We all live with numerous insights on ‘calling’. Haven’t we grown up with the complex question—“what do you want to do when you grow up” or, the habitually asked one, “are you ‘full-time’ or ‘part-time’ in ministry?” I was intrigued by the Rabbinic usage of a Hebrew word—Vayikra – a word that is often used for ‘calling’.
The teachers of Torah compare the ‘calling’ of Moses and Balaam. For example, in Leviticus 1:1, we read: “Vayikra el Moshe,” (“And He [God] called to Moses”). The second word, Vayikar is about Balaam, as in Numbers 23:4, “Vayikar Elokim el Bilam” (“And God was met by Balaam”). The distinction is made as Moses hears the “call” (vayikra) of God while Balaam happens (vayikar) to meet Him casually. There is only a minor difference by a Hebrew letter ‘aleph’ in these two words showing two different attitudes to their ‘calling’. “Call” to Moses, vayikra is meant to represent “the language of love and inspiration”, whereas the attitude of Balaam, vayikar connotes “the language of casualness and temporariness”.
For rabbis, vayikra (calling) and vayikar (luck) refer to how one approaches and deliberates his attitude to the significant events of life.
Calling is not a mere accident. The difference they would refer is that Balaam, the man of vayikar encounters God, but walks as if he had just stubbed his toe against an unseen rock, and goes on his jolly way—unbothered and passive. Moses, however, the man of vayikra undergoes the same experience as did Balaam—the meeting with God— but he considers of it not as a mere accident, but as a call, as a challenge brought to him from God, as a call to action and an opportunity.
Calling is an urge. It is the language of inspiration as against the example of casualness and impermanence. The man of vayikra, the Moses type, see all of life as a divinely given opportunity for self-development and service. He or she will regard the significant events of existence as a challenge to which he or she must act, a call that he or she needs to answer. The whole life becomes a dynamic and inspiring series of opportunities which can be grabbed and developed. However, the person of vayikar, the Balaam type, who views existence and all of life as a mere chance and accident, to him, life will remain as events never meant for him, and hence no urge for an answer. The great occasions of life will slip by him—he will never view them as opportunities and, therefore, never take advantage of them.
Calling is a life worth living. Vayikra provides us with a major distinction as to whether life is worth living or as to whether our existence is ever meaningful. Life is sometimes painful, and often it seems that most of it is a lingering agony—life can still be attractive, and it can be meaningful. Life still retains its inner worth. If, however, our attitude is one of vayikar, that it is all a matter of chance, then all of life is horrible or cruel. If that is our attitude to life, then even good events happen to us, it will have no lasting value.
It is only that little aleph (Hebrew alphabet), that seemingly little distinction between vayikra and vayikar, that will make all the difference in the world. In our lives, we can either let life subject to blind chance— vayikar—or accept it as a personal challenge and opportunity—vayikra. How do you consider your calling? What are the factors that make us devout to our call or to be casual about it? As you read this issue, we let you see how we ‘consider’ our calling.