Written by the rabbi
Dedicated to the memory of
Simha bat Hana
Why does the first word in Vayikra end with an undersized aleph? Moshe, say the Sages, wanted the word to be written not "Vayikra" – with the aleph("And He called") but as "Vayikar"- without the aleph ("And He happened upon," as with Bilám in Bemidbar 23:4).
In his humility, Moshe did not want to write a word that suggested that Gd regularly called to him. He wanted to appear as merely an occasional recipient of Gd’s call – Vayikar. When Gd insisted that the aleph be included, Moshe inserted the aleph, but he made it smaller than the rest of the word.
None of us is a Moshe, but each of us is bidden to hear the call of Gd embedded within His Torah. We might think –might even wish! – that this call is only occasional - Vayikar . Not so. Gd calls us through Vayikra - with a healthy, full-sized aleph.
Gd has provided us with special listening devices to enable us to hear His call. Through Torah study we can enter, however tentatively, the Divine Mind of Gd. Through prayer, we enable Gd to enter into our hearts and souls. Gemilut chasadim, deeds of kindness, is another "hearing aid" by which the echo of Gd resounds in our actions. And each of the 613 mitzvot constitutes a distinctive modality of Gd’s call. Together they combine to make us the recipients of Gd’s full Vayikra.
Gd can be heard anywhere, but primarily on the soil of Eretz Yisrael is His call heard most clearly, minus the foreign static that is endemic to the Diaspora. Although Israel is often cacophonous, one can hear the call of Gd here as in no other place.
In this Land, it is Vayikra, not Vayikar.
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman, retired editor of Tradition and formerly rabbi in Atlanta, has just published his eighth book, "Biblical Questions, Spiritual Journeys."
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