Parashat Vayikra/Purim

Dedicated in Honor of My Aishet Chayil Wife Jody Cohen

Parashat Vayikra/Purim

The Small Alef

This week’s parasha is Vayikra, the first parasha in the third book of the Chumash. It begins with the passuk: “He called [vayikra] to Moshe, and G-d spoke to him.” The word vayikra is written in the Torah with a small alef. The Baal Ha Turim explained that because of his profound humility, Moshe would have rather left out the alef, so that the Torah would sayvayikar, which means “He (Hashem) happened upon him.” This is a more deprecating term, similar to the terms used when Hashem spoke to Bilaam.

The commentaries note that at Har Sinai Hashem called Moshe several times. There the word vayikra appears without the small alef. What accounts for the difference?

Rabbi Twersky quotes Rav Yitzhak of Vorki, who says that sometimes a person may belittle himself and act humbly when he is in public. This is actually vanity, not humility, because he is trying to give others the impression that he’s humble.

When Hashem called out to Moshe at Sinai, it was in the presence of all of Klal Yisrael. If Moshe would have shown off his humility in front of everyone, he would have been flaunting his humility, which is an act of vanity. However, in this week’s parasha when Moshe was called to the ohel mo’ed, no one but Moshe heard the call from Hashem. Here the small alef shows that Moshe’s the expression of humility was genuine and sincere.

Another reason for the small alef is that the word alef actually means “learning.” The message of the small alef is that we can only learn when we are humble, for vanity is the opposite of learning. There are some very bright people who don’t learn much because they think that they already know everything. We have to know that the Torah was given on the lowest mountain to the most humble of all men, Moshe Rabenu. This was to teach us that in order to learn Torah (Hashem’s word), we have to be truly humble in the eyes of Hashem, and only in that way will we gain the true knowledge of Hashem’s holy Torah.

Our Sacrifices...

Vayikra begins the third book of the Chumash, the five books of Moshe Rabenu. The first two books concern the beginnings of the world and the building of the Jewish nation. The book of Vayikra now turns to the sacrifices that Hashem instructed the Israelites to bring to the Bet Hamikdash. We don’t have a Bet Hamikdash today, and until the Mashiah rebuilds it, we must remain without one. Therefore, we won’t be able bring sacrifices until that time.

However, we have been making other types of sacrifices in a different way since losing our Holy Temple. The Jewish people have been making sacrifices for centuries: They’ve been sacrificing their homes, their livelihoods, and even their lives for the sake of Hashem and for our holy Torah.

In Midrash Rabba our Sages tell us that Hashem says: “Listen to Me, because nobody ever loses by listening to Me.” A person is constantly faced with decisions. He can either chose to do what Hashem wants, or he can disobey Hashem and choose what appears to provide a bigger short term gain. Following Hashem is always a win-win. It may not always seem that way, but at some point, later on, the gain will become apparent.

Today we don't have Korbanot or burnt offerings to give on an alter as we did in the days of the Kohen Gadol and the Bet Hamikdash but we do have other kinds of sacrifices. We all make sacrifices today for our children...we sacrifice to give them a good education and upbringing. For our elderly parents, we sacrifice our time when they need us to help care for them. For our spouse, we sacrifice our time in many different ways as we're building a home together for our families.

Then there are personal sacrifices, for instance when someone decides to stop eating out in unkosher restaurants and make the sacrifice to only eat kosher out...that's a big sacrifice for many people. It may be a sacrifice to their social life with their friends that they've been with for many years. Maybe a woman will start to wear skirts or cover her hair and that's a big sacrifice for her because that's something that she never did before. Once you make a commitment like that, you want to stick to it. Its not easy to make any of these sacrifices and it comes with a lot of hesitation and fear of doing something that you hope to be able to continue. Its important that when we make a sacrifice, that we keep the commitment to stick to it so it will help us continue to grow. Rabbi Diamond always taught us, we're like a pot of water that's on the fire trying to boil and just as it starts to get hot, its taken off the fire before it actually reaches the boiling level. We have to constantly keep the fire burning inside of us if we want to continue to grow from one level to the next. We should never be afraid of growing because that's the reason we were put here for!

Its important to understand that with the sacrifices Hashem asks us to make, they are not for Him but only for us to grow closer to Him for our benefit. Hashem is looking for our heart to be in sync with Him. He doesn't want us to pray and practice our Judaism by rote and through routine lip service without any feeling. Rather, Hashem is looking for us to make a connection with Him for our benefit and nothing for Him. Rabbi Diamond also taught us not to think that we're doing Hashem a favor...He doesn't need us to do mitzvot for Him. Everything He asks us to do is only for us! Hashem is perfect and Omnipotent and needs nothing from us but we need everything from Hashem!

The Festival Of Purim

Now we're coming upon the days of the great and festive holiday of Purim. We are celebrating the great but hidden miracle when the Jewish people were spared from the decree of the evil Haman that wanted to kill all the Jews. We were saved by Hashem through the tremendous sacrifice that Queen Esther and Mordechai made on our behalf. We read in the Megilah every year how through Hashgacha Peratite, Hashem saved the Jewish people through Esther's fasting for 3 days and the sacrifices she took with Achashverosh on behalf of the Jewish nation.

On Purim we also have a custom of dressing up in different costumes because we were saved from Haman in a hidden way. Rabbi Twersky explains in his book on the chumash from Rabbi Levi Yitzchok on the holiday of Purim, that supernatural miracles, great as they may be, are of only a short duration. The salvation of B'nei Yisrael by the Ten plagues and the splitting of the Red Sea were open miracles witnessed by that generation only. We do not expect to see those types of open miracles today, however there are many hidden miracles that happen to all of us on a daily basis. The Megilat Esther tells the story of Purim as a series of miracles that Hashem orchestrated by pulling all the strings behind the scenes.

Every event that occurs in the story of Purim could be seen as a perfectly natural happening. "A king (Achashverosh) gets drunk and in his drunken rage executes his queen (Vashti). He then chooses a Jewess (Esther) through a beauty contest to be his new queen, concealing her true origin. Her uncle, (Mordechai) who is in the royal court, discovers a threat to assassinate the king and his new queen reports this to the king, saving his life. The anti-semetic prime minister (Haman) extracts a decree from the king to kill all the Jews in his kingdom. The king is then reminded about a Jew who saved his life. The queen then turns the kings wrath against the prime minister, who is executed. Then the queen reveals her true Jewish origin and her uncle is appointed as the new Prime Minister and the Jews are saved!" Not until the entire sequence of these events are strung together that one can see the guiding Hand of Hashem saving the Jewish nation.

We dress up and disguise ourselves in costumes because as stated above the whole story of Purim showed us how Hashem is protecting us and making miracles for us on a daily basis through 'Hashgacha Peratit'...Hiddenly. As a reminder of Hashem saving us so discreetly and by being hidden, we also dress up and hide ourselves through our masks and costumes. This is also the reason that Hashem's name is not mentioned in the entire Megilah but is written in a way where the first word on each page starts off with the word "Melech" which of course means King and alludes to Hashem who is the King of all kings.

Miracles such as these are still with us today without suspending the laws of nature but through the Hand of G-D. The realization that everything in this world is orchestrated by Hashem is a fundamental principal of Judaism. Understanding this belief, enables us to entrust our lives to the care of Hashem, and should be a stimulation for us to live our lives according to G-D's commandments. It’s ironic that anti-semitism always raises its ugly head around this time of the year when we celebrate Purim and this year is no different with what’s going on with certain individuals spewing anti-sematic remarks while serving in the United States congress today.

It’s a known fact today that the small letters written in the Megillah within the names of Hamans 10 sons represent the exact year 1946 when the Nerunberg trials sentenced all 10 Nazi officers who committed atrocities during the Holocaust to death by hanging, which by the way was not the accepted way of execution then. We learned something amazing from Rabbi Mansour this past week which is that the Gamatria of Hamans 10 sons is the same Gamatria as the 10 Nazis names that were hung at the Nurenberg trials.

Everything Hashem Does Is Only Good!

The following story was told by Rabbi Eli Mansour written in this months Community Magazine. It’s the story of a Holocaust survivor, who is currently a baker, living in New York. His whole family perished except for him and his little sister. He tells the story of how, after losing his parents, that he felt responsible for the fate of his little sister. Every day before he would go to work, he would rebuke her to be very careful and stay out of the Nazis’ path. One day, he returned home from work, but his sister wasn’t there? She was gone! He found out that a couple of SS Nazi officers had come and taken her. He was a young kid, but he became overcome with emotion, he stormed down to the Nazi headquarter, screaming in German, “Where’s my sister?” The commanding officer hears the commotion and comes stomping down, with all his medals and decorations bouncing on his uniform. The soldiers tell the officer that this little Jew is claiming that we picked his sister up today, and he says he’s not leaving until we release her. The officer looks down at the boy laughing and says, “When you grow hair on the palms of your hands, that’s when you’ll see your sister.” In other words, you’ll never see her again! The Jewish youth stands there, turns to the Nazi and calmly opens his hand to display a hairy palm. The officer cries out, “Satan! The devil is here!! Get this kid out of here and let his sister go!” They open the door and the sister falls out on him. They make their way back to the ghetto and eventually escaped and survived the perils of the Holocaust.

He explained that when he was a child, he burnt his hand and the doctor did a skin graft from a part of his body that grew hair, eventually from this he had a hairy palm. He said that his whole life, he was bothered why would Hashem do this to him. “Why do I have to be a freak?” His palm was such an embarrassment. “Now I understand! This was all pre-ordained from Hashem in order to save my sister.”

May we all realize that while the sacrifices we make for Hashem and our Torah can sometimes be very difficult, Hashem hand-picked these tests and difficulties for us to triumph over and grow stronger in our devotion to Him. We must know that these tests and adversaties are ultimately for our benefit! Today we celebrate the amazing test that Queen Esther had to overcome which we all benefit from until this very day! Amen!

Shabbat Shalom!

Discussion Points:

· What sacrifices have we made for Hashem?

· What results have we been able to see from our tests and sacrifices as we look back on our lives?

Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey

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