Parashat Vayikra / Purim
Leilui Neshamot Yachoua and Alice Beyda by Charles and Renee Beyda and Family
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, “Vayikra—He called 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 say vayikar, which means “He [Hashem] happened upon him.” This is a more deprecating term, like the one 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. Why are they different? Rabbi Twersky quotes Rav Yitzchak 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 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, only 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 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 must know that the Torah was given on the lowest mountain to the humblest of all men, Moshe Rabbenu. This was to teach us that to learn Torah, 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. The Essence of Vayikra Rabbi Mansour brings down another reason for the small alef and he explains how the alef is the essence of the entire Parashat Vayikra. Any time a Jew commits a sin, he drives the Divine Presence from his soul. Teshuvah—repentance means making oneself worthy of being a repository for the Shechina once again. After the sin of the golden calf, G-d’s presence left B’nei Yisrael, and they needed to build the Mishkan in order to bring Him back. But much like a person leaving a dark room needs time to adjust to light, B’nei Yisrael could not receive the Divine Presence all at once. After falling so low after the sin of the golden calf, the process of the Shechina’s return had to proceed slowly for B’nei Yisrael to withstand the drastic transition. Rashi writes that the word vayikra is a lashon chiba – a term that implies affection. The entire concept of Parashat Vayikra, G-d’s willingness to restore His Shechina among B’nei Yisrael in the Mishkan, is a great act of love. The Jewish Nation betrayed Hashem in the worst way, worshipping a foreign deity just weeks after receiving the Torah, and yet He was still prepared to return to them. He always gives us the opportunity to return and repair our relationship with Him. And He even ensures that the process will unfold at the right pace, step by step, so that it will be effective. Our Sacrifices Vayikra begins the third book of the Chumash, the five books of Moshe Rabbenu. The first two books concern the beginning 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 Mashiach 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 sacrificed their homes, their livelihoods, and even their lives for the sake of Hashem and for the 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 choose 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, the gain will become not only be apparent, but extremely obvious. Today we don't have korbanot—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 family and friends. We work and sacrifice to give our children a good education and healthy upbringing. For our elderly parents, we sacrifice our time when they need us to help care for them. For our spouse, we sacrifice in many ways to build a home together. Purim and Divine Providence Now we're coming upon the days of the great and festive holiday of Purim. We are celebrating the hidden miracle when the Jewish people were spared from the evil Haman who 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 Megillah every year how, through Hashgacha Peratit—Divine Providence, Hashem saved the Jewish people. On Purim we have a custom of dressing up in different costumes because we were saved from Haman in a hidden way. Rabbi Twersky explains 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 each day. Megillat Esther tells the story of Purim as a series of miracles that Hashem orchestrated by pulling the strings behind the scenes. Only when the entire sequence of these events is strung together, can one see the guiding Hand of Hashem saving the Jewish nation. This is also the reason why Hashem's name is not mentioned in the entire Megillah but is written in a discreet manner. Each time the text says HaMelech—The King, we know this alludes to The King of Kings, Hashem. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, ZT’L, was once asked what we learn from the custom of wearing costumes on Purim. The Rebbe answered, “On Purim you see many people dressed in different costumes; one is a clown, one is an animal, and one is wearing something you can’t even understand. Do you get bothered by them? No because you know they are wearing a costume. In life we meet many people. One is impatient, one is angry, one is apathetic. But that’s not who they really are. Those are just ‘costumes.’ Deep in their hearts they’re all warm Jews, full of purity and beauty. We just need to interact with them with kindness and remove the ‘costume’ to reveal the pure neshamah—soul inside each one. This is true Ahavat Yisrael.” Hidden Miracles Rabbi Frand discusses one of the many miracles from the story of Purim. When Achashverosh threw a grand party, he commanded his wife, Queen Vashti, to appear before those assembled to show off her beauty. Vashti refused to come. According to the Talmud, her refusal to come was not based on a sense of modesty, rather the Angel Gavriel came and put a tail on her. The Gemara is teaching a message with this story. We do not need to assume that Vashti literally grew a tail. The Chafetz Chaim states the word zanav—tail alludes to the fact that Gavriel made it so it was the tail end of the dynasty of Nevuchadnetzar. The Gemara relates the story of how Nevuchadnetzar became king with no royal blood. Years earlier, Chizkiyahu, King of Judea, became very sick and he was miraculously saved. Hashem healed him and wanted to publicize it, so He made a second miracle. The day Chizkiyahu was cured lasted 18 hours, and the whole world realized that it was a miraculous day. The King of Babylonia at that time, Biladan, said, “Hashem changed nature for this King, I must send him a letter of congratulations and admiration.” He ordered his chief scribe, Nevuchadnetzar, to draft the letter for him. However, that day, for whatever reason, Nevuchadnetzar was not there. So, the other scribes went ahead and drafted a letter without the input of the chief scribe. The letter said, “Peace unto you King Chizkiyahu; peace unto Jerusalem; peace unto the Mighty G-d.” Nevuchadnetzar returned from wherever he was and asked to review a copy of the letter. When he saw the salutation, he objected that the honor of the Mighty G-d should have been placed first not third in the letter. However, the other scribes told him that it had already been sent. Nevuchadnetzar ran after the messengers to try to stop them so as not to send the letter with dishonoring Hashem. The Talmud says that he ran 4 steps in the direction of the courier, but the angel Gavriel came and stopped him in his tracks. As a reward for his steps, he and his next three generations became royalty. Since Gavriel interrupted his fourth step, his great-great granddaughter Vashti’s rein was at its “tail” end. Had Vashti remained on the throne, Esther would never have been in a position to save the Jewish people and they would have been wiped out in the time of Haman. The lesson of this story is that this is how Hashem runs the world. The incident with Gavriel happened in the time of Chizkiyahu King of Judea – many years before the era of Haman and Achashverosh. Because of what took place then, Klal Yisrael was saved many years later in the time of Purim. The Remedy Before the Disease Natan Sharansky, famed Israeli politician and former Soviet prisoner, shared the following powerful message: “When I was growing up in Donetsk, Ukraine, there were people from many nations and nationalities. Some had ID papers that said ‘Russian,’ ‘Ukrainian, ‘Georgian,’ or ‘Kozak.’ These were not so important since there was not much difference between them. The single designation that stood out was ‘Jew.’ If that was written as your identity, it was as if you had a disease. “We knew nothing about Judaism. There was nothing significant about our Jewish identity other than the anti-Semitism, hatred, and discriminatory treatment we experienced because of it. When it came to a university application, for example, no one tried to change his designation from ‘Russian’ to ‘Ukrainian’ because it did not matter. However, if you could change your designation of ‘Jew,’ it substantially improved your chances of university admission. “This week I was reminded of those days, when I saw thousands of people standing at the borders of Ukraine trying to escape. People are standing there day and night and there is only one word that can possibly help them get out, and that’s ‘Jew.’ If you are a Jew, there are Jews outside who care about and are waiting for you. There is someone on the other side of the border who is actively searching for you. Your chances of leaving are excellent. “The world has changed. When I was a child, ‘Jew’ was an unfortunate designation. No one envied us. But today on the Ukrainian border, identifying as a Jew is a most fortunate circumstance. It describes those who have a place to go, where their family, an entire nation, is waiting for them on the other side.” “There is no such thing as coincidence.” The realization that everything in this world is orchestrated by Hashem is a fundamental principle of Judaism. Understanding this belief enables us to entrust our lives to the care of Hashem and should be a motivation for us to live our lives according to G-d's commandments. May we all aspire to be humble like Moshe. May we always know that Hashem is running the world. May we be able to look for and see the hidden miracles that Hashem gives us daily and appreciate all He does! Shabbat Shalom! Purim Sameach! Rabbi Amram Sananes, written by Jack Rahmey
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Can you think of a story of Hashgacha Peratit in your life where Hashem showed His Hand without changing nature?
In the first passuk, the word vayikra has a small alef to symbolize Moshe’s genuine humility.
After the sin of the golden calf, G-d’s presence left B’nei Yisrael, and they needed to build the Mishkan in order to bring Him back. But much like a person leaving a dark room needs time to adjust to light, B’nei Yisrael could not receive the divine presence all at once. G-d then appeared to Moshe on a lower level of prophecy, symbolized by the small alef.
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, but the Jewish people have been making sacrifices for centuries: They’ve sacrificed their homes, their livelihoods, and even their lives for the sake of Hashem.
Megillat Esther tells the story of Purim as a series of miracles that Hashem orchestrated by pulling the strings behind the scenes. Only when the entire sequence of these events is strung together, can one see the guiding Hand of Hashem saving the Jewish nation.
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