is about to fulfill God’s will.
Without setting one’s mind to the task, without being conscious and deliberate about what one is about to do, without preparing to do what one has decided is correct to do, the subsequent act lacks power, lacks vigor, lacks effectiveness, and according to the Chidushei HaRim, may even lack relevance.
To infuse meaning in our prayers, in our Torah study, in our charity, in our acts of kindness, it cannot be a rote, mechanical response. Merely going through the motions strips our efforts of significance. We must be conscious, deliberate and thoughtful. We must realize that what we’re doing carries weight, it carries consequences. The power of our fulfillment of God’s will, when done with forethought and preparation is so formidable that it reverberates throughout the upper realms.
When we accept the yoke of Heaven as opposed to merely falling back on routine or habit, it allows us to accept the yoke of the Mitzvot, of the commandments and whatever specific commandment we are about to perform.
May we always seek to prepare ourselves for holiness and for a more direct connection with God.
Dedication: To Israel playing a successful mediation role in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.