The Shrinking Aleph and Amalek

The book of VaYikra begins with a mystery. The verse reads “And He called to Moses, and HaShem spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying, (Leviticus 1:1). The word VaYikra (and He called) ends with the letter “Aleph “that is shrunken in size.

Our sages explain that small “Aleph” with a Midrash that points to Moshe’s trait of humility.

It explains that as Moshe wrote down the torah, he wanted to minimize his own importance. He shrunk the letter aleph so as to minimize the fact that G-d called out to him. By shrinking the letter “Aleph”, the word VaYikra seems to be read as VaYikar which is translated as “happened upon”.  We see the use of the word VaYikar to describe      G-d’s encounter with Bilaam; “God happened ( VAYIKAR) upon Balaam, and he said to Him, “I have set up the seven altars, and I have offered up a bull and a ram on each altar.”

Moshe tried to minimize himself and in essence it was exactly that mixture of humility, awe and reverence that prompted HaShem to call out to him.

Yet I sense that there is more to this small Aleph. The Aleph is one of the Divine letters representing G-d’s Presence. The sages related it to the word Aluf or Master .The letter is formed from three letters. Two Yuds (each Yud represents the number 10) and a Vav that connects them (The numerical equivalent of Vav is 6) the form of its letter speaks of a link between the upper and lower world, the heavens and the earth. The numerical equivalent of its parts is 10 + 10 + 6 =26. The number 26 is the value of the name of HaShem

There is another mysterious Aleph that in fact hearkens to this month of Adar .It is in fact a missing “Aleph”. The Torah tells us to remember forever the deeds of one nation:

“Remember what Amalek did unto you by the way as you came forth out of Egypt; how he happened upon you (karcha) by the way, and smote the hindmost of you, all those who were stragglers, when you were faint and weary; and not God-fearing.”(Deuteronomy 25:17)

They could not have happened upon them — Amalek lived very far from the Israelite camp. Rashi explains that the word for “happened upon you,” karcha, comes from the root of mikreh, or happenstance. Reb Tzadok HaCohen explains that “the whole essence of Amalek is random happenstance… and as it is written ‘how they happened [Asher karcha] upon you’: since Amalek attributes all things to random chance.”

That is the reason that Amalek attacked the Israelites immediately after the miraculous exodus from Egypt. They wanted to undo the impact of the Exodus and cloud over its message that the world was being ruled with Divine purpose. That is also the reason the descendant of Amalek, Haman, decided to throw lots to determine the date of the Jewish people’s destruction, rather than destroying them the moment he had the chance. It was more important for him to solidify the belief in random happenstance when confronting the Jew than it was to eradicate the Jew immediately.

As a result of Amalek’s attack we read of an ominous and dramatic declaration:

“And HaShem said unto Moshe: ‘Write this for a memorial in the book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. ‘And Moshe built an altar… And he said: ‘the hand upon the throne of HaShem: HaShem will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.’”   (Exodus 17:14-16)

Moshe is saying that “: the hand (of Amalek is) upon the throne of HaShem” and the word for throne (Kiseh spelled Chaf Samech Aleph) is written without the Aleph and is pronounced here as Kes. The “Aleph” of G-d’s throne is missing.

Amalek’s mission of sowing confusion and doubt in the world is essentially an attempt to hide HaShem’s rulership in the world.

The Tzror Hamor written by Rabbi Avraham Sabba one of the persecuted and expelled Jews of Spain explains that “the call to Moshe came from the Aleph of the Divine name of EhYeh (I Will Be)”.He understood from his own bitter experience the eternal attempts of Amalek to blot out HaShem and His people .When Moshe made his “Aleph” smaller it allowed for the “Aleph” of HaShem to be perceived in a much more tangible way. Amalek throughout the ages will continue to try to erase the Aleph of HaShem’s rule in the world. Moshe in the wilderness, Mordechai and Esther in Shushan, and all of their descendents since, strive with humility, awe and determination to ensure its constant revelation.

3 thoughts on “The Shrinking Aleph and Amalek”

  1. I find some problems with this opinion which might be considered. The Alef in Moses time, three lettter generations prior to Modern block style, Alef was a picture of a Bull’s Head with horns. There were no two Yuds and a Vav to derive a number 26 from.
    Second and most important, the casting of lots is the act of faith supported by scriptures that there are no “happen stance” with those in covenant. Proverbs 16:33 .”The lot is cast into the lap, but the decision is wholly HaShem’s”
    Casting of lots appears over 20 times throughout the scriptures and is distinctly a declaration of faith that the answer is HasShem’s. There is no such thing as luck or happen stance for those in covenant with Him.
    With Love

  2. Thank you Nathan
    actually we believe that this Aleph did exist in Moshe’s time and the ancient script was used in common writing but that what we know as modern script called Ashurit ( that is not Ashurit from Ashur or Babylon , but ashur as as beautiful) was used for all holy writings( note the writing if G-d’s name in archeological finds)

    You are right about lots…it is all about the intention…that was what waswrong with Haman’s lots as opposed to the one used in the temple..Whom do you ascribe the choice is the essential difference

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