IT IS AMAZING how so much can come down to something so little. As is known, in the first word of Sefer Vayikra there is one letter that is smaller than the rest, the last letter, which is an Aleph. There are several larger and smaller letters in a Sefer Torah, but none as meaningful than this small Aleph. All of life and history comes down to what it represents.
Zoom class on Purim, b”H, Tuesday, March 8, 7:30 pm Israel time. Meeting ID: 836 1383 3117, Passcode: 327302, or see it on YouTube after.
Rashi was also compelled to explain it, though he usually doesn’t focus on hints. He explains that it is the Aleph that transforms the word from vayikar, which is a language of chance, to vayikra, which means “and he called.” Vayikar, as Rashi points out, was used with respect to Bilaam’s prophecy, to impersonalize it. Vayikra is being used with respect to Moshe for the opposite reason, to show how dear he was to God.
One of the fundamental differences between Moshe Rabbeinu and Bilaam, I have pointed out in the past, was a neck’s length. The both knew a tremendous amount about God and how He worked. However, everything Moshe knew went from his head to his heart, and that made him true to God. Bilaam’s knowledge got stuck in his head and never made it down to his heart, and that made him inconsistent at best, evil at worse.
But before we shake our head in disgust at Bilaam while identifying with Moshe Rabbeinu, we should realize that we have a tendency to make the same mistake. This is why the verse tells us, “And you shall know this day and consider it in your heart, that God, He is God in heaven above, and upon the earth below; there is none else” (Devarim 4:39). It’s not enough just to know this in your head. You have to get it to your heart if you want to go from the level of vayikar to vayikra.
It’s the difference of living on the level of only Elokim as opposed to on the level of Hovayah. Pharaoh believed in Elokim, but not Hovayah. He agreed that God made the world and ran it, but through nature. He had a hard time, at least at first, accepting that God just makes it look like nature has rules, and is willing to manipulate history at will when it suits His purpose for Creation.
The Aleph, which is constructed with two Yuds and a Vav which have a gematria of 26 and Hovayah, alludes to this. The Aleph of Adam does as well. And of course, the Aleph of kisay at the end of Parashas Beshallach is only about this…
AMALEK ATTACKED THE Jewish people just after they complained about a lack of water at the end of Parashas Beshallach, and Rashi explained the connection. It was one thing to ask for more water. It was a whole different thing to ask, “Is God among us or not?” (Shemos 17:7).
Kabbalah explains that the question was not what is sounds like. They weren’t blind and they weren’t stupid. There were more than enough reminders that God was with them and all around them. The question they had was, which level of Divine Providence was going to accompany them into the desert? The one that saved them from Egypt with miracles they hadn’t deserved, or the one that only does them good when they are good?
That doubt in Divine Providence woke up Amalek whose very existence triggers doubt in Divine Providence. His name even equals suffek—doubt in gematria, and it is Amalek against whom God personally declared war. In fact, as Rashi explains at the end of the parsha, as long as Amalek remains in the world, God’s throne—kisay—will be missing its Aleph, and the Yud-Heh from His name Hovayah will be separated, so-to-speak from its Vav-Heh.
What does this mean? It means living on the level of Elokim and nature, and not on the higher supernatural level of Hovayah. It means not letting the knowledge of God make it down to your heart so that you can be real with it. Amalek would prefer a person not believe in God at all, but he can tolerate such a belief as long as it remains cerebral and not heartfelt.
Amalek has many ways to do this but they all kind of work the same way: distraction. There is distraction of the mind, and there is distraction of the heart. Distraction of the mind is when ideas are introduced that cause a person to question the existence of God or His hands-on providence. Distraction of the heart is when things happen to block a person from feeling the reality of what they know, or should know. It’s REALLY important to find out if God exists and if Torah is true, but many people don’t feel the same way.
That’s how we can believe that God runs the world and directs history and, yet get all emotionally uptight when reading or hearing bad news. We respond as if the Hamans of history can act independent of God’s providence.
It’s like getting angry at someone who rear ends your new car. Who doesn’t get angry about that? Yes, you believe God runs the world. Yes, you believe that everything is a function of Hashgochah Pratis. Yes, you believe that there is no such thing as an accident. But somehow that seems less relevant in the heat of the moment than the feelings of injustice you feel while giving the other driver a piece of your mind.
Now imagine in the midst of your complaint a booming voice comes down from Heaven and says, “I caused that to happen to you!” Now what? Do you say, “Hold on one minute God, I’ll be with You right after I let this guy know what a dangerous driver he is…”? Or, do you stop in your tracks and retreat with your tail between your legs, forgetting about the other driver while you wonder what made God cause the accident to happen to you? It is such emotional clarity that equals that little Aleph that turns vayikar into vayikra, Elohim into Hovayah, and Amalek into nothingness.
THE ENTIRE TORAH and life in general comes down to the message of this Aleph, of vayikra versus vayikar. Purim certainly does, which is why we read Parashas Zachor about Amalek’s attack right before it. If you want the full story, see my book called Redemption to Redemption: The Very Deep and Intricate Connection Between the Holidays of Purim and Pesach.
Normally, the main halachic division in the Jewish people is between those who keep Shabbos, and those who don’t. But the hoshkofic division is really this, between those on the level of vayikra and Hovayah, and those only on the level of vayikar and Elokim.
The heroes of Jewish history live on the level of the Aleph. Take Pinchas for example. While the rest of the nation mourned the invasion of the Midianite women, Pinchas took action to stop it because, as the Torah says, he acted on behalf of God, not himself. Everyone saw the Midianite women and what they caused, but Pinchas saw the hand of God behind it all and viewed it as a challenge to respond and stop it.
Mordechai too. Everyone saw Haman rise to power, but only Mordechai saw the hand of God pushing Haman up, and that’s what he dealt with. This is why he remained untouchable, because he did not fight Haman on Haman’s level, that of vayikar. He fought Haman on the level of vayikra, a level Amalek by definition does not understand and cannot access.
And now we find ourselves once again in a similar situation in the Ukraine. After all this time, Jews still live there. All of a sudden, Russia attacks and Jews are forced to leave their homes. Some have chosen to make aliyah and become an ingathered exile. Others talk about staying or returning and rebuilding life there…now…at this late stage of history…so close to the final redemption!
From a vayikar point of view, it’s just a war waged by a megalomaniac that just happens to affect Jewish lives. Nothing especially Jewish to learn from it. From a vayikra perspective, it’s a war that God is waging to uproot Jews from their foreign land and gather them on to Jewish soil, something they should have been yearning to do.
As Rashi points out in Parashas Vayailech, the final ingathering of Jews to Eretz Yisroel will be so difficult that God will have to take them by Diaspora Jews hand, so-to-speak. That was Europe in the 1920s and 30s, the Ukraine now, and soon to be, America and other western countries. Can’t see it? Try adding an Aleph to your vayikar. You’d be surprised how much better you can see what God is doing, and how quickly.
Book: The Fabric of Reality
THIS IS A TORAH book. It is not, however, meant only for the Torah community. In fact, it is not even meant only for the Jewish people. It is meant for anyone wishing to have a better understanding of the world today, and its impact on mankind.
Granted that the language of the book adheres to traditional Jewish transliterations and phraseology, necessitating a footnote for those unfamiliar with either or both. The ideas, however, are universal, and therefore apply to everyone, at least on some level.
Though some areas of Torah study are specific to the Jewish people, the Torah addresses the purpose of Creation for all of mankind. Its philosophy of life applies to every individual on one level or another. This is what the Jewish people were supposed to have shared with the world. This is what being a “light unto nations” actually means.
Once upon a time few questioned the “fabric” of reality. The dangers to survival were many, constant, and real enough. People then did not have the time, energy, or resources to ponder such deep philosophical questions, if they even asked them at all.
As man’s understanding of himself and his world increased, many assumptions about life fell to the way-side. He still had to worry about survival, especially during turbulent times of national conquest. Nevertheless, increased self-awareness and historical imperatives made certain philosophical issues impossible to avoid.
Science and technology have accelerated the process of self-understanding, especially in recent times. They have allowed man to peer into areas of the universe, in one direction beyond our solar system, and in the other direction, into the sub-atomic world. The findings have been spectacular and extremely informative.
Perhaps, though, one of the greatest break-throughs has been with respect to the human brain. The research is still in its nascent state, but already it has yielded insights into how man deduces the world around him, and what that means about reality.
One thing is for certain. The vast majority of the world’s population has little or no inkling about the true nature of reality. They make assumptions about the world in which they daily live and function that are at best inaccurate, and at worst, wrong.
This book is a look at some of these ideas and their historic implications. It is also a warning to get with the program before the program gets you, as it has to so many for so long now, and promises to do even more so in the coming years.