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by Rabbi Yaakov Menken

The third book of the Chumash, often known as Leviticus, begins with the Hebrew word "VaYikra", meaning [G-d] "called" to Moses. This, says the Midrash, was the same Voice that the entire Nation of Israel had been unable to withstand at Mt. Sinai. Yet Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses) was able to listen and respond.

Only Moshe was able to withstand the call of "VaYikra". Concerning the wicked Bila'am, on the other hand (whom we will meet in the fourth book, BaMidbar), the Torah uses "VaYikar", which indicates a chance meeting. Moshe was reluctant to record for posterity the fact that he, and he alone, was capable of VaYikra. Because of Moshe's great modesty, G-d permitted him to write the word VaYikra with its last letter, Aleph, written very small (removal of the Aleph would leave "VaYikar").

Our Rabbis tell us that it was Moshe's modesty that was the essence of his greatness. With his great humility, he was able to see the virtues of every other individual, and thus to be considerate and kind towards everyone.

By writing a small Aleph, Moshe left over a tiny extra amount of unused ink. In Chassidic / Kabbalistic works, Rabbis tell us that this extra ink was used by G-d, as it were, to create the emanating Divine radiance that came out of Moshe's forehead. Moshe set aside his own honor, and measure for measure G-d made it so that others would honor him.

We must strive to be like Moshe. Just as Moshe recognized his capabilities, so must we, and we must work to fulfill them. But instead of demonstrating pride and showing off those accomplishments, we should work to recognize everyone else's great virtues. "He who runs away from honor, honor chases after him."

Text Copyright © 1995 Rabbi Yaakov Menken and Project Genesis, Inc.

The author is the Director of Project Genesis.



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