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Parashat Vayikra is the first portion of the book of Vayikra / Leviticus. It begins with God instructing Moses to describe five types of sacrifices to the Israelites. The text describes the procedures for the people and the priests to follow and the part of the sacrifice which is to go to Aaron and his sons.

Another voice

Vayikra by Henry Grunwald :: 5768

Henry Grunwald QC is the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. He also chairs the Jewish Leadership Council, is the Vice Chairman of the National Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and a Vice President of the European Jewish Congress. By profession, he is a Senior Member of the Criminal Bar, having been appointed Queen's Council in 1999 and a Bencher of Grays Inn in 2002. He is a Fellow of University College, London.

This week's sedra is the first of the third book of the Torah. It takes its name from the very first word of the sedra - "Vayikra". Unlike the previous book, Exodus, which is full of great narrative passages about the progress of the Children of Israel from slavery to freedom, Vayikra comprises mainly directions from G-d, although not necessarily directly from G-d.

"Vayikra Moshe" - "And he called to Moses". At this stage the Mishkan (sanctuary) has been built, and now G-d calls to Moses from the Sanctuary to teach him the laws, which he, in turn, would pass on to the Jewish people. Moses is again, as he had been at Mount Sinai, the pure channel for G-d's teachings and directions.

If you look in the Torah at the word "Vayikra" itself, you will see that the final letter - aleph - is written very small. Our sages teach us that each letter in the Torah has to be written in a particular way, that no word or letter is superfluous and that any letter written small or large is done so for a particular reason. The same sages teach us that the particular reason for this small aleph is to signify the humility of Moses. The aleph is small because Moses was humble. In fact in Bamidbar 12:3, the Torah tells us that "he was more humble than any person on the face of the earth". Moses, the greatest of our leaders and teachers, not only felt humble in the presence of G-d; he also felt humble, and behaved with great humility, in relation to everyone else. It was this very special characteristic that made him so fitted for his role in receiving the Torah from G-d and transmitting it to the Children of Israel, and so we are taught that "the presence of G-d spoke from the throat of Moses".

We, too, need humility in our dealings with G-d and with our fellow-men, but, conversely, we also each need a strong sense of our own significance and potential. The task of any leader and teacher is to strike the right balance between the contrasting qualities of humility and self-confidence, both in him or herself as well in those who are being taught or led. Every person should have a strong sense of self-worth, but, equally, every person needs to have a strong sense of the worth of others. That was the greatness of Moses. As the sages tell us, he felt that others, given his opportunities, would have used them to better effect. Rather than feeling his own power, he stressed the significance of everyone else!

There are serious lessons for our community in these teachings. Egos are all too often major stumbling blocks in our communal lives. We should learn from Moses, and so, when reading this week's sedra, think about the small aleph, and what it signifies. I cannot source this quotation, but it encapsulates the greatness of Moses very well - "Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less". We can all benefit from a little more humility in our lives.


More by Henry Grunwald

Another voice by Taste of Limmud Team

The very detailed description both of the Mishkan's contents and of the services to be performed there, is quite boring for most Bible readers. But as suggested by Rabbi Saul Berman, one likely reason for the great detail is to deter future priests from claiming divine sanction to solicit ever-increasing donations from the people to further beautify G-d's Mishkan. By specifying precisely, in a document available to everyone, what G-d wants inside the Mishkan, the Torah helps to prevent the possibility of future corruption.

In addition, Rav Moshe Feinstein explains that Moshe was the most well known and respected Jew, renowned for his righteousness. But despite all this, Moshe did not hesitate to make a public audit of all of the donations made to the Mishkan to show that he did not keep anything for himself. Moshe did not want anyone to have the potential opportunity to think he did anything even slightly inappropriate. We can learn here, from Moshe's example that sometimes it is necessary to go above and beyond the call of duty in justifying our actions. We must recognize that people may suspect impropriety (especially when it comes to work in the community or public sector), even if there is none. To be in a high position/status comes with responsibility and accountability. It was a shortfall in these qualities that lead to the destruction of the Batei Mikdash.


More by Taste of Limmud Team

Other Divrei Torah on Vayikra

  • 5766 (Paul Freedman)
  • 5766 (Yisrael Medad)
  • 5767 (Michael Harris)
  • 5767 (Taste of Limmud Team)
  • 5769 (Gil Troy)
  • 5769 (Coby Shalev)
  • 5770 (Karen Radkowsky)
  • 5770 (Raphael Sylvester)
  • 5771 (Albert Ringer)
  • 5771 (Emma Sevitt)
  • 5772 (Karen Radkowsky)
  • 5773 (Pete Tobias)
  • 5773 (Nathan Abrams)
  • 5774 (Aviva Richman)
  • 5775 (Jeff Berger)
  • 5775 (Sam Millunchick)