This Shabbat we begin a new book of the Torah. Known commonly as Leviticus, in Hebrew it is known by its very first word, “Vayikra-And [God] called…”
God called out to Moses, not just because God wanted Moses’ attention, but rather because God was calling him to do something special and divinely inspired. It was part of Moses’ ongoing “calling.”
Many people of faith speak about tasks that they have felt called to do. I met a man at my Rotary Club meeting yesterday named Mike Walker. By trade and by his skills, he is an auto mechanic in San Pedro. However, for more than a decade he and his wife, Shirley, have felt called to help our troops. They run a threadbare non-profit called “Packages for Patriots.”
They collect donations from all over (candy, snack items, comfortable socks, money to help for postage; basically any item that is hard for a soldier on deployment to obtain) and send care packages to our troops. Each package usually provides for ten soldiers. Over the past ten years, they have sent more than 14,000 care packages. You do the math. He is a former Marine and felt the calling years ago to take care of our troops who are serving our country. He spoke of his deep and abiding faith, patriotism and civic responsibility that compels him to do this work. Mike Walker, and his wife Shirley, felt called by God, and by a higher sense of purpose and mission to help our troops.
In recent weeks, since the horrific school shooting in Parkland Florida, high school students have felt called to do something. It may be their sense of faith, civic responsibility, or an imperative to pursue justice that motivates them. Students are organizing events, meeting with elected officials, and this past Wednesday morning, all over the country, students staged school walk-outs for seventeen minutes to mark the seventeen lives lost during last month’s rampage.
We have discussed this wave of student activism in the Confirmation Department. Teen leaders from NFTY (the National Reform Movement’s Youth Group) are taking the lead in mobilizing students to speak about gun violence prevention. Read this inspiring blog post
by Zoe Turner and Noah Feinberg, both South Florida high school students and NFTY leaders. Students all over the country are becoming advocates for school safety and gun violence prevention.
I am responding to their call, letting #TeensTaketheBimah. Tonight, four of our students will speak briefly about their experiences participating in the walk-out earlier this week and I hope next month to have another student speak in greater depth about the work he has been doing to respond to this call to increase school safety and reduce gun violence.
Vayikra is a book about calling. What are you called to do? What will stir you into action? What will you do to respond?
Join us tonight at 6:30 and be inspired by our teens who are called, who are doing something powerful and important to make a difference in our world.