This week’s sedra starts in a slightly unusual fashion. The opening verse says: ‘And He called to Moses, and Hashem spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying…’. The verse doesn’t tell us who He is, although it appears to be a veiled reference to the Almighty. What is perhaps even more unusual is the letter aleph at the end of the word vayikra – ‘and He called’ – is written in a smaller font size.
Rashi draws our attention to a passage later on in the Torah when Hashem appears to the non-Jewish prophet Bilaam. There, the term employed is vayekar, which essentially means that ‘He happened’ upon Bilaam. As well as implying coincidence and chance, the word vayekar also has connotations of coldness and impurity and is mentioned in connection with our nemesis Amalek. The difference between vayikr, hearing a call and vayekar, seeing all events as happening by chance, is one little aleph.
Aleph is a silent letter that takes the sound of the vowel coming under it. Perhaps the opening word of the book that tells us how Hashem is to be brought into the world via the Mishkan is telling us Hashem is to be found in the ‘small, thin sound’ of silence.
Bilaam and Amalek represent a world view where everything happens by chance. Theirs is a cold, lonely world where there is no point asking ‘why?’ to any ‘what’. It’s a world of needless suffering and survival of the fittest.
Vayikra teaches us to stop and listen to this silence, to appreciate Hashem’s call through the small things, to see Him and His kindness through the wonderful world He has created, and to realise that nothing happens by chance.
υ Rabbi Jonny Roodyn is education director at the Jewish Futures Trust. He tweets via @RJRoodyn