Torah scroll
Torah scrollISTOCK

This week, we begin the third book of the Torah, Sefer Vayikra, which is colloquially known as “Torat Kohanim--the Laws of the Priests,” as the overwhelming focus of this sefer is the rituals and regulations associated with the korbanot [sacrifices] to be brought in the Mishkan.

This week’s parshah starts off with the statement that [Vayikra 1’ 1’] “G-d called to Moshe.” Rashi comments that despite the fact that we find [Tehillim 29] that G-d’s voice [metaphorically speaking] was majestic in its strength and sheer power, and could shatter cedar trees, the only one who was able to hear this voice was Moshe.

R’ Moshe Feinstein asks the obvious–if G-d’s voice was to be heard by Moshe alone, why does the Torah allude to the might and majesty of G-d’s communications? What purpose was served by this miracle?

R’ Feinstein answers, that in actuality, an extraordinary lesson can be gleaned from here. The Midrash states, that all Jews are obligated to have the ambitious mindset of, “When will my actions reach those of the Avot, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” This is the lesson that is meant to be extrapolated from these details. For although only Moshe was able to hear the echoes of Hashem’s commands, the voice was there for all to have access to, if they would only tap into their latent potential. As the Mishnah in Avot implies [Avot 4’ 13’], unlike the crowns of Kingship and the Priesthood, the Crown of Torah is there for all, provided one invests their efforts with diligent study and toil.

Fascinatingly, while the gist of the possuk according to Rashi is designed to allude to the greatness of Moshe in that only he was on the level to directly hear the “Voice” of G-d, the first word of the parshah hints at his humility, for the word “vayikra” – “and he called”–is written with a small letter “aleph.” And while there are a myriad of different approaches in the commentaries to explain this oddity, the general consensus is that the reduction in size of the letter was Moshe’s attempt to “hide” [as it were] his role as a teacher of G-d’s Torah, for the word “aleph” means to teach – hence Moshe was saying, that G-d’s calling to him, and his mission of passing on the message of that communication to the Jews, had very little to do with Moshe’s direct efforts; rather it was all from G-d.

Thus, it emerges that the beginning of Sefer Vayikra is designed to teach a dichotomous message – for although the voice of G-d is accessible to all who seek it, even one [such as Moshe] who merits becoming a prophet who can communicate with G-d directly –- must remain humble.

As we look around at a world that has clearly lost its way ethically, morally, and spiritually, may the calling of G-d once again be openly heard by Am Yisrael, speedily in our days!