Vayikra 1:1 "And He called to Moshe and spoke..."

In some Torah scrolls the Aleph in the first word is diminished in size. What is the significance of this anomaly? (The very next word — to Moshe — begins with a full-size Aleph.)


6 Answers 6


The Lubavitcher Rebbe writes in Likutei Sichot concerning the small alef in Vayikra:

He called to Moses: The alef of the word for "He called" (ויקרא), the first word in the Book of Leviticus, is written smaller than usual, alluding to Moses' humility even in the face of his own greatness and his selection by God for his exalter role in human history. In contrast, the alef in Adam's name (אדם) as the first word of the Book of Chronicles is written larger than usual, alluding to Adam's self-esteem as the acme of God's creation. Although it is both necessary and good to be aware of one's positive qualities, Adam allowed his self-esteem to degenerate into conceit, and this caused his downfall.

Moses rectified Adam's mistake. He recognized his greatness but nevertheless remained humble. His humility was not self-delusional but the result of simple reasoning. "I cannot take any credit for any of my gifts or accomplishments," he thought, "since they are all God-given. Indeed, were another person to have been given my potentials, he would have accomplished more and climbed greater heights than I have." He understood that true humility does not mean denigrating oneself but seeing the virtue in others.

We are all spiritual heirs of Adam and Moses. When we feel inadequate we must remember that we are Adam, with a big alef. When thoughts of "Who am I?" deter us from our task, we must recall that we are Adam, formed by God's own hands, and fully capable of caring for His garden. At the same time, we must recall that we are Moses, are thereby ensure that our self-assurance does not develop into conceit.

Moreover, if we remember the small alef, we, too, will merit to be called by God, and this revelation will provide us with the strength to answer God's call, drawing ourselves and the world at large closer to Him. This is the true essence of the sacrifices, whose laws are introduced by the lesson of the small alef.

(Likutei Sichot, vol. 17, pp. 7-8)

(From the Kehot Chumash)


Baal Haturim:

א' דויקרא זעירא שמשה לא רצה לכתוב אלא ויקר כדרך שנא' בבלעם כאלו לא נראה לו השם אלא במקרה ואמר לו הקב''ה לכתוב גם באל''ף וכתבה קטנה.‏

loose translation:

Moses wanted to write it without an aleph to hide, [out of humility,] the fact that G-d called him [warmly, with affection and love,] contrarily to the manner in which He called non Jewish prophets such as Bil'am [and Hagar], expressing that prophecy to them was just "an accidental event". The Torah wrote "called/encountered/appeared" for them without an aleph. Calling [with love] should be written with an aleph. G-d ordered Moses to write it with an aleph. [Out of humility] Moses wrote it with a small aleph.

See Rashi for a good explanation of the difference between "ויקר" and "ויקרא".


Rabbi Shmuel David Luzzato, more commonly known by the acronym "Shadal," wrote the following concerning the small alef:

.(ויקרא: לענין א' זעירא עיין מה שכתבתי על קצתי בחיי (בראשית כ"ז מ"ו

So now we go and check his commentary on Bereshit 27:46, like he tells us to, and here it is:

ותאמר רבקה אל יצחק קצתי בחיי: הקו"ף זערה, נ"ל כי היה מנהג הסופרים בימי קדם כשהיתה תבה מתחלת באותה האות שהתבה הקודמת מסיימת, היו משמיטין אחת מהאותיות הדומות, ואולי היו מציינין האות ההיא באיזה סימן להודיע שהיא עומדת במקום שתים, ואחר זמן הוסיפו בין שתי התבות האות החסרה, ולהיות המקום צר כתבו אותה זערה, וכיוצא בזה ויקרא אל משה (ויקרא א' א'). והנה מהמנהג להשמיט אחת מהדומות נמשכו כה וכה קצת טעיות, קצתם נתקנו אח"כ על ידי כתיב וקרי, וקצתם לא נתקנו, כגון (שמואל ב' ה' ב') והמבי את ישראל, במקום והמביא, (ירמיה ל"ב ל"ה) החטי את יהודה, במקום החטיא, (שם כ"ג י"ד) לבלתי שבו, (שם כ"ז י"ח) לבלתי באו, במקום ישבו, יבאו, (ישעיה מ"ה כ"ה) עדיו יבא ויבושו, (יחזקאל כ' ל"ח) ואל אדמת ישראל לא יבא ויעדתם, במקום יבאו, (ד"ה א' י"ז י"א) כי מלאו ימיך, משפטו כי ימלאו , (שמואל א' י"ט ט') ודוד מנגל ביד ויבקש, צ"ל בידו, ועוד זולת אלה.

[Paraphrase:] When a word begins with the same letter as the word before it ended, the scribal practice used to be skipping one of them and perhaps including a symbol to indicate that one letter was standing in for two. Later, they added back in the repeated letter but if there was little space they wrote it smaller. Successful examples of this two stage evolution are this one, "ותאמר רבקה אל יצחק קצתי בחיי" and "ויקרא אל משה".

[Also:] Sometimes the practice of condensing identical neighbors caused further mistakes when one of them got left out entirely. Examples include "והמבי_ את ישראל" and "החטי_ את יהודה".


According to Midrash Osiyos Ktanos is to teach us that HKBH reveals His shehina partially to other nations but not to Yisroel. See the way ויקרא is used with Bilam (without alef) in balak 23:4 but ויקרא (with alef) is used for Yisroel. The question then is, the midrash says, why is the alef here small? The answer is, to differentiate between the way Hashem addresses the malachim and the way Hashem addresses Moshe rabeinu.


Rav Hirsch points out that the phrase Vayikra 1:1

וַיִּקְרָא אֶל משֶׁה וַיְדַבֵּר יְהֹוָה אֵלָיו מֵאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד לֵאמֹר:

means that Hashem called to Moshe in order to speak to him. That is

to prevent that misused representation which tries to change the Divine revelation to Moses into some kind of revelation in Moses on a par with all those imaginary visions of a so-called ecstasy, or simply as an inspiration coming from within a human being.

Rav Hirsch connects this with the term וַיִקָר used with Bilam and the statement of the Chachamim that Moshe never knew when Hashem would speak to him, while Bilam knew when Hashem would speak to him (or had to seek the Word of Hashem).

But the word of Hashem came to Moses without any previous preparation on his part, without his having any idea that It was coming. Perhaps also this is the reason for the small א, in ויקרא, just to give a suggestion of Moses being completely "unprepared". Of the Word of Hashem to Moses one could leave out the א and say וַיִקֶר (קל) it was something that "happened to him, came to him completely unforeseen. This characteristic call to attention preceding Hashem's speech to Moses, is taken in ספרא as occurring before every occassion when Hashem spoke to Moshe.


From Artscrolls Stone Chumash:

The word Vayikra from the root word Kra - to call, also indicates that God wished to speak to Moshe, and purposely called to him. G-d's prophecy to Bilaam (Numbers 23:16) however is introduced by Vayikar, without an Aleph, a word that two connotations: Chance (mikreh) and spiritual contamination (as in I Samuel 20:26). This implies that, while G-d had a reason to speak to Bilaam, He did not do so lovingly.

In this verse, the summons to Moshe is spelled with a miniature Aleph, as if to make it appear like the word used for Bilaam. The commentators find mile rival insights in this usage, among them:

The Ba'al Haturim (as previously quoted by an answer above) writes that in his monumental humility, Moshe wished to describe G-d's revelation to him with the same uncomplimentary word used for Bilaam - without an Aleph - But G-d instructed him to include the Aleph as an expression of affection. Too humble to do so wholeheartedly, Moshe wrote a small Aleph.

Rav Bunim of P'schis'cha writes that the smallness is meant to give prominence to the letter, as if it were a separate word. The word "Aleph" means to teach thus implying that one should learn always to be "small" and humble. No man was better qualified to teach this lesson than Moshe, who was not only the greatest of prophets, but the humblest person who ever lived.

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