Parshas Vayikra begins a sefer full of mitzvos, commands from Hashem to Moshe to relay to the Jewish people. Instead of opening directly with the first mitzvah though, there is a seemingly superfluous phrase. The Parsha begins, וַיִּקְרָ֖א אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֑ה וַיְדַבֵּ֤ר ה֙' אֵלָ֔יו, "And He called to Moshe, and Hashem spoke to him." Why did Hashem call to Moshe before speaking with him? The Parshah could have opened with "And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying..." as the Torah says over and over in other places. The answer to this question reveals a magnificent insight for parents, teachers, and leaders of all types.
Before Hashem commanded any of the mitzvos to Bnai Yisrael through Moshe, He always preceded the instruction with a “calling”, a kriah. This calling by name, "Moshe, Moshe," is a verbal expression of affection and love. In the beginning of this new Sefer, when Hashem spoke to Moshe for the first time from the newly constructed Mishkan, we find this extra calling explicitly included to let us know that every time Hashem spoke to Moshe, He first called to him with love.
Aside from being an expression of Hashem's love for us, this phrase teaches an important principle for mothers. Hashem is modeling to us how to deliver instructions to our children. First connect. Then direct.
Imagine a family of small children playing on a playground. The kids are totally involved and focused on their games and activities, and their mother is totally focused on her friends or her phone. Suddenly she looks at her watch, realizes that it’s dinnertime, and calls to her kids, “Children! Come off the playset now. It’s time to go home.” More often than not, she won't succeed. But now picture the alternative. The children are playing on the playset, totally engrossed in their activities. The mother may be talking to her friends, but she is watching her children, making eye contact, smiling at them, and being generally responsive to them. The mother looks at her watch, sees it’s time to go, but before giving the command, she walks over to her children, looks them in the eyes, calls each one by name, and connects with love. Maybe she takes a moment to ask them if they’re having fun, or what their favorite activity was, or maybe she shares with them what she noticed them doing that looked like fun. After 15 seconds of connection she says the exact same thing as the first mother. “Children! It’s time to go home.” If you can’t imagine the difference I encourage you to try it. Children who have been collected by their mother emotionally with warmth and love, are ready to be instructed and directed, and they respond naturally and positively to that direction.
This is what we learn from the very first sentence in Sefer Vayikra. Before Hashem spoke to Moshe with an instruction, He always began with calling him with love and connection. This tool is a powerful strategy for parents. Before asking a child to do something, take an extra minute to make eye contact, smile, and express affection. You may think this will take too much time, but it actually saves time, because a child so instructed, is usually happy to run and obey his parent right away.
Has this worked for you? Please share your experiences in the comments!