Torah Fax

Friday, March 31, 2006 - 2 Nissan, 5766

Torah Reading: Vayikra (Leviticus 1:1 - 5:26)
Candle Lighting Time:  6:01 PM
Shabbat Ends: 7:02 PM
The Linchpin
Vayikra, or Leviticus, is the third book of the Torah, and it is named after the first word of the book-"Vayikra-And He called." In the beginning of our Parshah, and this book of Torah, G‑d called out to Moses (Vayikra), and then proceeded to detail to him the various forms of offerings that the Jewish people were to bring in the newly built Sanctuary.
The first word of a book of the Torah should reflect its character. What message does the word Vayikra convey? Also, Vayikra, the third book of the Torah, is also the central book of the Five Books of Moses. Its placement as the central book tells us something about the way we must view it.
Genesis is about the creation of the world, and Exodus is about the creation of a meaningful, purposeful world, with the liberation of the Jewish nation and the Giving of the Torah at Sinai. Numbers ("Bamidbar-In the desert," in Hebrew) and Deuteronomy (or: "Devarim-words of rebuke," in Hebrew) are about the wanderings, the vicissitudes, the struggles, trials and tribulations of the Jewish people. The linchpin that brings all these elements together is Vayikra-Leviticus.
The word Vayikra is translated literally as "And He called," referring to the affectionate way G‑d calls out to Moses before He begins telling him about the offerings in the Temple.
Rashi comments that there is another, almost identical, word in Hebrew-Vayikar-that means "and He chanced upon him," that is used in reference to the way G‑d approached Bilam, the heathen prophet.
The difference between these two forms of introduction, Rashi explains, is that the former (Vayikra) implies G‑d's desire and pleasure in initiating a conversation with Moses. The latter form (Vayikar) is indicative of a total lack of enthusiasm concerning the ensuing conversation. It is G‑d's way of saying, "I'd rather not have this conversation with you, but I have to, so let's get it over with."  
The difference between the two words is one letter: "aleph." Vayikra has the aleph, Vayikar does not.
We find other words in Hebrew where the single letter "aleph" determines whether the word is positive or negative. One prime example is the word Golah (without the aleph) and Geulah (with the aleph), which translate as exile and redemption, respectively.
Another example of this aleph-transformation phenomenon is from the words Bor and B'er. The word bor means an empty pit, often with the connotation that it is a place of snakes and scorpions, or a place associated with prison and even death, while b'er means a well that contains refreshing water, referred to in Biblical literature as  "Mayim Chaim-living waters."
Another striking example is the Hebrew word for truth-Emet, which actually connotes something that is consistent and never ending. If we remove the aleph, it becomes Met, which means death and cessation, the very opposite of Emet.
What power is vested in the letter aleph that it can so transform a word? Aleph, as the first letter of the alphabet, signifies G‑d who is the First Cause of everything. As the first letter of the alphabet, Aleph is also connected with the number one, alluding to G‑d, who is absolutely one.
The word aleph itself is cognate to the word Aluf, which, in Hebrew means a chief or master.
When we take the Aleph-the awareness of a singular Master of the World-and insert it into the word golah-exile, we transform exile into geulah-redemption.
When we add the Aleph to the pit and the abyss, we create a life sustaining well.
When we add the Aleph to the word that suggests terminality (Met), we convert it into Emet-truth, endurance and consistency.
And when we add the Aleph to the word (Vaikar) that implies, lack of interest and a contemptuous relationship, it is transformed into Vayikra, an expression of eagerness to enter into a relationship with the other and an expression of love.
The Book of Vayikra, which focuses on inserting the Aleph into all of our experiences, has the capacity to join the first two books of the Torah that deal with birth and rebirth, Creation and Redemption to the last two books of the Torah that relate to the wanderings, decline and uncertainty of our future.
When a child is born it thrives, but its life is essentially provided for by others. When he or she achieves adolescence and adulthood and is no longer provided for, all of the problems begin. How do we connect the innocence, exuberance, confidence and joy of our youth (Genesis and Exodus) to the later stages of our lives (Numbers and Deuteronomy)?
The answer is Vayikra. When we begin to see our lives as a loving relationship between G‑d and us; when we add the aleph to the events that appear to be chance occurrences; when we see the Divine providence in every happening; when we hear G‑d affectionately calling out to us and asking us to take the animal within us and bring it closer to G‑d, at that point, we are also ready to make the transition form golah to geulah, from the travail of exile to the joy and exhilaration of the ultimate Redemption.     
Moshiach Matters
The well-known Lithuanian Torah leader, Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman, spent Shavuot of 1938 in London. So filled was he with the faith in Moshiach's imminent arrival (notwithstanding the horrific events that were about to unfold) that he spent over two hours in spiritual ecstasy on that Shavuot singing the famous chassidic song "Zol Shoyn Zein Di Geulah, Moshiach Zol Shoyn Kumin - Let the redemption already occur, Moshiach should already arrive!" (Artscroll's "The Story of Reb Elchonon")
Moshiach - It’s a Jewish issue. For more info, visit
© 2001- 2006 Chabad of the West Side