VAYIKRA (Leviticus, 1:1-5:26) — “Who, Me??!!”

PARSHAS HACHODESH (Exodus, 12:1-20)

 This Shabbos will be a very busy one in the synagogues of the world.  As is done every regular Saturday, we will read the weekly Torah Portion. (Actually, Torah Portions – We will also read the Torah section for Rosh Chodesh — the First of the month.)  Then we will continue preparing ourselves for Passover by reading the Torah Portion that announces the advent of the Month of Nissan, the first month of the Jewish year.  (See “Nissan Maximum” and “Double Dating”.)

VAYIKRA (Leviticus, 1:1-5:26) — “Who, Me??!!”

Life isn’t easy.  There are 613 Commandments in the Torah.  There’s no way we can come close to fulfilling them all.

G-d has great expectations of us.  But are they realistic?

We are not holy people; we’re just people.  We go to work and try to pay our mortgages.  We try to educate our children and keep them out of trouble.  There is so much going on in our lives. How can we possibly be expected to fulfill all the complex laws of the Torah?  The Sabbath!  Kosher Laws!  All the prayers!  How could we do it all?  Why should we even try?

“You shall be to Me a kingdom of Priests and a holy nation…” (Exodus, 19:6)

Who, me??  Kingdom of Priests??  Holy nation??  He can’t be talking to ME!!

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Take a peek at a Torah scroll that is open to this week’s portion and you will see what looks like a typographical error.  The first word of the Book of Leviticus has one letter that is noticeably smaller than the rest.  The last letter of the word “Vayikra,” the letter Alephis written in a smaller “font” than the rest of the word. 

      

It seems, according to the Baal Haturim, that Moses objected to the use of the word “Vayikra” – “and He (G-d) called” (to Moses).  Moses preferred to write the word “Vayikar,” without the letter Aleph

The difference between the two words is that Vayikra (literally, “and He called“) is a word that is used describing the summoning of a distinguished person, while Vayikar (literally, “and He happened upon“) is used to describe a conversation with a lesser individual.  (When G-d calls to the wicked Balaam in Numbers 23:16, the Torah uses the word Vayikar.) 

While dictating the Torah to Moses, G-d would tell Moses what to write and Moses would write it.  When they reached Leviticus, 1:1, G-d told him to write “Vayikra” with an Aleph, a phrase that clearly demonstrated the great esteem in which He held Moses.  Moses, in his humility, requested that G-d allow him to delete the Aleph.  He preferred to replace the dignified expression with the more informal phrase “Vayikar.”  G-d refused to compromise the honor of Moses and insisted that the Aleph remain.  Moses demonstrated his reluctance to accept that honor by writing the word “Vayikra,” with an Aleph, but with a smaller and less significant Aleph.

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Moses thought himself to be insignificant; not worthy of special recognition.  He felt that he should be addressed informally, as a commoner.  G-d wouldn’t hear of it.

Rabbi Akiva used to say: “Beloved is Man, for he was created in G-d’s Image; an even greater act of love  is that it was made known to Man the he was created in G-d’s Image, as it is said:  For G-d made Man in His Image.” (Genesis, 9:6)

                                                                                         — Avos, 3:19

In the quote above from Rabbi Akiva, he is explaining that G-d made it a point to TELL us how special we are so that we will know how much we can accomplish.

It would be easy to delude ourselves into thinking that we are so far removed from people like Abraham and Moses, that there is no point in even trying. 

I can’t keep the whole Torah; it is far too vast.  It is far too holy.  I am not so righteous.

Rabbi Shimon tells us “…do not judge yourself to be a wicked person.” (Ibid, 2:18)

In some ways, it would be easier for us if we were wicked.  Wicked people don’t do Mitzvahs.  There is not point.  They are too far gone.

This is not a Jewish concept.  In fact, it’s a Christian one!  Christianity maintains that since you are not perfect, you are condemned to fail.  You may as well not bother trying to fulfill the Mitzvahs of the Torah.

This couldn’t be farther from the truth.  The Torah tells us how great we are.  We are created in G-d’s Image!

Moses saw himself as insignificant; not worthy of G-d”s attention.  “No!” said G-d.  You are great!  You are G-dly!”

So am I.  And so are you.

No, I’m not a Moses.  But I am I.  And I am created in G-d’s Image.  I can do Mitzvahs.  Maybe I can’t succeed at them all, but that doesn’t exempt me from doing whatever I am able to do. I can study Torah.  I may not become a master of all of Jewish knowledge, but every day that I learn, I know more than I did the day before. 

I can focus on the fact that just as I am a potentially holy person with G-d’s image, so are you!!  And that requires me to revere the G-dliness in both of us!

The little Aleph in the word Vayikra teaches us that sometimes we don’t see our own potential greatness.  It takes a reminder from G-d.

Now that we’ve been reminded, let’s go out there and be great.   Humble, like Moses, and great.

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

(For a different perspective on the small Aleph and Moses’ preference of wording, see “Little Big Man.”)

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 FROM THE ARCHIVES

 “Where’s The Beef?” (2010)

 …Leviticus is a vegetarian’s nightmare.  …  Do we, the civilized Jews of the 21st century really expect to return to the antiquated cult of animal sacrifice?! Can you see it… Jackie Mason… slaughtering bulls on the Temple Mount? Meanwhile, Paul McCartney and the animal rights crowd will be protesting outside!  🙂 And should we really be burning all that meat?  Is G-d THAT hungry?  Why not send it to a homeless shelter??! :-)… The interesting thing about animal sacrifice is that there is no such thing…

Read more.

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“Bringing G-d Home” (2008)

 He called to Moses, and G-d spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting…  (Leviticus, 1:1)

 The grammar of this verse is problematic – “He called to Moses.”  WHO called to Moses?  Obviously, as we see at the end of the verse, it was G-d who called him.  Wouldn’t the verse be clearer if it said, “G-d called to Moses, and He spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting”?…  G-d… “shrank Himself” … 

Read more.

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“Keeping Score” (2006) 

I try to write a new Torah Talk message every week…I was planning to write a new message this week.  As you will soon see, I have good reason to send this message, from three years ago, once again. 

Last Shabbos, my family enjoyed the pleasure of hosting a couple whom we have known for many years…  As we sat at the table Friday night, I told them a story about a former student of mine.  I didn’t recall at the time that I had written up the story in Torah Talk, and I certainly didn’t realize that it was written in reference to this week’s Torah Portion. But I was totally unprepared for what met me on Sunday morning…

Read more.

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“Dehydrated Water” (2005)

… Salt is a preservative.  Before the days of refrigeration, they used to preserve meats by salting them.  A well-salted side of beef could last for months without being refrigerated.

Why would you want to preserve foods that are being “consumed” by G-d on the Altar?  If they’re being “eaten” right away, they won’t have time to spoil!  If you cook something and eat it immediately, there is no reason to keep it fresh by putting it in the Fridge!…

Read more.

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“Hey, YOU!” (2004)

… Did you ever send someone a well thought-out message by email?  A little while later, we receive the response — a short, terse, copy of our comments with a two-or-three word response.  No “hello,” no “good-bye,” just the proclamation from on high!…

Read more.

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“Little Big Man” (2001)

They say out there that Jews have horns.  Even Michelangelo thought so – you remember his famous statue of Moses with horns.  Where’d he get that crazy notion? …

Read more.

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 This is the weekly message at www.torahtalk.org.   Copyright © 2000-2012 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

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Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (www.Brisrabbi.com)  and chaplain in Monsey, New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

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Published on March 22, 2012 at 6:18 pm  Comments (1)  

One CommentLeave a comment

  1. “There are 613 Commandments in the Torah. There’s no way we can come close to fulfilling them all.”

    It is mathematically impossible for any one person to fulfill all the 613 Commandments. Aside from some being for a woman and some for a man, some only take place if you’ve transgressed another. For example, if you steal, you must pay back double.


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