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    Showing off – Vayikra

    vayikraOne of the best known ideas in the Torah arises from the first word of this portion.

    God calls to Moses – Vayikra el Moshe – and the final letter of the Hebrew word is written small.

    Moses was too modest to think that God had specially chosen to address him. His own preference was to leave out the alef altogether, making the word vayikar (“God met him”) instead of Vayikra (“God called him”).

    Why then does the Torah use Vayikar in relation to the heathen prophet Bilam (Num. 23:4 and 16), implying that Bilam as well as Moses was a modest man?

    Rashi says that in Bilam’s case it certainly was true that there was no Divine outreach but only a casual encounter. Bilam didn’t deserve anything more than Vayikar, and God really held him in contempt.

    Possibly Moses was aware of this and while he himself was a modest man and did not want to claim that God chose him and favoured him, he put in the missing alef of Vayikra, though he wrote it small, in order to at God’s command in order not to belittle himself.

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