Sefer Bereshis contains twelve parshiyos (Torah portions) and 1,534
If your rebbi or morah were to give you and your classmates the task of
summarizing the entire Sefer Bereshis in two sentences or less, how would
you depict it? How would you describe Sefer Shmos? Or Vayikrah?
It would stand to reason that each sefer in the Torah must have its own
distinct theme. After all, there is a blank space of four complete lines
in the Sefer Torah separating each of the chumashim from each other. This
space would seem to indicate the conclusion of a complete unit and the
beginning of the next one.
Taken one step further, as we read the weekly portions throughout the year
and ‘grow’ with the parsha of each week, it is incumbant on us to
ask, “What are some of the messages that we ought to internalize as we
transition from the weeks of Shmos to Vayikrah?”
While our two sentences would probably differ as to our individual writing
styles, I think that we would all agree that Sefer Bereshis is about our
roots. In it, we read about the creation of the world and the sins of the
first twenty generations of humankind. The Torah describes the lives and
times of our forefathers and mothers, our Avos and Imahos, and the events
that unfolded during their lifetimes.
Shemos focuses on the development of the B’nei Yisroel into a nation in
the crucible of Egypt. We suffered through exile, and once freed, accepted
the Torah and built the Mishkan and its utensils.
Vayikrah begins as Moshe and the kohanim are called upon by Hashem to
serve Him in the newly inaugurated Mishkan.
THE PARSHIYOS OF OUR LIVES
I often think of a person’s lifetime as a microcosm of the Sefer Torah.
We begin with our Bereshis phase, as we are born/created, and are given
our family values by our parents and grandparents. We then go through the
exile of early adolescence as we slowly disengage from our families and
form our own unique identities. During this time, we build our own kelim
(utensils); the various skill sets that we will need to lead productive
and meaningful lives.
Then, in our late teens and early twenties comes the Vayikrah of our
lives – as we answer the call of Hashem and embark on the path that will
hopefully take us to our goal of finding our life’s mission.
We all have unique talents that can and should be used to enrich our lives
and contribute to our communities. And although these qualities may not be
self-evident during our formative years, we need to explore our inner
selves and search for them.
WHAT IS YOUR SENTENCE?
A great historian once remarked that thirty years after people retire from
public life, their legacy becomes reduced to just one sentence. During
their tenure in office, thousands of articles and billions of words may
have been written about them in newspapers and magazines around the world.
But one generation later, all we remember is a short sound bite. Roosevelt
won the War. Truman dropped the Bomb. Nixon resigned, and got embroiled in
So it is with each of us. During our lives, each of the events of our
daily lives seem so important at the time. But as we reach the Devarim of
our lives, our senior years, we will look back and summarize what we have
done in several sentences. ‘Devoted mother’. ‘Wonderful husband’. ‘A real
mentch’. ‘Helped build the local yeshiva’.
What will your sentence be?
The founder of Chassidus, the great Baal Shem Tov commented on the gemorah
(Chagigah 15a) that states that each person hears a Heavenly voice each
day that encourages him to find spirituality. He asked how this is so,
when none of us seem to hear this Bas Kol? He explained that quite often,
at some point each day, we get an impulse to better our lives and devote
ourselves to the greater good. This, he explained, is that gift from
Hashem, the call to serve Him and enrich our lives.
As you read the parsha of Vayikrah, and pass through your teen years, may
I offer each of you, my readers, my sincere bracha: that you hear – and
answer – His call and find your mission in life.
Rabbi Horowitz is the founder and dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam in Monsey, NY, as well as the founder and Program Director of Agudath Israel's Project Y.E.S. (Youth Enrichment Services), which helps at-risk teens and their parents. He is a popular lecturer on teaching and parenting topics in communities around the world, and is the author of several best-selling parenting tape and CD sets. For more information on Rabbi Horowitz's parenting tapes, visit http://www.rabbihorowitz.com/ or call 845-352-7100 X 133.