The Living Torah is a weekly publication distributed in and around North West London. Written by members of Hasmonean High School's Sixth Form programme - we aim to bring you divrei torah for your Shabbat table each and everyweek.

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Friday, 19 March 2010

Moshe and Humility

From a linguistic perspective, the removal of even one letter from a word in Lashon Hakodesh will alter the meaning of that word. The first word of this week’s Parasha, which is Vayikra, with an Aleph as the last letter of the word, translates into ‘And He called (to Moshe).’

Rashi says that the language of calling precedes every statement, and every saying and every command. He makes a distinction between Vayikar and Vayikra – the emphasis on the inclusion of an Aleph – one is used to connote affection; it is the language of endearment and implies a friendly calling whilst the other (Vayikar) is used when Hashem appeared to Bilaam and implies a chance or forced meeting

When we read of Hashem communicating with Moshe in the Torah, we see such verbs as Vay’daber (And He spoke), Va’yomer (And He said), Vayatzav (And He commanded). Yet, the language of Vayikra (And He called) precedes them all in prominence.

Whether or not the Aleph is present makes a great difference to the translation of the word, however on closer inspection the letter Aleph of the word Vayikra is written diminutively (Aleph Z’aira), The Baal HaTurim explains that Hashem had ordered Moshe to write Vayikra, but Moshe, the most humble of all men, wanted to use the less complimentary Vayikar, He did not want to accord himself the endearing term of Vayikra. To fulfill Hashem’s command, he wrote the Aleph but wrote it smaller than the rest of the word.

(An interesting side point is that because Moshe wanted to write Vayikar, Hashem lovingly called him close – R’Simcha Bunim offered the following insight into how one might be able to maintain our humility even if we were to reach the heights that Moshe did: “A person standing at the peak of the mountain realizes that he is not really taller than everyone else; it is the mountain that holds him high. We should recognize that our achievements are not of our own doing – Hashem holds us up and grants them to us.)

The Baal Haturim is in essence saying that a compromise was made metaphorically, between Hashem and Moshe in the writing of the term Vayikra, by allowing Moshe the Aleph Z’aira.

However this explanation of the Baal Haturim leads to a dilemma: the endearing language of Vayikra appears before Sefer Vayikra, without any Aleph Z’aira:

“…..And the seventh day He called to Moshe from the midst of the cloud.” (Shemos 24:16)

If Moshe was so concerned with his humility, why does he pen the full endearing term Vayikra (including a standard size Aleph) in Sefer Shemos? Why would he have waited until Sefer Vayikra to show his reluctance to writing Vayikra?

The Chasam Sofer in Torat Moshe addresses the problem in the following manner:

The possession of Ruach Hakodesh is meant to imply that an individual has a higher than basic human comprehension, and a more penetrating visualization of the past, present, and future. He writes that there are three levels of Ruach Hakodesh.

The first level is designated by the term Vayikar (coldly or coincidentally communicated with). This level of Ruach Hakodesh is available even to the Prophets of the other nations, as we see with Bilaam.

The second level of Ruach Hakodesh is hinted to by the term Vay’daber (And He spoke). This attainment of Ruach HaKodesh is only available to Yisrael, and not to the other nations.

And lastly, the third level of Ruach Hakodesh appears in the Torah as Vayikra, that special language of endearment. This level could only have been achieved by Moshe Rabbeinu, and no one else, because Bnei Yisrael sinned with the Eigel HaZahav (golden calf). Prior to the terrible sin of the Eigel (prior to Sefer Vayikra), all of Bnei Yisrael were on a higher spiritual plain, and did in fact possess this third and highest level of Ruach HaKodesh designated by the endearing word Vayikra. Hence, prior to the Eigel, Moshe did not wish to pen an Aleph Z’aira onto the word in Shemos (24:16), because the honour of all Bnei Yisrael was also inferred from the word Vayikra. Under no circumstance, would he consider reducing the honour of Bnei Yisrael.

However, in Sefer Vayikra (which takes place after the sin of the Eigel), that highest level of Ruach Hakodesh through the term Vayikra, would apply only to Moshe Rabbeinu and no one else. And, when it came to his own personal honour, Moshe was suddenly unwilling to pen the endearing Vayikra.

There would certainly seem to be a powerful Musar Haskeil (instruction of intellect- see Mishlei 1:3) here, in that the truly honourable are not concerned with their own honour, but rather, with the honour of others. While this highest level of Ruach Hakodesh is attainable no more, let us never forget that the only way to have achieved it was through an immense concern for the dignity of others, not for oneself. Developing a true and sincere awareness of modest humility is the key to personal success in all one’s endeavours. The humility of the humble will earn respectful esteem as Shlomo Hamelech writes:

"ושפל רוח יתמך כבוד"  (Mishlei 29:23)

Shabbat Shalom,

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