A Compilation of Selected Torah Insights,
Thought-Provoking Ideas, Homilies And
Explanations of Torah Passages
Vayikra discusses karbanot - sacrifices - which are pure and which restore spiritual purity (taharah) to a person. Therefore, it is fitting that pure little children should begin their education with the topic of purity.
Alternatively, Chumash Vayikra primarily discusses the different karbanot
that the Jewish people were required to offer to Hashem. Teaching it to
young children imparts a message to both parents and children.
Jewish parents are being told that they must sacrifice so that their children
may succeed in Torah study. They must forego materialistic lifestyles to live
in a way compatible with the Torah teachings their children are receiving,
and they may also have to give up luxuries to pay tuition.
Jewish children must also know from the onset that sacrifice and dedication
are a prerequisite for success in Torah studies. One cannot just sit back and
expect to learn through osmosis. A Torah student must always bear in mind
the words of our Sages (Megillah 6b): "If a person says 'I have tried hard
and succeeded,' believe him" - only through diligent and assiduous study
will one succeed.
Moreover, the youth is being told that throughout life as a Torah observant
Jew he may encounter hardship and perhaps even persecution. Nevertheless,
he should be ready to make a sacrifice for Yiddishkeit, and ultimately he
will realize that though it may be difficult to be a Jew, his life will be
meaningful and rewarding.
Moshe is the greatest prophet of the Jewish people. Though we are told
"Never again has there arisen in Israel a prophet like Moshe" (Devarim
34:10), the gentiles were able to boast of having someone as great in
prophecy, Bilaam (Sifri, ibid.) The pasuk about Hashem speaking to Bilaam
reads, "Vayikar Elokim el Bilaam" (Bamidbar 23:4). The "Alef" of
"vayikra" is omitted in order to illustrate that Hashem did not enjoy speaking
to Bilaam and therefore called him in an off-hand way.
Moshe, being the most humble person who ever lived (Bamidbar 23:3),
wanted to write "Vayikar". However, because of His great love for Moshe,
Hashem insisted that he write "Vayikra" with an "Alef". Moshe and Hashem
compromised and "Vayikra" was written with a small "Alef".
Regarding Moshe, the Torah says "Ki karan or panav" - "The skin of his
face had become radiant" (Shemot 34:29). According to the Midrash Rabbah
(47:6), there was leftover ink in Moshe's quill after he wrote the Torah, and
he rubbed it on his head. Afterwards his face shone.
With the above we can explain this Midrash: Although Hashem wanted
Moshe to write "Vayikra" with a regular "Alef", Moshe insisted on at least
writing it with a small "Alef", and a small amount of ink was left over,
which Moshe rubbed on his head.
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, the third Rebbe of Lubavitch
(known as the "Tzemach Tzedek"), was a grandchild of the Alter Rebbe,
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chabad Chassidut. His mother
died when he was a baby, and his grandfather promised her that he would
raise the child.
the portion of the week (Ha'azinu) with much emphasis on the pasuk, "He
encircled him, He gave him the wisdom of Torah, He preserved him like the
pupil of His eye" (32:10).
After the davening, the Rebbe asked that the child be wrapped in a tallit and
carried to the cemetery. Upon reaching his daughter's grave, the Rebbe said
loudly with great joy, "Mazel Tov to you Devorah Leah the daughter of
Shterna. Today I bless him that just as he enters Torah, so he should enter
chuppah and good deeds with long life." Everyone present answered
When they returned home the Rebbe asked the melamed (teacher) to learn
the first parshah of Chumash Vayikra with his grandchild. When the
melamed finished his lesson, the Rebbe told him to give the child honey
cookies and a hard-boiled egg on which various pesukim were written.
The young child then asked his Zaide, "Why is the 'alef' of 'Vayikra' written
so small?" For a moment, the Rebbe concentrated deeply, and then he
opened his eyes and said, "Adam was Hashem's handiwork, and he was even
wiser than the angels. However, Adam was smitten by the knowledge of his
good qualities and therefore sinned.
"Moshe Rabbeinu, though he was aware of the qualities Hashem had given
him, did not permit himself to become conceited. On the contrary, he
humbly said to himself, 'Another person, given the opportunity to ascend to
heaven and talk to Hashem personally or given a neshamah such as mine,
would have accomplished much more.'
"The letters of the 'alef-beit' occur in three sizes: large, medium and small.
Because Adam was impressed with his own status as Hashem's handiwork
and his great qualities, in I Chronicles (1:1) his name is spelled with a large
'alef'. Since Moshe was not impressed with his own greatness, but on the
contrary, humbled by it, the 'alef' is written small for him."
Alternatively, in Shir Hashirim (5:2) Hashem says to the Jewish people
"Pitchi li achoti" - "Open your heart to me, my sister." The Midrash
paraphrases Hashem's plea as follows: "Just make an opening the size of the
eye of a needle, and I will reciprocate with a opening like the entrance to a
Vayikra is the book which discusses karbanot, whose purpose is to bring the
people closer to Hashem. Therefore, it uses the smaller "alef" to allude to the
Divine call that all a person has to do to be close to Hashem is to make a
small opening - Hashem will take care of the rest.
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