Parshat Vayikra 5777: Moshe, Modesty and Humility and Modern-Day Paradigms

Shalom Friends;

Our Parshat Vayikra is being sponsored by Shirley and Stanley Schwartz of Toronto and Delray Beach, Florida and Ruth Meides of Florida dedicated Lilui Nishmas for the recent passing (9 Adar 5777) of my Father, Me’ir ben Shabtai. To the my Aunts and Uncle, many thanks for your sponsorship, for your continued kindnesses toward me and much love!.

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 5777: Moshe, Modesty and Humility and Modern-Day Paradigms

by Moshe Burt

Although my Dad passed during the week of the Torah sedra Tetzaveh, on the Shabbos just before our Purim holiday, I chose to cite Parshat Vayikra in saying over a hespid at the leviya of my Dad.

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 where I live — in 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)

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.

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 speaks volumes about the Dar’chim, the ways 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.

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 yester-year; “…strangers who just met on the way”.

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.

In speaking about my Dad, Me’ir HaKohen ben Shabtai, he was always kind, humble, straight up honest in his dealings with others in life while never seeking, never chasing after honor – kavod, or self-
aggrandizement. His focus was always on job, home and family — my Mother and myself, to the exclusion of almost everything outside of those realms.

In public; in the workplace, among his extended family: his parents, siblings, nephews and nieces, grandchildren, cousins — he was always jovial, jocular — always rhyming, i.e. “Yankele, Yankele, don’t you cry, you gonna be a Big Yankele bye and bye.” And you catch on pretty fast when he’d say, “I gotta see a man about a horse.” My Dad was a man of few words, not involving himself in verbal over-analysis of things, of crises or issues.

At home, my Mother was the more verbal one, the more dominant one in family affairs; in the home or in dealing with extended family, family finances, dealing with my chinuch — nurturing, education, upbringing.

But at any family simcha where there was dancing, my Dad OWNED any dance floor that he danced upon. My Dad was graceful, the likes of a Fred Astaire, a Gene Kelly. From the Charleston, to the Jitterbug, to the Twist, to the Kazatzka — he did it all on a dance-floor and always joked and kidded with relatives.

My Dad was also very handy with his hands and was able to make repairs and innovate around the house. And in his retirement years, as my parents lived in the condo that they had in Century Village, near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, my Dad occupied himself both with helping neighbors organize their living quarters as well as being his building’s representative on the Condo’s residents’ committee.

Both of my parents, and particularly my Dad, were loved by all, whether it was in the Forest Trace Assisted Living Facility, or in the final residence — at The Bridge Assisted Living Facility.

To all at The Bridge, as much as YOU all came to love my Dad, He loved YOU all ten-fold. And I, who have visited once a year these past three years plus have seen, have felt the mutual love, care and esteem which flowed between all of you and my Dad. All of you kept my Dad going such that in the almost two years since my Mother passed, he blossomed. I thank you for that with all of my heart.

Aunt Shirley, Uncle Stanley, Aunt Ruth — the latter two being brother and sister: Dad loved you all and loved seeing you when you visited and immensely enjoyed being with you and talking of past family times.

To Eric Weitkamp of Freedom Partners of South Florida, I say this publicly, you have brought immensely appreciative and thankful tears to my eyes remembering the countless myriads of kindness that you have done to my Parents and to me as my parents’ patient advocate, my Dad’s power-of-attorney, the keeper of my parents’ financial affairs and much, much more.

Author Yishai Chasidah cites The Yerushalmi Gemura Brachot (Perek 2, posuk 8 ) in his sefer “Encyclopedia of Jewish Biblical Personalities,” regarding Yithro, Moshe’s Father-in-Law, Midian Priest and former counsel to Pharaoh of Egypt, who later became a Jew, a Ger Tzedek, and his merit and place among B’nei Yisrael:

“When B’nei Yisrael do Hashem’s Will, HaKodesh Borchu searches throughout the world, and if he finds a righteous person among the nations, he brings him and attaches him to B’nei Yisrael. One of the examples given was Yithro.”

In my view, this adage applies to individual Jews, as well as to the nation, and that Hashem brought Eric to connection with my parents, with my Dad, provides ample testimony, both with regard to Eric’s immense kindnesses and to the great Zehut gained by my Dad, by both of my parents, for his/their honesty, integrity, kindnesses, humility.

May my Dad, Me’ir ben Shabtai, go right to Shemayim, to Heaven — do not pass go, do not collect $200 — go right to Shemayim — May he and my Mother, Chaya bat Zalman both have an aliyah in Shemayim — have exalted places with Hashem in Shemayim 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!!!

Chodesh Tov and 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.

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