“And Hashem called to Moshe, and [He] spoke to him from the ohel moed saying. . .” – Vayikra 1:1
Sefer Vayikra opens with the expression, “And Hashem called to Moshe.” The word vayikra (called) is written with a small aleph.
The Baal HaTurim explains that this was because of Moshe Rabbeinu’s extreme humility. Hashem told him to write the word vayikra with an aleph. That implies that Hashem called Moshe to come forward for an audience. Moshe felt that was too much honor. He wanted it to appear as if it were more of a random occurrence.
When Hashem spoke to Bilaam, the Torah used the expression “vayikar” – it occurred – to mean that it wasn’t a formal audience, just a chance happening. So Moshe requested to write the word here that way without the aleph. Hashem told him not to do that, but to write the word out fully. Out of his extreme humility, Moshe said he would only write it with a small aleph to somehow keep the connotation that it wasn’t a formal invitation.
When we focus on this discussion, we see a beautiful illustration of humility – with a bit of a twist. Hashem called out to Moshe and specifically told him to write that in the Torah. After all, it was true, and it was important for the Jewish people to recognize the greatness of their leader. Moshe felt that while everyone might already have known it, to have it recorded that way for generations was just too much kavod, so he asked to have it stricken from the record.
Hashem told him no, it must remain. So out of deference to Hashem Moshe wrote it, but not in its full form, only with a small aleph. Moshe ran from the kavod, a very impressive show of humility.
Yet if we think about this discussion, it doesn’t sound humble at all. Hashem was giving Moshe directions for writing the Torah, the very blueprint for Creation. Hashem instructed Moshe to write the word “vayikra” with a large aleph. Moshe said no. Hashem insisted. Moshe still said no. Finally Moshe compromised: “All right, I will write it, but my way – small.” This doesn’t sound very obedient, and certainly not humble! It sounds audacious. An unassuming man would listen to the Creator of the Heavens and the earth and do as he was told.
The Greatness of Man and the Value of Humility
The answer to this can be found by understanding the balance between the greatness of man and humility. To do this, let’s begin with a mashal.
Imagine you are passing a commercial construction site where you see a large crane digging out a foundation. The crane lifts up loads of dirt, rocks, rubble – moving tons of earth with each scoop. Operating the crane is Joe. Joe is overweight and a chain smoker. Another worker approaches Joe and says, “Joe, look at you! 80 pounds overweight, smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. You must do something about your health. Go the gym, work out, and get in shape.”
Joe turns back to his coworker and says, “Me work out? What do you think I do all day long? I lift heavy loads, tons and tons of dirt from one side of the site to the other.”
“Joe, that isn’t you lifting the dirt. It’s the crane. You’re just the guy pulling the levers. The crane is doing the heavy lifting!” exclaims the coworker.
This is an apt parable to man. I occupy a body. This body has a mind that is brilliant and a mouth that is articulate. It was created in the image of Hashem. Look at what it can accomplish; look what it can do. It is deserving of extraordinary honor.