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THE HUMBLE aLEPH

In the Torah scroll, the aleph of the word וַיִּקְרָא” is written smaller than the other letters.  Why?

Rashi writes that the word וַיִּקְרָא” connotes a term of endearment – a “calling” of someone beloved; however, when Hashem spoke to the non-Jewish prophets, He used the word “וַיִּקָּר” (without the aleph) which connotes almost a happenchance “calling”.[1]  According to this understanding, the Baal HaTurim answers our initial question: When Moshe was writing the Torah, instead of writing the word וַיִּקְרָא, he wanted to write the word וַיִּקָּר – in his great humility – to make it seem as if Hashem ‘happened to call’ him.  As a result of Moshe’s great humility, explains the Baal HaTurim, Hashem instructed Moshe to write thealeph but smaller, in order that we can learn about Moshe’s greatness.[2]

One great teacher who lived up to Moshe’s example was Rav Yerucham Levovitz who suddenly stopped in the middle of giving a mussar shiur and excused himself to his private study.  Concerned for their rebbe, and inquisitive about his strange behavior, some of his students listened through the closed door to hear what was going on inside, and they heard Rav Yerucham crying while saying “Yerucham, Yerucham, who are you trying to fool? You know you haven’t reached such a high level!”

Humility is a difficult trait to possess, yet we learn from Moshe –the teacher of teachers – in whose merit the entire Jewish People existed[3] that despite achieving so much, it ispossible to be humble.  For, however much we feel that we have achieved, it is not a drop in the ocean compared to Moshe’s achievements.  Therefore, the Torah’s testimony of Moshe’s great humility acts as a measuring stick against us.


[1] See for instance Bamidbar 23:4.  The Baal HaTurim explains that such an expression would be fitting to be used for someone whom Hashem appeared to in a dream, rather that someone who spoke directly to Hashem as Moshe did.
[2] This is a perfect example of the precept “Anyone who flees from greatness, greatness chases him” (Eruvin 13b)
[3] See Shemos 32:32 where Moshe refuses the choice of having the Jewish People rebuilt from him.