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Vayikra el Moshe, vayedaber Hashem eilav mei’Ohel Mo’ed, laimor – He called Moshe and Hashem spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying” (Vayikra 1:1). Why does the Torah not tell us who called Moshe?

Rashi explains that the term keriyah is a form of endearment. Each time, before G-d would instruct Moshe to relay commandments to the people of Israel, he would first reach out to him in a friendly way, off stage, before Moshe ascended the platform to convey to the Jews what G-d had instructed him. Had the Torah written “Vayikra Hashem el Moshe…” it would have conveyed a level of formality and hierarchy that would belie the closeness of the relationship between G-d and Moshe.


Another way of explaining the omission is that our pasuk is a reflection of the dialogue between G-d and Moshe over the first word – Vayikra. Moshe wanted G-d to write Vayikar, without the letter aleph at the end, which would mean that G-d happened to appear serendipitously to Moshe, as He did with Bilam, rather than Vayikra which means that G-d planned a meeting with Moshe. Moshe did not want to boast about the fact that G-d would appear to him by design rather by happenstance, such as through the medium of a dream as he did with other prophets. G-d, on the other hand, did want this to be publicized. So, they solved this dispute by writing the word Vayikra with a small aleph. Similarly, Moshe did not want it publicized that he was on such close terms with G-d that G-d would touch base with Moshe informally before instructing him to convey his commandments to the Jews. G-d did want to publicize it. So, the compromise was that G-d left his name out at the beginning of the sentence but included it at the end.

A third way of explaining the omission is by focusing on the place in which G-d was talking to Moshe. It was in the Ohel Mo’ed. The Ohel Mo’ed was a kind of an itinerant Beit Hamikdash which served two distinct purposes. One purpose was to serve as the place where the Jews brought korbanot. The second purpose was to serve as G-d’s permanent residence among the Jews in the desert. It also served as the regular meeting place where G-d would teach Moshe, for the second time, the same Torah that He already taught him at Sinai, but this time with a focus on the laws of korbanot. The fact that G-d was a permanent resident in the Ohel Mo’ed is clear from Shemot 40:35, where we are told that the glory of G-d constantly filled the Ohel Mo’ed. Since Moshe was being called from the Ohel Mo’ed, it was obvious that the One making the call was G-d.

The laws of the korbanot open with a korban nedavah, an optional offering that was voluntarily brought by someone who wanted to show his appreciation of G-d. No sin was committed by such a person that would have required an obligatory Korban Chattas. The person bringing the korban nedavah was not coming contrite and prostrate, but rather erect and proud that he had committed no sin. That is why the Torah uses the term “adam,” which is a higher title than that of basar v’dam, the usual title given to people who have given into to their human frailties and sinned. The adam recognizes that even though he worked hard to achieve success, ultimately success is a gift from G-d. Accordingly, he takes one of his prize possessions, a head of cattle, which was how wealth was counted in those days, and offers it up to G-d in recognition of that fact. An adam, a mensch, is one who acknowledges G-d’s contribution to his success while the going is good. A basar v’dam is a person who only acknowledges this when the going gets bad. Chazal tell us that we should pray the Shemoneh Esrei beracha of Refa’einu while we are healthy and plead with Him to keep it that way, rather than beseech Him when we are sick.

Closely related to this concept is the requirement that the korban nedavah be slaughtered “tzafona, lifnei Hashem,” in the north side of the Ohel Mo’ed, before G-d (1:11). The north side of the Ohel Mo’ed is where the Shulchan, which signifies physical success and prosperity, was situated. The south side of the Ohel Mo’ed is where the Menorah, which signifies spiritual success, was situated. The word “tzafon” comes from the word “tzafun,” which means hidden. G-d is hidden in the north where wealth resides because man’s natural impulse is to proclaim that “kochi v’otzem yadi asah li es kol ha’chayil hazeh”: I am a self-made man. Where is G-d in this picture? He is hidden in the shadows cast by men’s pride.

We have to shine a light on the place where G-d is banished in hiding and declare to all that He is the source of our wealth. We do this by bringing one of our prize possessions as an offering in the north.

Whereas a wealthy person who brings an expensive head of cattle as a korban in appreciation of G-d is called an adam, a poor person who brings a meager measure of flour as a korban is called a “nefesh.” For the wealthy person, his korban is not an existential threat. He has plenty more to live on where that came from. For the poor person, who ekes out a living, that small measure of flour can make the difference between being satiated and being hungry. He almost takes the piece of bread out of his mouth and gives it to G-d. That is why he is called nefesh, because he literally is prepared to sacrifice his own well being for the sake of G-d. That type of sacrifice means much more to G-d.

That is why the afternoon prayer is called Minchah. Unlike the morning and evening prayers, which are recited before work and after work, the afternoon prayers are recited during work. We take time out of our working day, just like the poor person takes bread out of his mouth, in recognition that it is He who really works for us, and without his assistance, all will fail.

Just like the Korban Minchah is G-d’s favorite sacrifice, so too is the prayer of Minchah G-d’s favorite prayer. After all, it was the tefillat Minchah of Eliyahu at Har Hakarmel that G-d answered.

The same can be said of the Minchat Bikurim (2:14). A person toils the earth year-round and yearns to see the first fruits of his labor. “…k’bikura b’terem kayitz asher yireh ha’ro’eh osah b’odah b’chapo yivla’ena – the first ripe fig before summer, which he wants to swallow as soon as he picks it” (Yeshayahu 28:4). But instead, he offers it up to G-d. This is another form of selfless sacrifice which is treasured by G-d,

These highlights from the Parsha Shiur of Haga’on Harav Dovid Feinstein Zt”l, are presented by Raphael Grunfeld, a partner in the Wall Street law firm of Carter Ledyard & Milburn LLP., who received Semichah in Yoreh Yoreh from Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem of America and in Yadin Yadin from Harav, Haga’on Dovid Feinstein, Zt”l, and who attended his weekly Parshah Shiur for twenty years. Raphael can be reached at [email protected].

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Raphael Grunfeld received semicha in Yoreh Yoreh from Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem of America and in Yadin Yadin from Rav Dovid Feinstein. A partner at the Wall Street law firm of Carter Ledyard & Milburn LLP, Rabbi Grunfeld is the author of “Ner Eyal: A Guide to Seder Nashim, Nezikin, Kodashim, Taharot and Zerayim” and “Ner Eyal: A Guide to the Laws of Shabbat and Festivals in Seder Moed.” Questions for the author can be sent to [email protected].