D’var Torah: Vayikra – The Small Aleph Calls Us To Action

The first verse of the book of Vayikra reads, “The Lord called to Moshe and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting saying: Speak to the Israelite people and say to them.”

The most commented part of this verse is the small aleph at the end of the word “Vayikra.” The classic explanation of this small aleph is that Moshe didn’t want to come across as arrogant that God was calling to him to write the Torah. The smaller aleph symbolizes Moshe’s humility.

As I read this verse this year, I found additional interpretations that can be helpful in our times.

I believe that all of us have a calling, which includes both a larger role to play in the world and a personal role to play in our families and communities. The first letters of the word Vayikra are a more general calling and the small aleph is a call to us personally.

In the time of COVID-19, all of us are called upon to help others. The stay-at-home orders may seem futile – how can my action to stay home save other people’s lives? Although science validates this approach, in many ways it is our faith in scientists and experts that leads us to take action that we often cannot see the results of. We are relying on our family, friends, communities, our state, our country and the world to heed this call to keep each other safe. When God called to Moshe and the Israelites, it also was a call to action to follow a revolutionary moral code based on faith in an unseen God. The heeding of that call by a band of former slaves changed the trajectory of history. That inspires me as we do our part in the current health crisis.

The small aleph in the word Vayikra is about what I personally can do to help in these times. While Moshe’s role was much bigger and different than that of the average Israelite, every Israelite was needed to fulfill their particular calling. Today, for some, this is the incredible sacrifice of our health care workers who risk everything to save lives. And there are many other examples: small business owners who are closing down at great financial peril to slow the spread of disease; volunteers who are delivering groceries to infirm neighbors; teachers who show great commitment to provide students with online learning; and camp professionals who tighten the bonds of community online. Every person can bring their unique strengths to help in their own ways. We often say that at camp we strive to become the best versions of ourselves. In this crisis, we are called upon to reach even higher to be a source of support to one other.

God called on Moshe from the Tent of Meeting to implore him to speak to the Israelites. Right now, we cannot go to our “Tents of Meeting” and many feel isolated and alone. All of us can do what Moshe was called on to do and “speak” to each other by reaching out via every available medium. We are not prophets like Moshe but our messages of support and care are just as important. Much of Vayikra is about sacrificial offerings; our offerings will be about caring for each other.

May we all be blessed with health and the ability to hear both God’s call to us as the human race and the call to do our own individual part. Shabbat Shalom.