Torah Weekly

For the week ending 15 March 2008 / 8 Adar II 5768

Parshat Vayikra

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair - www.seasonsofthemoon.com
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Overview

The Book of Vayikra (Leviticus), also known as Torat Kohanim — the Laws of the Priests — deals largely with the korbanot (offerings) brought in the Mishkan (Tent of Meeting). The first group of offerings is called korban olah, a burnt offering. The animal is brought to the Mishkan's entrance. For cattle, the one bringing the offering sets his hands on the animal. Afterwards it is slaughtered and the kohen sprinkles its blood on the altar. The animal is skinned and cut into pieces. The pieces are arranged, washed and burned on the altar. A similar process is described involving burnt offerings of other animals and birds. The various meal offerings are described. Part of the meal offering is burned on the altar, and the remaining parteaten by the kohanim. Mixing leaven or honey into the offerings is prohibited. The peace offering, part of which is burnt on the altar and part is eaten, can be either from cattle, sheep or goats. The Torah prohibits eating blood or chelev (certain fats in animals). The offerings that atone for inadvertent sins committed by the Kohen Gadol, by the entire community, by the prince and by the average citizen are detailed. Laws of the guilt-offering, which atones for certain verbal transgressions and for transgressing laws of ritual purity, are listed. The meal offering for those who cannot afford the normal guilt offering, the offering to atone for misusing sanctified property, laws of the "questionable guilt" offering, and offerings for dishonesty are detailed.

Insights

The Big A

“And He called…” (1:1)

Scene One. The bridge of the USS Lincoln, one stormy night off the coast of Newfoundland; a dim green blip suddenly appears on the radar screen.

USS Lincoln (to Canadian Naval authorities): Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision.

Canadians: Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.

USS Lincoln: This is the Captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.

Canadians: No. I say again, you divert YOUR course.

USS Lincoln: THIS IS THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS LINCOLN, THE SECOND LARGEST SHIP IN THE UNITED STATES’ ATLANTIC FLEET. WE ARE ACCOMPANIED BY THREE DESTROYERS, THREE CRUISERS AND NUMEROUS SUPPORT VESSELS. I DEMAND THAT YOU CHANGE YOUR COURSE 15 DEGREES NORTH, THAT’S ONE FIVE DEGREES NORTH, OR COUNTER-MEASURES WILL BE UNDERTAKEN TO ENSURE THE SAFETY OF THIS SHIP.

Canadians: This is a lighthouse. Your call…

A little humility goes a long way.

If you look at a Torah Scroll you will see that the first word of the Book of Vayikra (Leviticus) is written in an unusual fashion. The last letter of Vayikra — the aleph — is written much smaller than the rest of the word.

Why is the aleph small?

When G-d told Moshe to write the word Vayikra “And He called”, Moshe didn’t want to write that last aleph.It seemed to Moshe that it gave him too much importance.How could he write that G-d called to him?Who was he, after all? A mere man. Moshe would have preferred to write Vayikar — “And He happened (upon him).”In other words G-d just “came across” Moshe, He didn’t “go out of His way” to appear to him.

In spite of Moshe’s protestations, G-d told him to write Vayikra — “And He called”.Moshe put the aleph at the end of the word as G-d had commanded him — but he wrote it small.

What’s in a small aleph?

The aleph is the letter that represents the will, the ego. It is the first letter of the word for “I” — ‘Ani’. When a person sees himself as the Big A, the Big Aleph, Number One, he is usurping the crown of He who is One.

When a person sees himself as no more than a small aleph, then he makes room for the Divine Presence to dwell in him. His head is not swollen with the cotton candy of self-regard.

Moshe was the humblest of all men. Moshe made himself so little that he was barely in this world at all. He didn’t even want to be a small aleph. He, as no man before or since, saw that there is only one aleph in all of Creation, only one Number One — G-d.

Moshe made his own aleph — his ego — so small, that he merited that the Torah was given through him.

When Moshe had finished writing the Torah, some ink was left in his pen. As he passed the pen across his forehead the drops of ink became beams of light shining from his visage.

That extra ink that was left in Moshe’s pen was the ink that should have gone to write the Big Aleph; instead it became a corona of shining light to adorn the humblest of men.

  • Sources: Ba’al Haturim, Midrash Tanchuma Ki Tisa 37, MiTa’amim in Iturei Torah

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