I am very pleased that this week we are launching the WUJS Parashat Ha'Shavua weekly blog. Every week we will share a new Dvar Torah with you, written by Jewish students, for Jewish students. When I was elected Chairperson of WUJS, I was clear that I felt a healthy Jewish student organisation is one that is driven by Jewish values and creating Jewish programming. This new weekly blog is here for you, to learn and grow in your Jewish journey. Everyone is welcome to submit a piece whether they’ve written 100 Divrei Torah before or this will be their first one. I am pleased to be kicking off this new initiative with the first edition, I hope you enjoy!
Some of you will know but at times certain letters in a Torah scroll are written differently from how they usually are. One such example of this is in the first word of this week’s Torah portion where the alef in “Vayikra” is written smaller than all the other letters. When the Torah does something like this, there is always an important meaning behind it and we must turn to our Rabbis to gain some insight into why.
Rabbi Yaakov ben Rabbeinu Asher, also known as the Ba'al Haturim quotes a midrash which explains why the alef at the end of the word 'vayirka' is small. He said that it is because Moshe (Moses) wanted the word to read 'vayikar' which means “that Hashem chanced upon Moshe”; as opposed to 'vayikra,' which tells of Hashem's Love for Moshe. According to this Rabbi, the use of the small alef was a way of compromising.
Now that's a very nice idea and shows Moshe's enduring humility, but it does leave us with an interesting question… The Torah has previously used the word “vayikra” on other occasions and in the book of Shemot (Exodus), Chapter 33, Verse 11 we learn that Hashem spoke with Moshe ‘face to face as someone speaking to their friend.’ So if it’s made clear here how close Hashem was with Moshe, why did Moshe want to specifically rub out the alef out of this ‘vayikra’ but leave the Shemot 33 verse (and others) as they were?
An answer suggested is that there is a difference between this 'vayikra' and previous ones. Prior to this instance, Hashem spoke to Moshe as the leader of the Children of Israel, for, after all, someone had to be the leader - and Hashem wanted to communicate with his people via someone. Now though, in this week’s parasha, we have just built the tabernacle and we have been told that Hashem's Presence rests within ALL of the People of Israel. The fact that He still calls out to Moshe solely shows us Hashem's love for Moshe, and so this is the 'vayikra' that Moshe wanted to cover up by erasing the alef.
Every time I here stories about the humility of Moshe it makes me think about how important this quality is in good student leaders. When our peers elect us into roles, we are not “in charge”, we are merely custodians. Our students are the real bosses and we must always make sure to remember that. The moment we start to run programs for our own benefit rather than the benefit of our members we will start to lose people.
Yos Tarshish is the current Chairperson of the World Union of Jewish Students. Prior to this role, Yos served as President of the Union of Jewish Students of the UK & Ireland. He is passionate about Jewish informal education, Zionist activism and community development.
Would you like to write a Dvar Torah for us? Email Yos - firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out amazing blogs and op-eds here by Jewish student leaders from all over the world.