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    Just a little alef – Vayikra

    In the first words of the sidra, God called Moses.

    The word “Called” ends with an alef. In the Torah scroll this letter is written small, because Moses wanted to leave it out but God insisted.

    Without an alef the word means, “God happened to Moses”. That is, the whole event was accidental. God said, “No: I knew what I was doing and I fully intended to call Moses.”

    One little alef, and such a big fuss!

    Actually it’s a really big deal. Do things just happen, or does God plan them?

    The historian HAL Fisher debated whether history had “a plot, a rhythm, a predetermined plan”. Henry Ford, who knew a lot about cars but little about events, said that history was “just bunk”.

    Judaism is certain that God controls events and that, despite Moses, they don’t just happen – or, as Nahum Goldmann (I think it was he) remarked, we constantly lurch from crisis to crisis.

    Our philosophy of history is that history has three stages, the past (where things began), the present (where we’re at now) and the future (what destiny will unfold as time goes on).

    Israel is the quintessential example. Adapting something Martin Buber said (“On Zionism”, 1972, pages 147-8), Israel has three stages: the past (the historical existence of ancient times), the present (rediscovering our distinctive spirit) and future (the gaining of the messianic state of holiness).

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