Vayikra – Humility Doesn’t Mean Meekness

The first word of the Parsha has a small Alef, the final letter of the parsha’s name – Vayikra. Since every aspect of shape and sound of the letters of the Torah is an inflection of the shape and meaning of creation and the cosmos, the Midrash needs to explain the seeming diminution of status of this letter Alef. It does not indicate a negative connotation of the Alef (which means Aluf – leadership, the modern word in Hebrew referring to the rank of General). Quite the contrary: it represents Moses’ humility – Moses being the most humble of all people according to the Torah. We have previously noted this seemingly anomalous description, because we know Moses to have been the seeming antithesis of humility. He was was a strong, charismatic, powerful Jewish leader – which at first blush seems to contradict the notion of self-effacement. But the Jewish teachings of humility don’t negate strength of character and true assertiveness. Quite the contrary: humility means a recognition that one’s gifts are not of one’s making, but conferred from Above. And once so gifted, it becomes our mission to utilize these gifts for the benefit of the world. In Moses’ case, the gifts of strong leadership were executed to perfection. But Moses was always aware that these assets were gifted upon him by G-d, not of his own making, and therefore to be used wisely and correctly. Humility includes strength, conviction, and assertiveness – but not exploitative exercise of control. It means to do things G-d’s way, not our way. So don’t force your hand – first assess the wisdom of the word and action. You are but a messenger from Above.