“… I am meek and lowly in heart: …”
The Hebrew text of Scriptures has several letters that differ in size, some bigger than the overall text, some smaller. As such, the last letter of the first word of the Book of Leviticus, ‘Vayikra’ is smaller than the rest of the text. The extreme scrutiny under which this text has been copied and recopied over the millennia forbids us to assume a scribal error. Why then would Moses have diminished the ‘aleph’ in the word ‘vayikra’: ‘And He called’?
The Oracles Moses wrote down cannot just be read as a chronological string of words giving instructions. Repetitions have their value in emphasis as well as the placement of certain commands within the text. The choice of certain words and their lexical root also tell us much about the underlying meaning. We are not used to pay such attention to these things but this is part of the cultural context of the text, and sad to say, many of these vital details are lost in translation.
We do not really have a satisfying answer concerning the diminishing of the aleph in the first word of the Book of Leviticus ‘Vayikra’, but since Torah students hate a vacuum, here is the most widely accepted reason for it. The word ‘vayikra’ means ‘And He (God) called … (Leviticus 1:1)’. Moses whom God defined as the humblest of all men did not think himself worthy of being singled out and called by God, so he originally wrote ‘Vayikar’, a much more impersonal inflection of the verb which is also the one used in the Torah when the Angel of the Lord met with the idolatrous prophet Balaam. God disapproved of the comparison, so Moses reluctantly acquiesced and wrote that last aleph, but smaller. Of course this story is not true, but thus being so, it has it does have its own homiletic value.
The sages here describe Moses, the man blessed with the highest form of divine revelation one could ever be blessed with, as a person who did not even feel worthy of his calling. This sets Moses, the greatest of the teachers and prophets of Israel, as a trend setter, a blue-print for teachers and would-be prophets. There is a dictum in Judaism which was also used by Yeshua, ‘ With the same measure that a man uses, it will be measured to him’ (Matthew 7:2). It is believed that because Moses humbled himself, God also humbled Himself and called Moses from the Tabernacle. In a certain sense, God did humble Himself in sending Yeshua, as the ‘prophet’ like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:18), who , being found in fashion as a man, humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, … (Philippians 2:8).
Many desire to be teachers and prophets. May we never forget the blue-print of self-effacement and humility that is to be the earmark for all those who are to be used by God in the capacity of teaching and leading His flock. That is the standard that should be used by, not eloquence, depth, or intelligence, but the spirit of utter humility because, He dwells in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite (Isaiah 57:15).