By Rabbi Pinchas Winston
And He called (Vayikra) to Moshe . . . (Vayikra 1:1)
AND HE CALLED TO MOSHE: A "calling" preceded all sayings and
commands. It is an expression of love, an expression that the
Ministering Angels use, as it said, "One called to the other"
(Yeshayahu 6:3). However, to the gentile prophets He revealed Himself
with an expression of happenstance and uncleanness, as it said, "G-d
happened upon Bilaam" (Bamidbar 23:4, 16). (Rashi)
All of this because of a reduced "aleph."
If you look into a Sefer Torah at the very first word of this week's
parshah and into the Book of Vayikra, you will see the word "An He
called" spelled: vav-yud-kuf-raish-aleph, as it ought to be.
However, what is unique here is that the aleph at the end of the word
is written smaller as a matter of tradition, making the first four
letters - vav-yud-kuf-raish - stand out on their own almost as an
independent word, vayikar, with an independent meaning: He happened
Thus, Rashi's incredible explanation, and I say "incredible" because
from a SMALL aleph we are being taught a BIG difference between the
relationship the Jewish people are supposed to have with G-d, and
that of the other nations of the world. The Jewish people are
supposed to have an ongoing, continuously open relationship with G-d,
whereas the relationship of the gentile nations to G-d is more of an
We saw this all the way back at the beginning of Parashas Vayaira.
It was just after Avraham Avinu performed Bris Milah and was at home
recovering, at which time G-d came to visit him. However, in the
midst of the prophecy three strangers showed up, and Avraham
dutifully provided them with hospitality, not so much as asking G-d
His permission or even stopping to say "Good-bye for now!"
Even more bizarre is that after Avraham finished taking care of his
guests' needs and returned to his conversation with G-d, he was able
to pick up just where he left off, as if G-d had been waiting for him
the entire time. Indeed, it was as if the conversation never broke
off even for a moment, even while Avraham Avinu focussed his
attention on more mundane matters.
Which, of course, it didn't, since everything Avraham did in this
world was always part of his service to G-d and was never for selfish
reasons. His life was one ongoing dialogue with the Creator. Though
the mode of communication may have changed from prophecy to chesed,
everything else regarding Avraham's relationship to G-d remained the
Pardon the analogy, but it is like using cable for Internet versus a
When a person uses a modem to connect to the Internet, he has to dial
up the server, "get in," and wait until all the inter-computer
protocol has finished before being able to access everything from
e-mail to websites. This takes time, is not always successful the
first or second time, and can build Internet costs on a momentary
However, the beauty of cable is that you are always connected. The
connection is continuous and therefore "getting in" is quick as is
using the "Net." Furthermore, you usually pay a flat monthly rate
for the use of it, regardless of how often you actually access it.
This is how it is supposed to be with the Jewish people, at least
spiritually-speaking. When it comes to our relationship to G-d, we
are supposed to be "on-line" all the time. Indeed, there is never a
moment that we are supposed to think that we are "off-line" from G-d,
which is why halachah dictates levels of conduct and modesty even in
the most private of places and moments.
This is not just a crucial and very beautiful Torah thought, as we
shall now discuss, G-d willing. It is a description of the essence
of the Jewish people and ultimately, the reason for all the suffering
of the Jewish nation throughout the ages, and especially today in
And G-d spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying . . . (Vayikra 1:1)
This is the reason why this drash appears here. Another name for
Sefer Vayikra is "Toras Kohanim" - "Torah of the Priests" - because a
large part of it is about Temple sacrifices and the priestly service.
Given that the Jewish people are called a "Kingdom of Priests," in a
general sense, it is not a book just about kohanim, but about the
service of G-d for all Jews.
Animal sacrifice is also a lesson about human sacrifice. An
important part of the message is that taking one of G-d's creations
and taking its life so that it can be offered "back" to G-d, is a
parable for human life as well. In fact, in some extreme cases where
one is commanded to allow himself to be killed to sanctify G-d's
Name, he is considered to have been offered up to G-d upon the altar
However, more important than dying for G-d is living for G-d,
something our step-brothers-of-old have yet to understand, at our
expense. This is because it is far easier for a human being to die
for G-d - a one-time event - than to live for G-d, an ongoing concern
that some find incredibly taxing, and that only a handful find to be
a labor of love.
After all, keeping the lines of communication constantly open between
two computers takes very little effort on our part. However, just
maintaining an ongoing, upbeat and loving relationship with another
human being requires a tremendous and continuous act of will; how
much more so with G-d!
This is because relationships have prerequisites; the holier the
relationship, the holier the prerequisites will be. Sefer Vayikra is
also the "Book of Holiness," the climax of which is Parashas Kedoshim
which begins by addressing all Jews with the words, "You shall be
holy for I, G-d your G-d am holy" (Vayikra 19:2). However, this is
just another way of saying, "You shall keep the lines of
communication and relationship between You and I open ALL the time."
This sheds new light on an old idea ("old," since I have used it
several times before). The Talmud says regarding Ya'akov's failed
death-bed attempt to prophesize the End-Of-Days:
"Perhaps, G-d forbid, there is something unfit from my bed (i.e., a
spiritually unworthy child), just as Yishmael was born to Avraham,
and Eisav to my father Yitzchak?"
His sons answered, "Shema Yisroel, Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad"
(Hear O Israel, the L-rd our G-d, the L-rd is One): Just as in your
heart only [G-d is] One, so too in our hearts, there is only One."
At that moment, Ya'akov said, "Boruch Shem kevod malchuso l'olam
va-ed (Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom forever!)"
However, comments the Holy Zohar:
Ya'akov wanted to establish the Mystery of Unity below and composed
the twenty-four letters of, "Blessed be the Name of His glorious
kingdom forever." He didn't make it twenty-five letters since the
Mishkan (Tabernacle) had yet to be built. Once the Mishkan was
built, the first word was completed . . . With regard to this it
says, And G-d spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying . . .
(Vayikra 1:1), which has twenty-five letters. (Zohar 2:139b)
Thus, like the Shema, the Creed of the Jewish people, the last part
of the first posuk of our parshah has six words. Like the Shema, the
Mission Statement of the Jewish people, our posuk has twenty-five
letters which, according to the Zohar, allude to the oneness of
Heaven and Earth - the continuous and ongoing relationship between
G-d and the Jewish people that was facilitated by the Tent of Meeting
from which G-d spoke to Moshe Rabbeinu whose prophecy was just that:
continuous and ongoing.
Hence, this is the essential intention behind the words of the Shema
that we say twice daily, and the flip side of one of the key six
daily reminders of the Jew, with which we will now continue, b'ezras
Remember what Amalek did to you on the way, as you departed from
Egypt. When they chanced upon you (korchehah) you en route . . .
WHEN THEY CHANCED UPON YOU (KORCHEHAH) EN ROUTE: This connotes a
chance occurrence. (Rashi)
However, nothing happens by chance in G-d's world, and Rashi provides
the following analogy back at the time of the actual encounter:
AND AMALEK CAME: The Torah juxtaposes this section and the previous
verse in order to convey: "I (G-d) am always amongst you and ready
to fulfill your needs, and yet you say, 'Is G-d among us or not?' (I
swear) by your lives that the dog (Amalek) will come and bite you and
you will cry out to Me and then you will know where I am." This is
comparable to a man who placed his son on his shoulders and went on a
journey. Whenever the son saw a desirable object, he would say,
"Father, take that object and give it to me," and he would give it to
him. This happened a second and a third time. Eventually, they met
a certain person whereupon the son said to him, "Have you seen my
father?" His father said to him, "Do you not know where I am?!"
Whereupon he threw him off himself and the dog came and bit him."
(Rashi, Shemos 17:8)
According to the Rashi, vulnerability to Amalek only comes from going
"off-line" with G-d, whenever we sever our high-level connection to
G-d and forget that our lives are on-going dialogues with the
Al-mighty. Thus, what Amalek PHYSICALLY does to us is only a
reflection of what we have already done to ourselves SPIRITUALLY,
which Rashi reveals at the end of the parshah:
THE HAND IS ON G-D'S (YUD-HEH) THRONE (KUF-SAMECH): The hand of G-d
is (raised) to swear by His Throne to have eternal war and hatred
against Amalek. Why is it written "kuf-samech" and not
"kuf-samech-aleph," and also why is the Name cut in half (missing the
Vav-Heh)? G-d swore that His Name will not be whole nor will His
throne be whole until the name of Amalek is completely obliterated .
. . (Rashi, Shemos 17:16)
As we have said on many occasions, the "Vav-Heh" of G-d's Name
represents Divine Providence, or G-d's involvement in the everyday
affairs of man, and specifically, the Jewish people. From the first
word of this week's parshah and Rashi's comment, we understand that
the "aleph" represents the exact same idea.
Thus, Amalek is that poisonous and destructive bacteria that festers
and grows every time the Jewish people go "off-line" with G-d, when
we sever the connection between the Yud-Heh of G-d's Name - the
Source of light that gives us life - and the Vav-Heh of G-d's Name -
the spiritual channel through which that light becomes accessible to
When we deal with G-d through "chance" meetings, then Amalek chances upon us.
Later on, Rashi explains how this cycle that we initiate results in a
self-perpetuation of spiritual self-destruction that only we can halt:
WHEN THEY CHANCED UPON YOU (KORCHEHAH) EN ROUTE: Another
interpretation: The meaning is "cold" (kor) as opposed to heat.
They cooled you, warming you down from boiling heat. For, all the
nations were afraid of waging war against you until they began
preparing the way for others. This is compared with a boiling bath
into which no creature could enter. Came one rebellious person who
leaped into it, and although he was scalded, he cooled it for others.
(Rashi, Devarim 25:18)
Amalek: willing to hurt themselves in order to hurt the Jews, to
cool them down. The greater the hurt, the greater the cooling down.
The more illogical and painful the damage inflicted against the
Jewish people, the more chance-like life appears to the Jew, and the
more distant he feels from his Creator. We create the gap, but it is
Amalek who widens it.
Therefore, there is no greater veil over the Face of G-d than Amalek.
Amalek is both the result of "hester panim" and the cause of it, as
the Talmud, perhaps, alludes:
Rebi Elazar began the discussion with, "Through laziness the rafter
(hamkareh) sinks (yimach), and with idleness of hands the house
leaks" (Koheles 10:18). Because they were lazy regarding the study
of Torah, the enemy of The Holy One, Blessed is He, made him "mach,"
and "mach" always means impoverished, as it says, "If he is poor
(mach) to pay the valuation" (Vayikra 27:8). "Rafter" (mikareh)
refers to The Holy One, Blessed is He, as it says, "Who roofs
(hamkareh) His upper chambers with water" (Tehillim 104:3).
The word "mikreh," which means "chance encounter," and "mikareh"
which means "roof," are spelled with the exact same letters:
mem-kuf-raish-heh, and it is the latter that is a symbol of the
former, "naturalizing" the Divine Providence of G-d. It is our
willingness to go off-line with G-d, that is, to live parts of our
lives as if He just isn't there or just doesn't care about what we
do, and how we do it is what creates the barrier before Heaven and
Earth, referred to here as a "roof."
The ferociousness of the attacks against the Jews and their increased
frequency is not only going back on-line with G-d, but remaining
on-line permanently, as we shall see, G-d willing.
Therefore, say to the house of Israel: So says the L-rd G-d: Not
for your sake do I do this, O house of Israel, but for My Holy Name,
which you have profaned among the nations to which they have come.
And I will sanctify My great Name, which was profaned among the
nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations will
know that I am the L-rd . . . (Yechezkel 36:22-23)
These words are from the special Haftarah that we just read for
Parashas Parah on Shabbos Parashas Ki Sisa. This year they had a
very, very profound impact on me, and not just because the person
reading them stumbled on the word "profaned" creating an unconscious
emphasis, but because I had still been smarting from such a
profanation as he read the words.
Without going into detail, though I did not cause the "Chillul
Hashem" (Profanation of G-d's Name) myself (to my knowledge), I was a
witness to it and even identified with it by the non-Jew who angrily
and seethingly walked passed me saying, "YOU PEOPLE ARE NOT MORE
SPECIAL THAN ANYONE ELSE. DON'T ACT AS IF YOU ARE!"
What he really meant was, "If you people think you're so special then
why don't you act that way, beginning with not doing the rude and
extremely common thing you just did!"
Automatically, I tried to speak with him to mitigate the damage, but
he would have nothing of it. Being so close to Shabbos, I could only
be on my way to get ready for Shabbos and feel lousy that G-d's Holy
Name had been profaned, and that I had to be a part of it. It was a
brutal reminder of just how easy it is to profane G-d's Name while
living among the gentiles, something I seemed to have been more
sensitive to coming from Eretz Yisroel.
In fact, one of the arguments put forth in the past for why living in
Eretz Yisroel was spiritually dangerous, was that sins count more
here than they do outside the Holy Land. Perhaps, but profaning
G-d's Name is much easier outside the land, as Yechezkel testifies
above, and it is the only sin for which death is the only atonement
(Yoma 86a). Thus, "Kibbutz Golios" (Ingathering of the Exiles) is
defined as being precipitated by such terrible profanations of G-d's
If you think about, Chillul Hashem is a function of going off-line
with G-d. Kiddush Hashem, the exact opposite, is the result of a
continuous G-d-consciosuness, one that pervades every aspect one
one's daily life. Like two people in love, one who loves G-d cannot
stop thinking about Him or ever allow himself to be in a position to
damage His Name in the eyes of others.
When a person loves someone, he anticipates what will make that
person happy and what will make that person sad, performing the
former while avoiding the latter. In short, to love someone means to
go on-line with that person, emotionally-speaking, and to remain
on-line to the point that everything they do together or apart from
each other always comes down to their relationship with each other.
This is implied by the aleph that is attached to the first word of
this week's parshah, and by the one that is missing at the end of
Parashas Beshallach. Kiddush Hashem draws out and reveals the aleph
that transforms chance meetings with G-d into obvious, willed, and
on-going encounters with the Al-mighty. It completes the Holy Throne
Chillul Hashem, on the other hand, does just the opposite, and it
brings on Amalek and his willingness to hurt himself to hurt us,
increasing the suffering and the Chillul Hashem. The more we resist
this idea and the less frequently we remain on-line with Him, the
greater the frequency and intensity of the message from Heaven will
The attacks only used to happen once in a few weeks. Then,
dutifully, we would gather together and go "on-line" with G-d,
reciting Tehillim and other prayers, perhaps even giving a little
extra charity to soften the decree and end the suffering. Then, upon
finishing the "session," "dutifully," we would go "off-line" until
the next time we would need to repeat the process.
Now, years later, they are happening all the time. No sooner do we
finish or even just start another "session" on-line with G-d, that
another reason to go on-line occurs, G-d should have mercy upon us.
Seemingly, we are no longer given a chance to go off-line like we
used to be able to, like we wish we could.
Physically, there is no pressing need to swap your old computer modem
for DSL cable. However, spiritually there is no time not to develop
a "cable-like" relationship with G-d in order to remain on-line all
the time. It's what the Jewish people are all about, and always have
been, and the only way to avert the cycle of violence from consuming
It is always decided on the previous Yom Kippur who is going to die
that year and how, as we say in the "Usaneh Tokef" prayer. This is
not something we can understand, especially when you enter
rectification for previous reincarnations into the equation.
Nevertheless, all Divine calculations aside, we can have an impact on
the outcome of events and the history of the Jewish people, and
working on a continuous and deep relationship with G-d is the only
way we can.
Let there only be good news,