Parshat Vayikra 5778: Moshe, Modesty and Humility and the High-Bar Paradigm for Am Yisrael

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshiyot HaShevua, Vayikra is being sponsored by Steven and Debra Glanz and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated for the success of their chldren. To the Glanz family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Vayikra 5778: Moshe, Modesty and Humility and the High-Bar Paradigm for Am Yisrael

by Moshe Burt

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, [a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel] cites in her sefer “Torah Tapestries,” (Sefer Vayikra page 5) both Rashi and Rabbi Shimshon Dovid Pincus regarding calling 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….

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.

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)

This brings us to the point being made by Hashem in the very first posuk of Sefer Vayikra and the lessons to be learned, acquired and applied in our times.

Moshe, always shirking honor, kavod, special treatment, or the perception of special treatment, fought “tooth to nail” that this first word of our Parshat, the word which would come to typify Hashem’s greeting when he wanted to speak privately with him in the Mishkan, should read “Vayikar.” That Moshe sought not to be perceived by Am Yisrael for all time as receiving honor, kavod and special treatment by Hashem tells much about Moshe Rabbeinu’s level of principle, integrity and his standard of leadership of B’nei Yisrael which sets a high-bar paradigm for individuals and for national leadership for all time.

That loshen “Vayikar” was later used when Hashem “happened to meet [the evil] Bila’am” (Rashi on Sefer Vayikra, Perek 1, posuk 1) in Parsha Balak. Hashem’s communication with the haughty Bila’am can be likened to the theme of an American TV series of yesteryear; “…strangers who just met on the way”.

Of course, Hashem’s wish for “Vayikra” carried the day, although He made the concession of the small “aleph.”

Rashi’s understanding of the dialogue between Moshe and Hashem surrounding “Vayikra” speaks volumes about the Dar’chim, the ways of humility, modesty and selflessness of Moshe Rabbeinu; his total 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.

In his Sefer “Majesty of Man”, Rabbi A. Henach Leibowitz writes on our Parsha citing Rabbeinu Yonah’s explanation of the cause of haughtiness (pages 166-167):

Through this [understanding the cause of haughtiness] we can better understand its converse — humility.

…Often a person feels himself lacking in knowledge or a certain quality. To compensate for this inferiority complex — small as it it may be — he denigrates his peers to make himself seem better in his own eyes. This process may take place exclusively on a subconscious level or may be manifested outwardly. In other words, haughtiness, insolence and pride are actually derived from the opposite feelings: inferiority, insignificance and shame. One who feels confident in himself has no need to denigrate others or to represent himself as
something other than [who] he truly is.

From Rabbeinu Yonah we see that the essence of humility is the realistic understanding of one’s own worth.

Moshe Rabbeinu was not only the greatest man of his time, but the greatest man of all time. Yet, the Torah tells us that he was the humblest man. This paradox existed within him because he knew his true value. He did not underestimate himself and therefore had no need to overestimate himself. We must realize that each of us has a soul given to us directly from Hashem. Our potential for achievement is immeasurable.

If we understand our potential as human beings we can then feel the self-confidence needed to be humble.

This may not be a prime example of the type of humility and realistic understanding of one’s own worth on a Torah level. As this vort was being compiled, this author is ten days removed from having watched the NFL Superbowl.

One team pulled together in unity, as they had all season. Despite a string of potentially devastating injuries which brought the football media pundits to predict doom for the team in playoffs through the Superbowl, they pulled together with humility, selflessness; the coaches, the injured and their replacements, in total unity subordinating any possible individual motivations toward the common team goal: winning each playoff game and the Superbowl to become the world champions.

And so, when the Big Game was played against what was a championship dynasty, and under relentless offensive attack, they didn’t cave or collapse in a heap. This team was at least equally or more relentless offensively and forced their opponents into the crucial late-game turnover which sealed victory.

There are lessons to be learned from Moshe’s strength, yet humility and selflessness for our time regarding individual interpersonal relations as well such relations on sectorial as well as academia, media and governmental leadership levels. When individuals, sectors show justness and humility L’Shem Shamayim rather than disunity, denigration, rivalry and/or physical violence toward one another; when they are capable of subordinating their individual needs or tendencies toward self or group aggrandizements or power on sectorial or national levels in order to achieve collective national unity, such unity and Torah justness project to the world a paradigm of the Jews as the light of Hashem’s ways unto the Nations.

May we, the B’nei 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 and that the expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of three and a half years ago. 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 prevent Chas V’Challila 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 Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos and Chodesh Tov!

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.