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Being Called up to Greatness

By: Rav Yonny Sack

Our Parasha together with Sefer Vayikra begins with the famous words:

 Vayikra El Moshe , Vayedaber Hashem Elav...

And He called to Moshe and Hashem spoke to him…

The double language of “ And He called…and Hashem spoke” seems redundant. Rashi therefore comments that the word “Vayikra” indicates endearment, Hashem’s affection expressed first through calling up Moshe and only then speaking to him. In fact, Rashi says, quoting the Torat Cohanim, that this was always the case -every time Hashem spoke to Moshe, he preceded it with a ‘calling’.  The term ‘ לקרא’ is an expression of being called up to something, summoned to elevate oneself to a higher task. The chagim for example are called “Mikraei Kodesh” - a time when we are ‘called up’ to greater holiness. Rashi goes on to explain that the calling up of Moshe was with affection, unlike the summoning of the likes of Bilam (Bamidbar 23:4) where the Torah uses a language of ויקר , the aleph being absent, which denotes happenstance and impurity:

ויקר אלוקים אל בלעם – And E-lokim called to Bilaam

 A few years ago, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, zt”l, in a powerful address to Bnei Akiva school students on a parashat Vayikra preceding Purim (like this one) explained this Rashi and it’s connection to Purim so beautifully. As mentioned, the root קר has a very different meaning to קרא. The words Mikrah and Mikreh may sound very similar in English, but they are worlds apart in meaning. With the aleph, Mikrah is a powerful message to the one who is being called up, that he is summoned to some greater mission, filled with meaning and purpose. Without the aleph, Mikreh means chance, the very absence of meaning and purpose.

The word Vayikra here has a well-known anomaly. The alef at the end of the word is written in small print:        ויקרא

It is this miniature aleph that hints to the difference between Mikrah and Mikreh mentioned above in Rashi. Rabbi Sacks then quoted one of the most powerful and famous pasukim in Megilat Esther, where Esther has found herself in the unchosen and unwanted predicament of being the wife and queen of a terrible rasha who has signed off on the destruction of her people. With destruction looming, there seems to be little hope, and it is Mordechai who carries the message of ‘calling up’ to Esther in his famous words:

For if you persist in keeping silent at a time like this, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another place, while you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether it was just for such a time as this that you attained the royal position!?” (Esther 4:14)

 Esther was being summoned to a monumental task, to risk her life and stand up to the evil king and plead for her people’s safety. The message of Mordechai to Esther was a wake-up call, a Vayikra, with the aleph, a message of Hashem’s Hashgacha pratit, as Rabbi Sacks says, and one that each and every one of us need to remind and ask of ourselves daily in every circumstance that we find ourselves in – What is Hashem calling me up to do in this moment? What am I being called up to do right here, now in this place and time?  Rabbi Sacks notes that the mini Aleph is like the Kol Demama Daka  - the still, thin sound (Melachim 1, Ch 19), ever so quiet, for we need to be open to hear that summoning of Hashem, and the subtle yet clear affection and endearment that comes with Hashem’s guidance and involvement in our lives. Without the right eyes and ears, the Vayikra, of meaning and purpose, love and mission, can easily be heard only as a Vayekar of purposeless, meaningless happenstance. That little aleph, so slight and quiet, like a ray of light breaking through the clouds, must be discerned, and heard.

 This of course, is one of the greater messages of Purim itself and Parashat Zachor, where we war against the message of meaninglessness of the Amalek mentality, with their belief of ‘nothing happens for a reason – all is just Mikreh – happenstance’  representing the antithesis of Jewish faith. It is no wonder then that when the Torah describes Amalek’s attack on Am Yisrael in this week’s Maftir, it says “Asher Korcha Baderech” – אשר קרך בדרך  -  that Amalek ‘happened’ upon us , they attacked us with the message of replacing our Mikrah with Mikreh.

As we prepare for the holy day of Purim, and work to reveal the hidden Hand of Hashem – Megilat Esther – revealing the hidden -  may we succeed in revealing the Aleph, the Oneness of Hashem, calling out to us, with love, and summoning us for the greatness that we are all destined to achieve.

Shabbat Shalom


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