A Water from the Well blog post, Parashat Vayikra
Written by Rabba Kaya Stern-Kaufman
This Shabbat we begin reading the book of Vayikra/Leviticus which opens with the word Vayikra which means, “God called out.” The verse begins: God called out to Moses and then spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting. (Lev.1:1) We note two odd things about this phrase. First, that in almost every other place where God speaks to Moses, the Torah says vayidaber Hashem el Moshe leimor, meaning: God spoke to Moses, saying… but here we have an added phrase, that God called out/vayikra to Moses and spoke to him, saying…
If that were not unusual enough, we see that the word vayikra is written with a diminished letter aleph: VAYIKRa. In other words, in the scribal tradition, the letter aleph at the end of the word vayikra is written much smaller than all the other letters. This appears in every Torah scroll.
Well, now, you’ve really got my attention!
The traditional interpretation of this unusual calling out to Moses likens it to that of a friend calling: “Hey, Moshe… come on over to my house.” God then speaks to him, saying…etc. The verb vayikra expresses a certain level of intimacy.
Regarding the small aleph, the commentators state that it refers to Moshe’s extreme humility, one who makes himself small. However, another way to look at this small aleph is to first recognize that the aleph itself is a silent letter. And this particular aleph is smaller than usual, even more quiet, more subtle. And it appears in a word that is all about calling, sound, voice and communication. And this is not just any call, it is an invitation to Moses to come into the Tent of Meeting and have an encounter with God. Vayikra/ God called out, is an eternal call, a small voice that is always sounding, should we stop to listen.
Our challenge is to develop our ability to listen, (Sh’ma) to hear the quiet call that is sounding all the time. We have a tendency to clutter our minds with so much information, news, texts, and cell phone scrolling which drown out our ability to really listen-in. On Shabbat, we can turn off the noise and re-center. Every day we can listen-in to this quiet, diminished calling to us; the A – #1 moment in our lives that is NOW.
Vayikra – You call to me from the silence within the silence
between the ink and the parchment
in the shadows of the moon on the snow.
Vayikra– You call to me from the stillness of each moment
in the spaces between the leaves
in the tears on the face of my friend.
Vayikra– You call to me in the breath of the wind
in the sunshine sparkling on the water
in my silent aching need to connect.
Vayikra– You call to me from the tent of meeting
to a sacred encounter.
As the Meor Einayim (a Hasidic Master) says: “God is the cosmic aleph, in contracted form, in every human being, in all that is, calling us, at all times, to return, to return to this truth.”