The Small Aleph
The first word of this week's Perasha is “Vayikra “– "And He called" – contains a scribal abnormality that is rarely found in the Torah. The last letter of the word, an aleph, is written smaller than its normal size. Why is this done? What lesson is G-d trying to teach us?
Since the aleph is small, at first glance you might read the word without the aleph and pronounce it "vayikar." In fact, we find that word used when G-d appears to the character Bilaam "And G-d happened upon Bilaam."
Although the two words have a similar meaning, the Midrash tells us that the word vayikra (with the aleph) implies a loving, close relationship, as in Isaiah 6:3 when the angels are calling to one another. And the word vayikar (without an aleph) implies an accident and spiritual impurity.
Moshe Rabenu, in his humility, wanted G-d to use the word vayikar without an aleph to show that he regarded himself no better than Bilaam. Yet G-d wanted Moshe to write it with the aleph as an expression of affection. So they compromised – by using a small aleph.
Why would G-d allow His will to be changed when He wished to express His relationship with Moshe a specific way? Possibly to suggest that compromise is the essence of relationships.
An enlightening thought comes out of the use of the aleph in this special Hebrew word. The letter aleph is the only thing that stands between vayikra and vayikar, purpose and accident. Is it really possible that G-d came to Bilaam accidentally? Was the Almighty strolling down the road aimlessly? No! The Master of the World can't "happen upon" anyone; it's against His definition. However, it is possible that Bilaam related to G-d that way. Moshe saw the hand of G-d everywhere, whereas Bilaam viewed G-d as popping in and out his life.
Everything that happens to you can be viewed as an accident, a meaningless occurrence based on the randomness of the universe. But our definition of G-d is that He is part of every molecule, from the atom to the Milky Way and beyond; and part of every event, from the twitch of a fly's compound eye to the orbit of Pluto.
Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, has the symbolic value of one, and often represents G-d, the ultimate oneness. So the letter aleph is perfect to bring out this point. When the aleph is there, all of life is purposeful and meaningful. When the aleph isn't there, life is happenstance, and consequently a source of spiritual impurity.