| Parshah |

Glimpse of Greatness

“Behave like this — be small — and then you’ll become sanctified”


“And He called to Moshe, and Hashem spoke to him from the Ohel Moed, saying...” (Vayikra 1:1)


The letter alef of the word “Vayikra — and He called,” is written smaller than the other letters. Hashem dictated to Moshe to write the word, yet Moshe felt unworthy of stating that Hashem specifically called him, an expression of affection and honor. Moshe preferred the word “Vayakar — and it happened,” suggesting it was only happenstance that Moshe was the one who answered Hashem’s call. But since Hashem had commanded him to write “Vayikra,” Moshe complied, however, wrote the alef smaller.

The Ari z”l adds that as a result of Moshe using his quill sparingly when writing the alef, there remained a minute amount of extra ink at the tip of the pen. Hashem placed this extra ink on Moshe’s face, making it glow brightly. (Rabbi Dovid Sochet)

There’s a photo sitting in a prominent place on my desk these days. It was taken at my oldest daughter’s chasunah several years ago. In it, she’s dancing with my cousin, Rebbetzin Rochel Goldberg a”h. Rebbetzin Goldberg was getting on in years by then, and found walking painful. Yet she insisted on dancing in the middle of the circle for several minutes to make the kallah happy. Looking at the photo, I can’t help being drawn to the genuine joy radiating from Rebbetzin Goldberg’s face.

The Rambam’s Seventh Principle of Faith states: “Moshe was superior to all prophets, whether they preceded him or followed him.” All other neviim received their prophecies through a vision, or trancelike state. Moshe Rabbeinu, however, received Hashem’s message face to face. With the deeper understanding of the Ari z”l, we can understand that it was Moshe’s great humility that enabled him to speak to Hashem face to face, for the sign of his humility — the extra ink on his face — was evident.

By looking at the picture, you’d think the kallah must be her granddaughter. But she was the granddaughter of her husband’s first cousin. And as the daughter of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ztz”l, Rebbetzin Goldberg had legions of family. What were we to her? But she never made us feel like that, treating us as if we were her own family. She followed our lives (even those cousins who lived in the States), keeping track of every detail and davening for every need. She was involved with the lives of so many because she genuinely cared about so many.

The first mitzvah given to Moshe to transmit to Bnei Yisrael was Rosh Chodesh. Rashi states that Moshe had difficulty understanding how large the new moon should appear to be sanctified. Hashem kiveyachol pointed to the moon with His finger and said, “As you see this, thus shall you sanctify it.” Reb Mordechai of Neshchiz says that this shows us the value of humility. By pointing to the sliver of the moon, Hashem is insinuating, “Behave like this — be small — and then you’ll become sanctified.”

When the Rav was niftar suddenly this summer, I went to be menachem avel. As I entered the room, Rebbetzin Rochel’s face lit up, despite the circumstances. But when I leaned over to hug her, as she so often had hugged me, she shook her head. “During corona, we don’t hug.” How ironic was it that the virus took her life so swiftly just a few months later, in January.

I came back into that same apartment feeling broken and lost. How many Shabbosim had I spent there with a hot glass of tea? How many times had I popped by to say hello and been invited in with a warm welcome? Why hadn’t I come more often? Why didn’t I take advantage of this connection to kedushah that I took for granted?

I knew why I took it for granted. Because the Rav and Rebbetzin never considered it important. We were one big family despite the fact that I was puny compared to them.

I stayed for a long time at that shivah, speaking to the Goldberg children. I didn’t want to leave. Because I knew that as I closed the door behind me, I’d be closing the door on an era. And behind that door would remain a void so great, cast by the shadow of those who’d considered themselves small.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 735)

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