From the team at Halacha Yomit
(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)
The Virtue of Humility
The Parasha states: “Hashem called to Moshe, speaking to him from the Ohel Moed” (Vayikra 1:1).
Our Chachamim said in the Midrash (Tanchuma), Moshe Rabbeinu was standing outside the Ohel Moed, because he was in awe to enter, for the cloud of glory had descended on it. Immediately it follows with, “And He called to him”. Rashi explains that “calling” is an affectionate term (beckoning), as it is written concerning the ministering angels “They beckon one another” (Yeshaya 6:3). This means that Hashem was fond of Moshe, and therefore he called him in an affectionate way, to enter the Ohel Moed. This is why it states “He called” to Moshe.
Now, let us we may delve further. The Torah writes the Hebrew word for “And He called” with a small letter “aleph”, why is this?
Our Chachamim answer that Hashem commanded Moshe Rebbeinu to write “And He called”, and Moshe Rebbeinu knew that when Hashem “calls” someone it is a display of affection, but due to Moshe’s sense of humility, he was reluctant to write this term of endearment, since all will see that Hashem “calls” him. Therefore he wrote the letter “aleph” smaller, thereby making it a less noticeable letter, and people will then read it differently, as, “Hashem chanced upon Moshe,” which is a less flattering term. As is found with the wicked Bilam, “And Hashem chanced upon Bilam” (Bamidbar 23:4). The Hebrew for “called” without the “aleph” translating as “he chanced upon,” happenstance and not calling him specifically from a sense of endearment.
With this we may understand the Midrash (Shemot Rabba 47:6) on the passuk, “Moshe came down from Mt. Sinai with the two Tablets of the Testimony in his hand. As Moshe descended from the mountain, he did not realise that the skin of his face had become luminous, when [Hashem] had spoken to him. When Aron and all the Bnei Yisrael saw that the skin of Moshe’s face was shining with a brilliant light, they were afraid to come close to him.” (Shemot 3:29-30). (Am Yisrael were in awe to approach Moshe because of the shining light emanating from his face). They ask in the Midrash, from where did his face shine? They explain that there was a small amount of ink left over from writing the Torah. From this residue of ink from Moshe’s quill - Hashem gently smeared it on Moshe’s face, and it became “horns of splendour”.
This requires a deeper understanding, since Hashem Himself provided Moshe the ink, quill and parchment to write the Sefer Torah, if so how could there be any residue of ink?
This may be understood as follows. Ordinarily, when the quill is loaded with ink to write, there is a small residue, or even missing a little ink, prior to a person completing. However, with Hashem, He knows precisely how much ink is required to write the Torah. So the ink was meant to finish exactly when he wrote the word “And He called” with the final letter “aleph”. But because Moshe Rabbeinu wrote “And He called” with a small “aleph,” a small amount remained. When Hashem saw what Moshe had done due to his virtue of humility, He made his face shine from that ink residue. And so Hashem rewarded him based on his own behaviour, according to his humility thereby praising his actions.
Our Chachamim say, “Whoever flees from honour, honour pursues him, and one who pursues honour it flees from him.” The Chafetz Chaim z”l was once asked by one of his pupils, since both the one who flees from honour and the one who pursues honour, both are still avoiding honour, what then is the fundamental difference in outcome between them? The Chafetz Chaim said that the difference is that when a person passes away, the one who feels from honour is no longer able to flee from honour, and then the honour will catch him up!
We all remember the honour that was accorded to Maran Rabbeinu ztz”l, for all his life he fled from honour!