Vayikra ;To Beckon

Torah for the Portion of Vayikra, Leviticus 1:1–5:26:
Moshe Kempinski
The book of Vayikra (Leviticus) is all about coming close in our relationship with Hashem. That is the source of the Hebrew word for the sacrifices (korbanot) described so extensively in this book of Vayikra. That word, Korban, is rooted in another Hebrew word KAROV, describing closeness.

In the midst of a sea of unknowns in our reality, G-d has always been the anchor and His Promises have always been the signpost. Yet even those who attempt to walk in faith are left at times in a deep quandary. G-d is infinite and beyond comprehension .We are after all, finite and of limited understanding. How can the finite relate to the Infinite? How can the finite offer thanks and prayer to He who is truly beyond understanding?

The idea that man can come close to G-d in prayer and relationship seems to be inherently impossible.

As we are told; For Hashem your G-d is a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24).

Yet that coming close is an ancient and deep yearning that has moved the hearts of mankind since the beginning of time. That conflict between hesitancy and yearning can best be seen with Moshe, the man closest to G-d, and his approach into the tent of meeting.

At the end of the book of Exodus we read;

And the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the Mishkan.Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud rested upon it and the glory of the Lord filled the Mishkan. (Exodus 40: 34-35)

It is then in our Torah Portion that G-d lovingly invites Moshe in;

And He called ( VaYikra) to Moses, and Hashem spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying, ( Leviticus 1:1)

Rashi, the great commentator, explains that every time Hashem communicates with Moshe we read the words VaYomer (And He said) or VaYidaber( And he spoke) or Vayitzav ( And He commanded) .

The use of the word Vayikra (and He Called) implies a statement of endearment. This is how it is used when the ministering angels address each other in the Book of Isaiah :;“And one called (VeKarah) to the other…” (Isaiah 6:3).

As we have explored in a previous article, the word Vayikra (and He Called) is written in such a way that the final letter Aleph is shrunken in size. Our sages explain the 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”. By so doing, Moshe minimized the incredible fact that Moshe , out of all the human beings on the earth, was called in by G-d. It was Moshe’s humility, symbolized by that shrunken Aleph that made him a vessel worthy of the encounter.

On the other hand, Rabbi Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl, sees in the shrunken Aleph as a “hint” pointing in the other direction. The verse describing Hashem calling Moshe to enter the sanctuary does not use Hashem’s name. It simply says “and He called”. The “Chernobler” describes the Aleph as referring to Alufo Shel Olam ( the Chief of the Universe). The Aleph is used in such a way to teach us that in order to allow finite mortals to enter into dialog with the Infinite, G-d achieves a type of contraction ( a Kabbalistic concept, tzimtzum) so that He makes room for us to enter.

This restriction is not an actual constriction because Infinite is always infinite. Yet the perception of Hashem’s relationship ( the Hanhaga) with the world is what goes through this constriction and allows the mortal to feel empowered to enter into the realm of relationship with the Divine.

Clearly the relationship of prayer and dialog is facilitated by man’s ability to be humbled, on the one hand and G-d’s desire to be gracious, on the other. This two- directional relationship is symbolized by the very structure of the letter Aleph.

The written letter Aleph is formed by three other letters. Two Yuds , top and bottom, and a Vav that connects them . The top Yud represents the Infinite G-d, while the lower one represents the mortal man of faith. The Vav which connects them is the letter that when added to a word connotes the word “and” and thereby helps form the relationship.

As a result we understand from this Aleph that that relationship with G-d is not only yearned for, it is in fact possible.

It is therefore no surprise then that when Hashem revealed His Will and Torah at Mount Sinai to His people and subsequently to the whole world, the first letter He uttered was an Aleph.

Lerefuat yehudit bat golda Yocheved and Avraham Yitzchak ben Rochel Leah

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