Parsha Vayikra 5773: Moshe’s Humility, Modesty, Selflessness, or Telling 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)

Rebbetzin Shira Smiles, in her sefer “Torah Tapestries,” (Sefer Vayikra page 5) cites both Rashi and Rabbi Shimshon Dovid Pincus regarding one’s name as background for Hashem’s expression of “Vayikra” — Hashem’s gentle, loving calls to Moshe for private meetings:

The opening phrase “vayikra el Moshe” teaches us that Hashem called to Moshe by his name. Rashi explains that the alef at the end of the word “vayikra” comes to emphasize how Hashem spoke lovingly to Moshe, in contrast to Hashem’s speaking to Bila’am, in which the word “vayikra” is spelled without the alef – vayiker (which has a connotation of a relationship that is neither permanent nor loving). Rabbi Shimshon Dovid Pincus elaborates on the idea that calling someone by name is an expression of love… The giving of a name does not stem from a general parental love. Rather, it is an expression of personal, individual love. Each child in a family is unique and is granted a specific name, exclusive to him. Every son or daughter is individually loved for the distinctive qualities he or she embodies.

So 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 Sefer Vayikra, 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” on 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.”

This author understands that the meaning and background of the very first word of our Parsha — Vayikra provides the paradigm for the posuk 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, playing off opposing sectors of the governed population against each other — divide-and-conquer, and more in order to maintain his office, his title, his power and 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 the leaders of this nation tolerate onslaughts of hundreds of Islamic terrorist rockets, either in Gaza or in the North, inflicted upon the governed population on Shabbos, or at any time? How can such “Jewish” leaders have the unmitigated chutzpah to respond merely with either oft-repeated empty words or isolated military responses rather than mounting an all-out victorious action to permanently eradicate terror and evict the perpetrators and their “civilian (sic)” co-
conspirators? 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, covers 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”, “we must abide by Obama’s “building freezes” or “I’m too tired …?”

Are we able distinguish real leadership as in the paradigm of Moshe Rabbeinu — leadership which is strong and resolute yet with the attribute of humility, rather than the current crop of generations 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 brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the other MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone 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, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — 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.