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Home » Vayikra Parshah

Vayikra: Humble Growth

Submitted by on March 15, 2010 – 2:53 amOne Comment | 2,119 views

The Small Aleph

Letters in the Hebrew alphabet also serve as numerals. Aleph, the first letter of the alphabet, represents the numeral one. It is thus fitting that Elokim, G-d`s name and Anochi, the first word of the Ten Commandments, begin with the Aleph, which represents true and singular oneness. (1)

Leviticus, the book that speaks of our offerings to G-d begins with the word “Vayikra,” And He [G-d] called. This word is the heart of the entire book. G-d calls and we respond; this is the give and take, the dialectic, of our relationship. Considering the nature of the Aleph, it is fitting that the word Vayikra, concludes with the letter Aleph; it testifies that the intent of Vayikra, the call, is to reveal the presence of G-d, the Aleph.  Because of its importance, we emphasize this Aleph by altering its script. It is curious, however, that we alter the Aleph by making it somewhat smaller, rather than larger. Shouldn’t we dramatize the letter that represents His oneness, rather than minimize it?

True Growth

In almost every area of existence we depend on consumption; the more we consume the more we secure our existence. To live we must eat, which is to consume the natural resources of plant and animal life. To have shelter we must build, which is to consume the natural resources of minerals and woods. To travel we must build means of conveyance, consume fuel and avail ourselves of the services of others. To study or teach we must consume the time of teachers and pupils. To write books we consume paper and ink.

The one exception to this general and hideous rule is in the most existential and grandest part of life; life itself. We live by consuming, but we are alive by dint of our essence. Deep beneath our profoundest aspirations, high above our noblest endeavors and far beyond our greatest achievements lies a glimmer of G-d’s own essence. The more alert we are to our essence, the more alive we are.

Glamorous mansions, fashionable wardrobes and popular acclaim do not draw us closer to our essence; if anything they distract and draw us away. Life is in essence a spark of G-d. To draw close to that spark we must first draw away from ourselves; from our needs, interests and aspirations.

In every other endeavor, career, family, academics or social, the larger we grow the greater we become. At our essence the reverse is true. The smaller we are, the greater we become; the more bound up we are with G-d. To connect with G-d our egos must be set aside because the ego clashes with G-d. One cannot be invested in oneself and in G-d at once.

But we are so caught up with living that we can hardly spare a moment to consider its existential meaning. How do we pull away from the constant race to dwell on the quiet nobility of our essence?

Vayikra – The Ever Present Call

Enter the soul. We are each born with a slice of G-d embedded in our depth. We can fill our day with unimportant pleasures and spend our lives with inconsequential needs, but fast as we might run we can never escape our soul. It is an existential part of our being; it is with us wherever we go. We cannot stop being soulful any more than we can stop breathing; it is enmeshed into the very fabric of our being.

The soul calls unto us and alerts us to the false veneer of our lives. It empowers us to look deeply into ourselves and prod for purpose and meaning. To ask ourselves every so often why we keep up the frenetic pace, what we expect to gain from this tiresome exercise we call life.

This is the true meaning of Vayikra. G-d calls, beckons and nudges us awake. humble growth - innerstreamWhen we call it is from a distance. We do not call out when we are close to the person we wish to address; we call when we are far. G-d calls to us because we have drifted away. From our distant vantage point light seems like dark and dark seems like light. This vantage point is vastly distant from G-d and for us to hear the cry, our soul needs to call out across the gulf. Its call is quiet, but penetrating; it invites, cajoles and sternly reprimands.

There are times when we awaken from the vanity of our pursuit and recognize that we lack cosmic significance. These moments do not come as shattering revelations, they are self evident truths of which we are always aware. But at these moments the truth presents itself in a way that does not allow us to dismiss it. It demands our attention; virtually commands us to pay heed.

At such times we realize that we are living a life of vanity and egocentricity; we think only of what we need, but conveniently ignore what we are needed for. The moment of truth, the call from beyond, the silent cry of the soul, awakens us and forces us to confront our existential truth.

This then is the meaning of Vayikra with the small Aleph. It is a call from G-d to stir us awake. As we hear this call we recognize the ever present, quietly dominant Aleph that presides over life. In our own eyes we begin to seem small as our ego fades away. We step away from the narrow lens that allows us to see only ourselves and take a broader view of life. We can now see the Aleph in addition to ourselves and beside it we feel small. This is what we mean when we speak of humble growth.

Sensing the Aleph’s presence is itself a rewarding experience. Meriting to feel small in its presence is an even greater achievement, but still not the greatest triumph. That occurs when we hold on to our humility even when the Aleph fades from our consciousness. Ordinary people are unable to maintain cognition of the Divine presence for long; we are fortunate to catch occasional glimpses at inspiring moments. But we are each able to hold on to our humility even after the moment passes and the call fades. Achieving this is truly a triumph over the most formidable opponent of all; ourselves. (2)

Footnotes

  1. The Aleph in the word Vayikra is its concluding
    letter. In grammatical terms the Aleph is silent when it appears at the
    end of a word. However, this silence is not that silent after all. Every
    vowel is articulated through the letter Aleph. Once we mouth the
    consonant at the beginning of the vowel the rest of the vowel is
    expressed as an Aleph. In other words, the Aleph is the silent, but ever
    present, partner of every letter, word and sentence. Considering that
    G-d created the world with letters, the Aleph is symbolic of the ever
    present hand of G-d in the conduct and very existence of the universe.
  2. This essay is based on Likutei Torah pp.
    1-2.
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