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Weekly Chizuk

Parshas Vayikra

A Small Aleph Makes a Big Person

(Adapted from Ha'aros by Moreinu HaRav Zeidel Epstein, zt"l, Mashgiach of Torah Ore)

And Hashem called out to Moshe and spoke to him.

The first word in Sefer Vayikra is ויקרא. The Ba'al HaTurim points out that the letter aleph - א - in the sefer Torah is purposely made small. This is so that it should read Vayikar ויקר which means "happened." It is as if the possuk read "And Hashem happened upon Moshe and spoke to him." This is the way the Torah describes Bilaam's prophecy, a chance occurrence. It seems that Hakadosh Baruch Hu told Moshe to write the word vayikra and he wrote a small "א" so it should read vayikar. He didn't want to make himself look so important that Hashem singled him out to call him. It just happened.

What is happening here? If Hakadosh Baruch Hu told him to write the entire word vayikra why should Moshe Rabbeinu do differently? Hashem didn't tell him to shrink the א. It must be that Hashem never told him the size of the aleph, small or large. Therefore Moshe felt he had license to diminish the size of the aleph. Now, however, we have to understand why Hashem agreed to this and let him write a small aleph. The aleph is part of the word vayikra and is a letter of the sefer Torah just like all the other letters. It should have been written the same size as all the rest.

Another issue that we have to deal with is the choice of the word vayikra - and He called. Rashi is bothered by this word; all other places in the Torah it states "and He said," "and He spoke" - ויאמר, וידבר. Rashi explains that the word "and He called" describes how Hakadosh Baruch Hu always spoke to Moshe Rabbeinu. Every time He spoke or gave Moshe a command it was preceded by a call. This shows endearment. "Calling" - kriah קריאה - is the language used by the Malachim, as we say in Kedusha: "And each one (angel) calls out to the other…" וקרא זה אל זה ואמר. However, with the prophets of the nations Hakadosh Baruch revealed Himself using terminology of accident and tumah: ויקר אלקים אל בלעם "And Hashem occurred (happened upon) to Bilaam.

"Calling" is not merely calling someone to come over and meet me in a certain place. It is a language of endearment and love. The Angels use this language when talking to each other. It signifies that we want to unite and be together as one. The word "happened upon" ויקר has nothing to do with me; it doesn't touch me, it doesn't reflect my being. It was merely an accidental occurrence. Accidental coincidence brought us together and made it happen. But we ourselves are insignificant and therefore the word vayikar reflects disgrace and tumah - defilement.

Moshe Rabbeinu, in spite of his great humility, knew exactly who he was. He was the leader of Klal Yisroel, the unique individual who had received the Torah directly from Hashem to teach it to the Jewish nation. However, he knew that he was not worthy of his eminence due to his own merit. He had been chosen by Hakadosh Baruch Hu and granted the gift of greatness. He couldn't find it within himself to write "and He called" - ויקרא - with a normal sized aleph. This would have had a connotation of pride; an acknowledgment of his own self-importance. Instead he wanted to write vayikar ויקר - a chance occurrence - equating himself with Bilaam. This prophecy has nothing to do with me; it's not me; I'm not important. It was merely a Heavenly gift that Hashem Yisborach spoke to me and told me to write this. Hashem said to him, if you skip the aleph then the sefer Torah will be deficient, and Moshe Rabbeinu himself will be imperfect because it will reflect a false portrayal of the Rebbe of Klal Yisroel. He really was worthy of prophecy in his own right; he had greatness within him. He was truly so attached to Divinity and the spiritual he was united with Hakadosh Baruch Hu with every term possible denoting intimacy and endearment. However Hashem left a little room for variation: He didn't command how large the aleph should be. And so Moshe wrote a small aleph. And this truly reflects Moshe's greatness: he really felt that he wasn't worthy of anything he had. The small aleph is the greatness of Moshe Rabbeinu. If he would have written a large aleph it would have connoted that this was normal, this was the way it is supposed to be - of course the Ribono Shel Olam calls me. This would have been a contradiction to his marvelous humility, and so he wrote a small aleph.

This necessity to write a small aleph should be a lesson to us all. Each one of us must recognize our own intrinsic greatness and importance: and consequently our obligation to fulfill our vital role in life. However, we have to know, we have to fully internalize that everything we have, all of our talents, are merely gifts from above from the Master Creator of the Universe.

Moshe Rabbeinu wrote every word in the Torah. As the sefer Torah comes to its closing lines, Moshe wrote, "and the man Moshe was exceedingly humble." Certainly Moshe believed this statement, it is an explicit possuk in the Torah. However, it didn't arouse within him any sense of arrogance or conceit. It was merely a statement from Hashem Yisborach. It was a Heavenly gift of which he was unworthy. It had nothing to do with him. Yet, in spite of his humility in his own eyes, he was head of the entire Klal Yisroel. His prominence and position demanded him to conduct himself accordingly. This is the lesson to us. Recognize your greatness, your importance and all the wonderful talents and gifts within yourself. But recognize them for what they really are: gifts from Above in order to grow. The smaller the aleph, the greater you are, and the greater is your role and obligation in life.

* * *

The Ba'al HaTanya, Rebbe Schneur Zalman of Liadi, was a talmid of the Maggid of Mezritch. One night, Rebbe Schneur Zalman knocked on the Maggid's door.

"Who's there?" asked the Maggid.

"It is I," said Rebbe Schneur Zalman.

"Who?" Rebbe Dov Ber repeated.

"It is I," Rebbe Schneur Zalman replied.

"Who?" the Maggid inquired again.

"Schneur Zalman," he answered. With that, he was finally admitted.

He entered the room and conversed with his Rebbe. The Maggid had a very strange request. The next day Rebbe Schneur Zalman was to go to a certain bris milah [circumcision] held in a nearby village. Rav Shneur Zalman didn't know the people, but since the Rebbe had told him, he went. When he arrived they saw his old and tattered clothing and assumed that he was a beggar. So they seated him at the end of the table.

After the seuda [festive meal] a silver spoon was found missing. The "beggar" was immediately suspected of theft. "Nu, give back the spoon, you thief!"

Denying the charge, he shouted, "It was not I!"

His accusers began to beat him. "It was not I," he repeated.

Eventually, one of the waiters, not able to continue witnessing the beating of an innocent pauper, admitted to taking the spoon, and Rebbe Schneur Zalman was exonerated. When he returned to Mezritch, the Maggid was waiting for him.

"How many times did you have to shout, 'Not I '?" he asked his astounded student.

"Two times you announced to me, 'It is I,' " he continued. " 'I ' is a term reserved for the Ribono Shel Olam. There is only One in the universe who may say 'I '. If we are aware of Hashem's presence, how can we, mere mortals, pride ourselves on being 'I '? We must strive for total bitul, self-effacement.

"Twice you called yourself 'I,' so two times you had to announce, 'It is not I.' "

Wishing Everyone A Gut Shabbos!

© Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
4 Panim Meirot, Jerusalem 94423 Israel
Tel: 732-858-1257
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop Lakewood).
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