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Parashat Vayikra (Leviticus 1:1-5:26)

“The priest shall turn these into smoke on the altar as food,
an offering by fire, of pleasing odor.” (Leviticus 3:10)

Vayikra, (and “____” called out) is the very first word of Parashat Vayikra and the entire book of Leviticus. It offers two mysteries. The first is grammatical: vayikra is a verb without a subject. We assume God is calling out to Moses, but the word-phrase itself doesn’t say. The second is orthographic: aleph, the last letter of the word Vayikra, appears in the Torah half the size of the other letters. How to account for these two anomalies?

According to the Zohar (the most important work of Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism); 13th Century Spain), the small aleph represents the Sh’chinah, the feminine manifestation of God’s presence in our daily lives. The aleph is smaller because our world is smaller than God’s world. So, Vayikra now can be read, “V’yakar-aleph,” meaning the Sh’chinah was precious (to Moses). Because of that, the verse continues, “…and God said to Moses.” (Ex. 1:1)

Rabbi Menachem Nachum Twersky (1730-1797; founder of the Chernobyl Chassidim) builds on this idea, claiming the small aleph represents the miniature slice of the Sh’chinah we each carry within us. Moses not only loves the Sh’china, he also loves each individual Israelite who carries the Sh’china inside. That’s what allows Moses to lead the Israelites through the desert and that’s why God chooses Moses to lead them.

So Leviticus, a book dedicated to priestly service to God, begins with human relationship. Rabbi Avraham Isaac Kook, (1865-1935; a Latvian Talmud prodigy and first Chief Rabbi of Palestine during the British Mandate) connects and summarizes these two interpretations best: the best way to show love for God is to demonstrate love for people.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom

David

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