VOLUME 60 NUMBER 1
MARCH 23, 2012
ADAR 29, 5772
Candle-lighting Time: 6:57 PM
This week’s Sparks of Torah is dedicated in memory of Hinda Lapkoff, mother of Hedy Gurrentz, who passed away this week. May her soul be bound in the bonds of eternal life.
By Rabbi Raphael Leban
As a short person, I have always been fond of the old adage that says, “Good things come in small packages.” This week I see that Moshe agreed with me. And he wasn’t even short.
As we begin the book of Vayikra this week, otherwise known as the Book of Leviticus, we’ll notice something unusual about the way the first word of the book is written. The last letter of the word vayikra, which means, ‘and He called,’ is written very small. Whenever the written Torah scroll has something out of the ordinary like this, it’s meant to teach us something, and this little aleph is hinting at the following beautiful idea.
The word vayikra could also be written vayikar, without any aleph at all. In fact, it is written that way when G-d called to the prophet Bilaam in the Book of Numbers. The difference is in connotation. Without the aleph, the word is related to the word keri, which has quite negative connotations. With the aleph, however, it’s polite and even respectful.
When Moshe was transcribing the Torah and he came to write the first word of the Book of Leviticus, he wrote vayikar, “And [G-d] called [to Moshe]” without the aleph. G-d told him to write it with an aleph, a sign of Moshe’s honor. Out of his tremendous humility, however, Moshe wrote it small. Thus the small aleph.
Aside from the lesson of Moshe’s humility, I think there is another jewel to be gleaned from the story. As Rashi tells us, every time G-d spoke to Moshe, He first called him like this, in a loving, respectful way.
Think about it for a moment. G-d is giving Moshe the commandments. He is telling him what to do. Yet every time He does so, He prefaces His remarks with a kind word of respect. What a way to speak to someone! A child, a student, a roommate, an employee, a spouse, a colleague, or even a guy on the corner of Speer Blvd. holding a used pizza box.
It’s a pretty big lesson. So big, in fact, that the whole Book of Leviticus is named for this word. Not bad for a little aleph.
Covered, But Transparent
By Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum
Netziv points out that we find two contradictory meanings conveyed by the fact that Moshe was called by Hashem, indicated by the word, ‘vayikra’. On the one hand, Rashi explains that this ‘calling’ implied that Moshe was, of course, beloved to Hashem and that he was summoning him in an endearing manner. Furthermore, at the end of last week’s parsha, the Torah states that the cloud enveloped the Mishkan and Moshe was unable to enter. Therefore, Hashed called out to him, allowing him to enter. If Hashem regarded Moshe so highly, he would not have required permission to come into the Mishkan.
S’fas Emes notes a most interesting aspect of Moshe’s entering the Mishkan. Of course, Moshe was the closest human being to Hashem that ever lived. However, can any flesh and blood individual truly approach the throne of the king? Can a mere mortal really draw near to Hashem and serve Him? The true answer is that we are ultimately incapable of such an act. However, Hashem reached out to Moshe and beckoned to him to come into the Mishkan. Indeed, both statements are compatible and one reveals the meaning of the other.
Another Midrash gives us further insight into the greatness of Moshe. Moshe constantly avoided the limelight. When Hashem told Moshe to go to Pharaoh and seek the release of the nation, he refused on the grounds that he was unworthy of the task. Rather, his brother Ahron better deserved the honor to lead the people out of bondage and be their mentor. However, the very fact of Moshe’s denial was the reason that Hashem chose him to serve as the liaison between Himself and the nation. Even after Hashem selected him he later decided not to continue in this capacity. Again Hashem had to coax him to resume his task and not to vacate his post. His greatness is further illustrated by yet another Midrash, that Moshe oversaw the entire construction of the Mishkan from the very beginning to the end. He didn’t overlook even one detail in its building. He deserved full credit for a job well down. Yet, when it came time to enter this beautifully crafted structure, he refrained from doing so. He was fearful that he did not merit encountering Hashem.
We must remember the broader context of Moshe’s fear about entering the Mishkan. He had already spoken with Hashem numerous times. Therefore, it seems odd that he should be uncomfortable to enter and again convene with Hashem. However, we must also realize that Hashem had enclosed the Mishkan with a cloud cover and this convinced Moshe that he was not welcome to enter. Therefore Hashem informed Moshe that not only was he to enter, but, on the contrary, he belonged with Hashem within the cloud itself. The cloud signified that Hashem’s presence pervaded the Mishkan and suffused it with its ethereal essence. Moshe was remarkable in the sense that he represented the full extent of transcendent connection that a human being can attain in this world. The rays of light that shone from his face testified to this special nature and singular dimension.
It is within this framework that we are introduced to the concept of the sacrificial order of the Mishkan. Our process of offering animals to Hashem, unlike the heathen genre of abuse and sheer slaughter of animals, is defined by our use of the Hebrew word ‘korban,’ alluding to the idea of man moving towards Hashem. The entire notion of our religion is rooted in the understanding that everything that we do is to identify intimately with our Creator. It is with this transcendent prologue that we enter the confines of the Mishkan.
Byte for Shabbos
The Midrash notes that our calendar follows the phases of the moon. The moon is the smaller of the two luminaries, symbolizing that Hashem has ‘diminished’ Himself in order to give us the opportunity to access Him.
Joke of the Week
Jewish male, 34, very successful, smart,
independent, self-made, looking for girl
whose father will hire me.