Just as we are commanded to remove all of the leavening - in Hebrew, "chametz"- from our possession and sight by the 15th of the Hebrew month of Nissan, there is also an aspect of chametz in ourselves that we have to try to eradicate. This is the pride and false perspectives of self that block our ability to serve G‑d properly, and which often disrupt our relationships as well.

This week's Torah portion, Vayikra, is often read just before Pesach. In the first word of the portion, "vayikra" (meaning, "And He called [to Moses]"), is a hint to how we can effectively begin this cleansing. We are required to write the letter alef in the word "vayikra" smaller than the other letters in the Torah. The Midrash tells us that this is a hint to Moses' special quality of being more humble than any other person. This is not the only off-sized alef in the Torah, for Chronicles includes an oversized alef in the word "Adam"; this is a reference to Adam who, as the direct handiwork of G‑d, was conscious of his greatness.

We are generally not supposed to be one extreme or the other….

The great majority of the letters in the Torah are not large or small, rather intermediate. This is appropriate seeing that the Torah is our guide to living. We are generally not supposed to be one extreme or the other, but rather take the middle path. Yet, the Torah is our guide, and we must also learn lessons from the larger or smaller letters.

The Midrash (on Gen. 17:4) says that G‑d testified that Adam was wiser even than the angels. The big alef of Adam, represents the greatness of Adam, and teaches us that a person should not only recognize his or her faults - we should also recognize our own qualities and talents that G‑d has given us. However, Adam reminds us of failure, because of his sin of the Tree of Knowledge. The lesson from this is that a person who only acknowledges his or her superior qualities is in serious danger of sinning. To balance this, we also have to be cognizant of our deficiencies, bringing out our sense of limitation and humility. This is the lesson from the small alef of "vayikra".

Each of us is capable…of being holy….

This does not mean that Moses did not recognize his qualities as the greatest prophet of all time. Moses knew what qualities he had. He also understood that these qualities were given as a gift from Above, and therefore not something in which to take pride. Moses genuinely believed that someone else given the same chances could have reached an even higher level than himself. This attitude is what made Moses the most humble of men.

Every Jew has both a portion of the soul of Adam and a spark of the soul of Moses. Therefore, each of us must take a personal lesson from them, just as we would learn from our parents' and grandparents' experiences and attributes. As a Jew who is not only descended from Adam, but also from the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, each of us is capable of learning Torah and performing its commandments - of being holy. We innately have that potential.

We can be great, both in physical and spiritual challenges. On the other hand, we also have to remember that we did not work to acquire these qualities; they are a gift from G‑d. Therefore, we have to see ourselves as being lowly and not fall into false pride. This is the way to merit a closer relationship to G‑d, as did Moses, and the true path to physical and spiritual wholeness.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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