By Simon Jacobson
March 14, 2002
As I was reading the beginning of this week’s Torah portion,
a fascinating thought came to me and I realized one of the
biggest problems we are facing today.
This week we begin reading the third book of the
Chumash, the book of Vayikra, Leviticus. The first verse opens
with a seemingly missing word. It says: “Vayikra el Moshe,”
which translated literally means: ‘And called to Moses.’ Who
called to Moses? The verse does not say. It is G-d that called
to Moses, but the verse omits the subject and just states: ‘Called
to Moses’ without the word G-d!
Chassidic thought explains that this omission
is actually a powerful addition: The essence of G-d defies any
name and description. This verse wants to convey to us that
G-d’s essence called to Moses, thus even the name “G-d” is not
mentioned; the verse merely states “And ___ called to Moses,”
telling us that the call came from a place that transcends definitions,
a place that has no name or title. Had the verse stated G-d’s
name, by even merely using the word “G-d” (‘And G-d called to
Moses’) it would have meant that this particular dimension of
G-dliness (expressed in the name “G-d”) called to Moses. By
not using any name, the verse tells us that this is a call from
What this tells us is that G-d’s lack of tangible
manifestation is actually His deepest expression, the expression
of His deepest essence. A good human example for this is the
fact that your deepest emotions, your most intimate feelings
are the ones that have the least forms of expression. Words,
even sounds are simply inadequate to express our most intimate
Ok, so what has this esoteric concept to do with
With all that has been going on in the world –
the unprecedented terrorist assault on Israel and America, and
all the international attention and focus on these atrocities
– one thing that stands out to me perhaps more than anything
else is: Our conspicuous lack of leadership.
Where are our leaders – political, religious,
spiritual, any sort of leader?! Besides the prerequisite mumbles,
why are we not hearing from anyone – not in Israel, not in America,
not anywhere in the world -- about strength, determination,
cause, hope, commitment – anything that would give us some direction,
In times of calm we perhaps can get away with
the excuse that we don't need real leaders, only administrators.
The argument can be made, that true leaders will emerge when
we need them. But now times of crisis have arrived. Where are
Does this mean that we have are no true leaders?
It’s one thing when G-d is invisible and people
are not. It’s quite another matter when G-d is visible and we
A friend asked me the other day, “Why is G-d being
so cruel to us, allowing all these senseless killings both in
Israel and abroad?”
My gut reaction was that the exact opposite is
true. G-d has never been as good to us as He is today. Freedom
from outside oppression is today’s norm, as opposed to say,
500 years ago, when the world was controlled by monarchs and
despots. For Jews in particular this is the first time in history
that they are not subjugated and at the mercy of any foreign
power, and can live freely as Jews. G-d is very good to us.
He has blessed us with gifts of comfort, prosperity and unprecedented
liberties. Problems today are not from the outside, but from
True, terrorists have attacked America and continue
to kill innocents in Israel. But I submit that today we have
control to do something about it. We are not under the governmental
control of any foreign sovereignty (unlike in the past, say,
during the terror of the Nazi regime, when the people of Germany
and other occupied countries were completely under the tyrannical
control of the Nazis). Today we have the power to choose whether
we will be victims or not. And our wisdom and courage could
have prevented – and can continue to prevent – terrorist attacks.
(Did anyone notice that since the Israeli incursion into Ramallah
there has been a drop in terrorist attacks against civilians?
Does anyone truly believe that we couldn’t stop terrorism if
we REALLY wanted to?).
The sad irony is that when life was much more
difficult and it appeared that G-d was not so good to us (at
least to the naked eye), we were very good to Him; their was
profound spiritual dedication to our heritage and tradition.
When G-d is good to us and life goes well, we become apathetic
and petty, and often even worse.
What is it about us human beings?! Why do we need
pain and loss to crystallize our goals and provoke our will
to fight for what we believe in?
And what is G-d to do about us? As Divine Parent
and Creator of us all, what are G-d’s options when we choose
to ignore or neglect our calling? Should He allow us to just
live in denial, or should He allow us to hurt each other to
the point where we realize that something is wrong and something
No parent would want to have to make that choice.
By no means will I even attempt to conjecture
how G-d deals with this quandary. The only thing I believe we
can do is figure our what our responsibility is today.
Perhaps ‘established’ leadership has become, over
the years of comfortable prosperity, convenient bureaucracies,
complacent and content, unprepared for real war.
Perhaps the lack of leadership today is actually
a sign of a major addition (like the omission of G-d’s name
reveals for us G-d’s essence): That instead of finding leadership
among specific individuals, the essential leader within each
of us needs to emerge. Leadership today will come from the grass
roots – from you and I and simple laypeople like ourselves,
recognizing that enough is enough and we need to act.
We cannot just wait for some leader to rise and
save us all. We need to do our part to create a revolution.
A revolution of passion to discovering our calling. A spiritual
revolution that will shake the very frameworks of our old paradigms
and allow us to introduce a new one.
Perhaps the time has come to challenge our status
quo – both in our personal and professional lives, and perhaps
consider, just consider, that maybe, maybe G-d is a critical
component in our lives. Perhaps we cannot be happy and fulfilled—and
live in peace with each other despite our diversity – without
G-d, without a connection to our souls, without actualizing
the purpose of our being here on Earth.
And the fact that G-d often seems invisible means
that His very Essence is with us. Perhaps the time has come
for us to reveal our essence as well.