The following is based on the Me’or Einayim
This week we are Zocheh, we are lucky enough to begin Sefer Vayikra. This section of the Torah mainly primarily deals with Korbanos, the sacrifices which were the main even in the Mishkan, whose building took up a significant amount of space in Sefer Shemos.
The first Passuk reads as follows: “VaYikra El Moshe VaYidaber Hashem Eilav Me’Ohel Mo’ed Leimor.” ‘He called to Moshe, and Hashem spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting (the Mishkan) saying…”
The first anomaly is the seemingly vague first two words - “He Called” –who called? If it was simply Hashem calling to Moshe, then why not just tell us as the Passuk does two words later? Tell us from the start without breaking up the verse into two parts!
Our second point is even more puzzling. The word VaYikra is spelled Vav-Yud-Kuf-Resh-Alef. The interesting thing here is that if we check our Chumashim or any Sefer Torah we will see that the final Alef is written in superscript, it’s much smaller than the rest of the word, and every other letter for that matter, it’s called an Alef Ze’ira, a Mini-Alef. The appearance of such a letter in of itself begs an analysis.
Before entering into our discussion of Sefer Vayikra and its beginnings, we should first analyze the last few words of Sefer Shemos, as they serve as the contextual bridge between the two Books.
Sefer Shemos concludes at the end of Pekudei describing the Mishkan’s completion and the descent of God’s presence upon it. A Cloud of God’s Glory comes down and engulfs the Mishkan. Because of this Cloud, the Psukim tell us that Moshe Rabbeinu could not enter the Mishkan.
Let’s take even another step back. How did we get to the point where God’s Presence came over the camp of Am Yisrael? The answer is that we got there through a difficult process where God reveals Himself to us slowly.
Imagine discovering a person who has lived underground, without ever knowing what light even is. The time has finally come to integrate him into society. How are we to go about doing this? Simply plucking him from his burrow and placing him outside would be torturous, such a thing would cause him tremendous suffering. He wouldn’t be able to take seeing the light of day straight on. So first we light a small candle at a distance; we introduce him to the concept that there is something called “not-darkness”. Then we would show him a small window; not only is there a thing called “not-darkness”, but there is even such a thing as an outside world where “not-darkness” is used, and therefore you don’t have to fumble around. Only then, when his eyes are ready, can we take him out into the open.
This parable is really the process of God’s revelation to the Jewish people over the course of Sefer Shemos. Entrenched in Egyptian society, we begin Sefer Shemos reveling in the deepest levels of Tumah - Spiritual Impurity. Our status is titled by the Sfarim as Sha’ar Nun, the Fiftieth Gate, a spiritual phrase describing the farthest extent that anything can go. We were in the Sha’ar Nun of Tumah.
To build a Mishkan right there and then would simply be a spiritual overload. Hashem knows this, and so we decide to take things slowly.
First, on the way out of Egypt, God shows us that there is such a thing as “not-darkness”. He gives us two Mitzvos, Korban Pesach and Bris Milah. Then on the way to Har Sinai he sends relates to us at a distance, a Pillar of Smoke and a Pillar of Fire. Being with God is now seen as a tangible reality. Distant manifestations of God’s presence among us can go a long way. Then There is the revelation at Har Sinai. God comes out to us in a much bigger way than He ever has before, but He remains atop the mountain. He doesn’t speak to us in full. Only after working on the Mishkan does His Presence enter into the camp to fully reside among the people. Our man in the burrow has been taken out into the open.
And what was the whole point of Mishkan? Not for Hashem to have a clubhouse in which He could hang out. Rather the goal was, “V’Asu Li Mikdash V’Shachanti B’Socham” - ‘They shall build me a Mishkan and I will dwell among them. As it is famously pointed out, the verse does no say that He will dwell in the Mishkan, rather it states that He will dwell amongst them, the Jewish people themselves, B’Socham. The point of everything, of this entire journey from Mitzrayim to Mishkan was to get me to realize that Godliness can penetrate even little me.
So let’s imagine how Moshe is feeling right now! All of this work, all of this time, all of this effort and energy, but as God’s presence finishes settling on the Mishan, the situation is set for the ultimate closeness, but then the Passuk tells us, “V’Lo Yachol Moshe LaVo El Ohel Moed” he’s locked out. All of this work to attain closeness, and he can’t seem to bring it home. He can’t complete the task. He can’t experience the intimacy in its entirety. Bummer.
The concept of God’s presence penetrating me and giving me my vitality is called my Chelek Eloka MiMa’al, ‘A Godly Portion from Above’. God sends His aura to dwell inside of me. There is an already present reality of B’Socham that Hashem is constantly trying to get me to feel.
This is hinted to with a Small Alef. Why? Chazal call Hashem Alufo Shel Olam, the Commander of the Universe. Alef, for this reason, is an analogy to God (Alef/Alufo). If creation, and therefore physicality, begins with a Beis (as we see by Breishis), then that which is before physicality and the universe must be that which precedes Beis, namely Alef. Before there was Bereishis there was only Alufo Shel Olam.
If God is the ‘Big-Alef’, then the way that He penetrates me on the on the microcosmic level is a Small-Alef; my own little personal expression of Godliness. V’Shachanti B’Socham.
God can’t become impure. He’s God; it’s impossible. Therefore, it’s a matter of simple association that some of that unblemishable purity resides in me as well. This is my little Alef. A small manifestation of Alufo Shel Olam that is pumping inside of me. (In previous weeks we’ve discussed the Kotozo Shel Yud and the concept of Yechida. Therese is a strong connection between the Alef Ze’ira and the Kotzo Shel YUd.
The reality of a Small Alef expressing itself in me explains the concept of Hirurei Teshuva, random thoughts of closeness to God. These are the thoughts that pop up even in situations in which I’m taken to the farthest, oddest, most spiritually perplexing of places, even in the middle of an act of sin, all too often I feel that little urge pulling me back, “I can do better.” “This isn’t really me.” “If I could do this night again, I wouldn’t be here right now.” Where does such a thought come from? When I feel a spark of inspiration, or at the very least hesitation, that seemingly came out of nowhere, how did it get in my head?
The Ba’al Shem Tov taught us an important lesson. Hashem carefully tailors everything that comes my way. I’m meant to learn from the things that cross my field of vision, from the conversations that I overhear. All the more so from the loose thoughts that pass though my mind – Hashem is constantly asking, ‘What does this mean to you?’
The answer is that the little tug of Hirhurei Teshuva, that sudden push of yearning that doesn’t seem to match up with my conscious thinking is in truth, a small shining through of the Alef Ze’ira, my Chelek Eloka MiMa’al. It’s really HaKadosh Baruch Hu Himself whispering in my ear, “Come Back.” Because no matter where I go, He’s automatically still with me.
This is the struggle that is occurring in the start of this week’s Parsha. Moshe feels far. Like we said, he’s being kept out of the Mishkan and he doesn’t like it. And so when VaYikra begins, and he is being called in, he doesn’t know who it is that is speaking to him. And thus the Passuk says VaYikra El Moshe, without us being told who is doing the calling. But we do know that something is definitely calling to him. And what is the identifying factor of that call? It leaves a calling card, a signature: There at the end of the word is a Alef Ze’ira, a little burst of expression from the Chelek Eloka MiMa’al. There is an internal pull from inside Moshe Rabbeinu himself. Only through his contemplation of where this inner calling is coming from does he realize that what is really going on is the next words of the Passuk, “VaYidaber Hashem Eilav. He sees it’s all really coming from Hashem. With this realization in mind, immediately the lines of communication open back up.
In a very broad sense, the story of Moshe Rabbeinu is really the story of every Jew. His challenges are our own. And so the way he overcomes his feelings of distance is going to be the way that we overcome ours as well.
In moments of distance, in moments where we feel symbolically “locked out of the Mishkan” the first step is to look out for the tiny tug of my Alef Ze’ira. Living with the simple knowledge that my whole existence is predicated on the battery-powered spiritual goodness called my soul is a piece of inspiration that I can always always always go back to. There is a part of me that stays in direct contact with Hashem no matter how far I go, regardless of my past, or even more importantly - regardless of my present. That’s my first step back into the Mishkan.
HaKadosh Baruch Hu should give us a Brachathat we will be able to really live with such inspiration. If we can do that there is no doubt that we will live livesof Simcha, moving closer to The Creator and ultimately the Geulah Sheleimah!