Rachael’s Thoughts on Parshat Vayikra

This week, we start the third book of the Torah, ‘Vayikra’ (Leviticus).  God calls (‘vayikra’) to Moses.  But this first word of the book has a scribal anomaly: the last letter, an aleph, is written smaller than the other letters.  

Interestingly, the last book of the Hebrew Bible, Chronicles, starts with an aleph for the word Adam, but the aleph at the beginning of that word is larger than the other letters.  Two alephs, one smaller and one larger.

We notice that Adam, the first human being, and Moses, our greatest Jewish leader, appear to be presenting us with opposite views.  The Midrash tells us that the aleph is smaller when God calls Moses because Moses is very modest and wants people to think that God happens to speak to him, not that God seeks him out.  If we remove the aleph in ‘vayikra’ it would mean ‘it just happened to be’.  Moses accepts his role as leader but is personally very modest and does not want the attention.

On the other hand, Adam, who represents all of humanity, has an enlarged aleph in his name to show a stronger, less humble, more confident presentation.  When it comes to humanity, there may be a greater calling.

We need both to complete a portrait of Jewish response.  In our personal lives, we are taught to be modest.  Jewishly, modesty doesn’t mean we think less of ourselves, it means we think of ourselves less often.  But when it comes to looking beyond ourselves, looking at others, entering the picture of peoplehood and humanity, we are to remember Adam and the larger aleph.  We are to find our confident, stronger voices and unite them to promote peace and protect the innocent.

The two books, Vayikra and Chronicles, remind us of both the power we have to restrain ourselves and the power we have to speak loudly and change the world.

I’d like to wish everyone a sweet and peaceful Shabbat –our Jewish time to regroup, rest, and reinvigorate.

Shabbat shalom,