Parsha Vayikra 5771: Distinguishing Fact from Myth and True, Strong, Yet Humble Leaders From Frauds

By Moshe Burt

The first word of our parsha; Vayikra is the source of much discussion as to why the word ends with a small “aleph” and tells much about Moshe Rabbeinu’s level of principle, integrity and his standard of leadership of B’nei Yisrael. R’ Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, z’l in the new Hirsch Chumash (published by Feldheim in 2005 and translated to English by Rabbi Daniel Haberman) renders translation of our Parsha’s opening posuk:

“And He called to Moshe, and Hashem spoke to him from the Tent of Appointed Meeting [Mei-Ohel Mo’ed], saying:” (Hirsch Chumash, Sefer Vayikra, page 1, Perek 1, posuk 1)

We are told how Hashem, Kav’yochal, would call gently, affectionately “Moshe, Moshe” in a voice for Moshe Rabbeinu’s ears only and Moshe would respond “Here I am.” (Rashi on Perek 1, posuk 1 Metsuda Linear Chumash & Rashi with footnotes)

Moshe, always shirking honor, kavod, special treatment, or the perception of special treatment, fought “tooth to nail” that this first word, which would typify Hashem’s greeting when he wanted to speak privately with him in the Mishkan, should read “Vayikar.” This loshen “Vayikar” was later used when Hashem “happened to meet Bila’am” (Rashi on Perek 1, posuk 1) in Parsha Balak.

But Hashem’s wish for “Vayikra” carried the day, although he made the concession of the small “aleph.” Rashi’s understanding of the dialogue speaks volumes about the Dar’chim of humility, modesty and selflessness of Moshe Rabbeinu; his dedication to Hashem and to the people he leads, the B’nei Yisrael. But let kindness and humility not be confused with weakness. For we learn that Moshe Rabbeinu was a strong, yet just leader.

“The Midrash Says” (Sefer Vayikra, pages 1-5) goes further than Rashi’s understanding regarding the beginning of our parsha and the dialogue between Hashem and Moshe Rabbeinu about “Vayikra”. “Midrash Says” speaks about Moshe’s all-pervasive humility which led him at various junctures to shy away from leadership feeling that “a more suitable substitute might be found.”

It then outlines the scene of the crowd of extraordinary distinction which assembled in front of the newly completed Mishkan. There was Aaron HaKohen, Uri, Betzalel, the Seventy Elders, the Nesi’im of the Tribes. Surely, Aaron HaKohen, the one chosen to serve and to be the conduit for Brachot to the B’nai Yisrael — surely it would be Aaron who would be chosen to enter with Hashem. Or Uri or Betzalel from whom the Malchut would later be descended. But Hashem called out to Moshe Rabbeinu to enter, as witnessed by the dignitaries and by the entire B’nai Yisrael. Hashem called on Moshe Rabbeinu and told him that his work was beginning — to learn and to teach the people the instructions concerning the korbanos (sacrifices).

Hashem tells Moshe:

“Your teaching of Torah is dearer to Me than their donations of gold and silver and the jewels donated by the nesi’im.”

But Hashem’s recognition of Moshe Rabbeinu’s strength and humility is not the only principle signified by the small “aleph” which ends Vayikra. This small “aleph” also validates a lesson which secular political leadership in Israel, as well as secular rabbinic and communal Jewish “leadership” in the US and throughout the rest of the world need to hear repeatedly, and to intellectualize and internalize such that the lesson compells alteration of collective mindsets. R’ Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, z’l comments on that first posuk and the diminutive “aleph”:

…Hashem’s Word to Moshe was addressed to Moshe. Scripture thus refutes those who would misrepresent and distort Hashem’s revelation to Moshe, as though it were a revelation arising from within Moshe’s own heart; as though it were merely the inspiration of man’s spirit, which takes place within man; as though “the Jewish religion” were like all other religious phenomena in the world — it, too, being merely a phase in the development of the human spirit.

But this is not the case. Rather, “As the word spoken by one man to another” (Sefer Sh’mot, Perek 33, posuk 11); as the word spoken by one man to another drerives solely from the mind of the speaker and is in no way the product of the thought of the listener — for the word that is heard is not produced inside the listener; he contributes nothing to its creation — so Hashem’s Word to Moshe was His Word alone. It did not derive from within Moshe but came to him from without, calling to him, interrupting and rousing him from his own thoughts, so that he would concentrate on listening to what Hashem wished to say to him.

….It distinguishes Hashem alone as the speaker, and Moshe merely as the listener. Moshe did not bring it about that Hashem would speak to him, nor did he have any idea beforehand what Hashem would say to him.

Having “prayed” in conservative Jewish edifices in Philadelphia prior to becoming a Ba’al Teshuvah, this author can attest to having heard, from elderly of previous generations, the myths concerning Torah’s origination as well as misconceived notions concerning Torah she’ Ba’al Peh was “the inspiration of man’s spirit” rather than Handed over by Hashem to Moshe. These myths and misconceived notions are bursted here like balloons, as well as later in
Parshiyot Behar and Bechukotai and by Aish HaTorah’s Rav Motti Berger in his illustration of the Torah’s promise of Shemittoh, and the improbability that a fantastic concept such as Shemittah could be if Torah was merely a nice document whose creation was inspired by man.

This author understands that the meaning and background of the very first word of our Parsha — Vayikra provides the paradigm later for the posuk which Torah teaches later in our Parsha:

“If the King commits a sin by unintentionally violating one of Hashem’s Commandments which he should not have done …” (Vayikra Perek 4, posuk 22).

Rabbi Pliskin in “Growth Through Torah” (page 238) comments:

“When in a position of power, have the courage to admit your mistakes.”

And Rashi (Vayikra Perek 4, posuk 22) explains on the posuk:

“Fortunate is the generation whose leader is concerned to bring an atonement [offering] for his inadvertent transgressions — all the more so that he regrets his intentional transgressions.”

Rabbi Pliskin adds the comment:

“The king was a person with much power, and power gives a person such high feelings about himself that he is unlikely to admit that he has done anything wrong. For this reason, when the king with unlimited power admits that he erred and regrets what he has done, it is fortunate for his generation.” (Attributed to Maskil Ledovid.)

Rabbi Pliskin continues;

“People who are power-hungry have a … tendency to deny making mistakes. When such a person is in a position of authority, he is likely to consider himself so perfect that whatever he does and says must be correct.” The more power one has, the more compelling is the importance of possessing intellectual honesty and to admitting one’s error. (”Growth Through Torah”, page 238)

So it seems that the leader or king of a generation sets the tone, the norm of how those of his constituency treat each other.

When a leader can be sooo colored by his own self-interest in arriving at decisions or taking actions, i.e. that he perceives that, to remain in power, he must appeal to the will of specific sectors out of lack of strength of personal principles, convictions or emunah (belief) in Hashem, and/or if he seeks self-aggrandizement above all else such that he will do anything and everything and at all costs — including bribery, graft, influence peddling, doing special favors for his friends and more in order to maintain his office, his title, his personal prestige and self-enrichment; how can we not question that leader’s true motivations at every step of his ill-gotten career? How can we not wonder what cynical sinat chinom lurks behind his total divorce from Torah, from his roots in Eretz Yisrael? How can such leaders be permitted, under force of agendized “legality” to, as Shem Mishmuel puts it, “defile Klal Yisrael both in the physical and spiritual sense?” (Shem Mishmuel, Parsha Zachor, page 159)

How can leaders of a nation who, with Hashem’s help, have utterly defeated enemies of vastly superior numbers in all previous wars, suddenly now render their nation handcuffed by Western “morality” and helpless against locally-manufactured terror rockets and against enemies — both terrorist groups and enemy government-sponsorship who strategically attack Jewish citizens behind cover of their own human-shield civilian population? How can such “Jewish” leaders now be complicit with an Amalek-like enemy, both by not fighting Arab terror to a decisive, absolute, final defeat and by attempting, by many means, to destroy the very physical and spiritual fabric of Jewish unity and the Jewish people? How can a leader of such a nation have the unmitigated chutzpah to proclaim;

“I’m too tired to fight, too tired to win …?”

How is it possible to blindly and mindlessly keep repeating the same mistakes; Oslo, Wye, withdrawal from South Lebanon, the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif and the 4 Shomron towns, the inept conduct of both the 2006 Lebanon conflict debacle and the no-win Gaza Operation Cast Lead? And how is it possible for a leadership, a governance in a Jewish state to accept 3rd party usurpation of Jewish sovereignty after the latter 2 conflicts?

And is this seemingly willful complicity with and systemic appeasement of Amalek-like Arab terror (by way of Kassam or Katyusha Missiles and Islamikazi Suicide bombers), in fact, cover for the true agenda of the nation’s failed leaders and politicians? Is blind sinat chinom toward anything Jewish, in and of itself not Amalek-like in its attempt at defilement? Are the regime leaders hiding their misguided hatred of anything Jewish behind the facades like “we can’t eliminate terror rockets”, “building freezes” or “I’m too tired …?” We need real leadership, strong and resolute yet with the attribute of humility, like of Moshe Rabbeinu, rather than the current crop of political Amalekim within the camp, who know our tendencies far better than the Amalek without and are thus more potent yet than the external Amalek?

May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard, captive Gilad Shalit and the other MIAs be liberated alive returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage to prevent the eviction of Jews from their homes and to prevent the handing of Jewish land over to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima — the Ultimate Redemption bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim” — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!

Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.