This week’s Parasha is Vayikra. The Parahsa begins the third book of the Chumash with the Passuk: “He called [vayikra] to Moshe, and G-d spoke to him”. The word Vayikra is written in the Torah with a small Aleph. The Baal Ha Turim explained that because of his profound humility, Moshe would have rather used the word Vayikar, which means “He (Hashem) happened upon him.” This is a more deprecating term, similar to the terms used when Hashem spoke to Bilaam.
The commentaries note that at Har Sinai Hashem called Moshe several times. There the word Vayikra appears without the small aleph. What accounts for the difference? Rabbi Twersky quotes Rav Yitzchok of Vorki, saying that sometimes a person may seek to act humbly and publicly belittles himself. This is actually vanity, not humility, because he is trying to give others the impression that he’s being humble. When Hashem called out to Moshe at Sinai, it was in the presence of all of Klal Yisrael. If Moshe would have shown off his humble status in front of everyone at that time, he would have been flaunting his humility, and this is in fact an act of vanity, or the opposite of humility. However, when Moshe was called to the Ohel Moed, no one but Moshe heard the call from Hashem, so here the expression of humility was genuine and sincere.
Another reason for the small Aleph is that the word Aleph actually means ‘learning’. The message of the small Aleph is that we can only learn when we are humble, for vanity is the opposite of learning. There are some very bright people who don’t learn much because they think they already know everything. We have to know that the Torah was given on the lowest mountain to the most humble of all men, Moshe Rabenu. This was to teach us that in order to learn Torah (Hashem’s word), we have to be truly humble in the eyes of Hashem, and only in that way will we gain the true knowledge of Hashem’s holy Torah.
Vayikra begins the third book of the Chumash, the five books of Moshe Rabenu. The first two books concern the beginnings of the world and the building of the Jewish nation. The book of Vayikra now turns to the sacrifices that Hashem instructs the Israelites to bring to the Bet Hamikdash. We don't have a Bet Hamikdash today and until the Mashiach rebuilds it, we must remain without one. Therefore we won’t be able bring sacrifices until that time. However, we have been making other types of sacrifices in a different way since losing our Holy Temple. The Jewish people have been making sacrifices for centuries...they’ve been sacrificing their homes, their livelihood and even their lives for the sake of Hashem and the for the sake of our holy Torah up until this very day.
Our Sages tell us in Midrash Rabba: "Listen to Me, because nobody ever loses by listening to me." A person is constantly faced with decisions. He can either chose to do what Hashem wants or what appears to provide a bigger gain at the moment. Following Hashem is always a win-win. It may not always seem that way, but at some point, later on, the gain will become apparent.
Rabbi Fischel Schachter tells an amazing true story about current day sacrifices that Jews make on a daily basis, this particular story is about a musician named Alex Clare. Alex was born in 1985 and grew up in London with a totally secular background, without any Jewish education. He had a passion for music and was extremely talented. He played many instruments, sang and composed songs and he was determined to make music his career.
In 2007, at the age of 22, he began learning about Judaism and before long he felt very spiritually connected to the jewish religion. He began keeping Kosher and then he committed to keeping Shabbat. He eventually signed a contract with a major record label, Island Records. But he told them in advance that he would not perform on Shabbat. They were not happy about it, but they agreed because he was so talented. He recorded his debut album with them, but he needed opportunities to promote it. As it happened, every event or appearance was scheduled for Friday night, and Alex turned them all down. Then, an excellent opportunity arose. He was offered the chance to do a world tour with an English singer named Adele. His producers told him, "This is it, the chance you've been waiting for." But Alex told them, "I'm sorry, it comes out on my holiday of Passover. I'm going to have to turn it down."
That summer his album was released, but did not receive much attention, due to his limited promotion. A few months later, right after Yom Kippur, Alex found a message on his phone from Island Records. "You' re not going to believe this, but BBC Radio told us that they had a cancellation for one of their segments and they want you to play live. This will be in front of a national audience and broadcast throughout Europe. You will receive national coverage and gain thousands of listeners. This is what we need to promote your album. The best part of it is that it's on a Thursday night, so you can do it."
Alex couldn't believe the opportunity he was hearing about. Thursday night, however, was the first night of Succot. With a lot of courage, Alex called them and said he couldn't do it. This was the last straw. They told him, "If you turn this down, we are cutting your contract. This will result in you being blacklisted and basically end your very short career."
At that time, Alex was penniless. He couldn't even make his next rent payment. But he began to think of the Piyut he had read that day, on Yom Kippur, about Rabbi Amnon who gave up his life for Judaism. With tremendous strength, he said to himself, "If he could give up is life, I can give up my music." He told his promoters that he would not play on his holiday under any circumstances, and indeed they cut his contract. All of his dreams were shattered in an instant. In need of Chizuk, Alex went to his Rabbi, Dovid Tugendhaft.
He told him, "Rabbi, I don't understand. All I have ever done since I came to religion is sacrifice for Judaism, and now I lose everything?" His Rabbi told him, "This reminds me of the story of Avraham Avinu. He invested his whole life to change the world and spread the belief in One G-d, a loving and compassionate God who doesn't want people sacrificing their children to Idolatry. And then he was asked to sacrifice his very own son, which would have made all of his teachings a mockery in the eyes of the world. He would have to give up on his lifelong mission, but he showed readiness to obey and became great as a result. That was one of the greatest moments in Jewish history."
The rabbi continued, “Alex you are being asked to give up your dream for Hashem. It will make you great."
A few hard months passed, until one day, he received a phone call from Microsoft. They wanted to use one of his tracks to launch their new version of Internet Explorer. Of course, he agreed, and the song was used in an ad in March 2012. The song was soon playing all over the world. It became the number one hit in Germany, number four in the UK singles chart and number seven in the U.S. His debut album now sold over six million copies. Alex Clare became a multi-millionaire instantly.
He did not lose from keeping Shabbat. But it is important to note that he did not see any success arise from his sacrifice for a very long time. Week after week, he turned down jobs, and it kept getting worse. A person never loses from following Hashem, but he doesn't always see immediate results. We also see from this that Hashem knows how to find a person and bring him success when He wants. Alex didn't have to go play in a hundred different places to gain recognition. It was one advertisement that did it. If a person follows Hashem, he is automatically a success.
May we all realize that the sacrifices we make for Hashem and our Torah can be very difficult to go through, but we have to know that these hurdles or sacrifices that we face are all hand-picked by Hashem for us to triumph over and grow stronger in our devotion to our father in Heaven, and ultimately for our benefit! Amen!