The Small AlephMarch 3, 2014 - 5:00 am
The LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting. — Leviticus 1:1
The Torah portion for this week is Vayikra, which means “and He called,” from Leviticus 1:1–5:26, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 43:21–44:23.
This week, we begin Leviticus, the third of the Five Books of Moses. It begins: “The LORD called to Moses and spoke to him.” There is something extremely unusual about this verse, but it is only noticeable when looking at the original Hebrew. The word for “called out” is vayikra, the title of this week’s portion. However, in this instance, the word is written in a strange way. Aleph, the very last letter of vayikra and also the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, is written smaller than the rest of the word.
What is the message of the small aleph?
The Sages give a few suggestions. One idea is that Moses purposefully wrote it that way. Moses, being an extremely humble man, felt it was necessary to downplay his unique relationship with God. He made the aleph small as if to say, “even though God calls out to me, I’m really not that great.” It was a sign of humility.
However, there is another interpretation that relays a powerful message to us all. When we think of God calling out to someone, we might think of a huge, monumental experience that shakes heaven and earth. However, by making the aleph small, the message conveyed is that God often communicates with us in a much less impressive manner. Remember the story of the prophet Elijah? As he stood on the mountain and experienced fierce winds, a powerful earthquake, and a roaring fire, Elijah did not hear God’s voice in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire. Rather God’s voice was in “a gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:12).
Some people wait their whole lives to experience God, looking for some cataclysmic event. They see Him in wars, weather, and other world-changing events. But, while God undoubtedly can be found in events like those, we can also find Him in the everyday, less noticeable events.
He is in a child’s laughter and a baby’s cry. He is in the poor person who needs our help, and He is with us as we wait in to the grocery check-out line. God presents Himself in the countless opportunities we have every day to choose goodness, kindness, and godliness. He is that small still voice we hear, urging us to choose good.
God is in the little things, so small that it’s easy to miss sometimes. We must be constantly vigilant and aware so that we can hear God’s voice and find Him in even the most mundane aspects of our lives. Because some day we will realize that all those small things add up to something very large – a life lived with holiness and a deep connection with God.