Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Achieving Great Heights

 וַיִּקְרָא  "Vayikra - He called" [Vayikra 1:1]

by Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Why is the word "Vayikra" written with a small alef? asked R' Simchah Bunim of P'shischa.

The verse comes to teach us, answered the rebbe, about the extraordinary humility of Moshe Rabbeinu. Even when he was engaged in conversation with Hashem, the King of the entire world, Moshe remained the most humble of men.

To what can this be compared? asked the rebbe.  To a man who had scaled an enormous mountain and looking about, he could get the impression that he towers over all those around him.  However, if he is a wise man, he will realize that he is not tall at all, nor does his elevated position point to any personal greatness.  For it is the mountain upon which he is standing that is tall. He knows that he has not grown any taller and that he is still small compared to all the mountains around him.

This is the secret to Moshe Rabbeinu's humility, explained the rebbe. For even though he had achieved great heights, so much so that Hashem was calling him in order to speak with him, he nonetheless remained humble, as he did not attribute any of his greatness to his own personal strengths.

There is a commonly asked question regarding the word וַיִּקְרָא in this parshah: Why is it spelled with a small alef?

The word Vayikra begins the sefer that deals with sacrificial offerings. The main purpose of bringing sacrifices is to bring atonement to a person who sinned. But that is only accomplished if the person regrets his previous misdeeds and repents wholeheartedly for what he has done.

The mussar masters have taught us that the trait of haughtiness lies at the root of all sin. A humble and subdued person does not sin easily, but one whose heart is filled with pride and arrogance pays little heed to rebuke, so he will inevitably succumb to sin.

The letter alef stands for the word ani - I. "Vayikra" is spelled here with a small alef to teach us that if we make our ani small - if we make ourselves small and act with humility - then we will avoid sins and we will have no need to bring sacrificial offerings.

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