This week’s parshah starts off, “וַיִּקְרָא אֶל מֹשֶׁה וַיְדַבֵּר יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֵלָיו מֵאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד לֵאמֹר” “And He called to Moshe, and Hashem spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying.”(Vayikra 1:1). If you take a look inside a Torah Scroll, you will notice that the א in the word “וַיִּקְרָא” is written smaller than the other letters. There are a number of explanations offered for this. One is that while Hashem wanted to write the word “וַיִּקְרָא” “And He called” in the Torah, Moshe felt that this would be a very haughty thing for him to write about himself, that Hashem would call specifically for him. Instead, he wanted to write the word “ויקר”, which could be translated as “and it happened”, meaning that it was only happenstance that Moshe was the one who answered Hashem’s call. In the end, they compromised by writing a small א. The Medrash explains that Moshe put the extra ink from the א on his face which caused his face to shine brightly (See Shemos 34:29).
In Parshas Balak when Hashem appeared to Balaam, the non-Jewish prophet, the pasuk uses the word “ויקר”. Rashi explains that this means that Hashem appeared to Balaam in a transient and impure way. This is meant to show us that Balaam had no business receiving prophecy from Hashem. In fact, Chazal tell us that the only reason why Balaam became a prophet was in order that the nations of the world should not claim that they would have followed Hashem if they had had a prophet to guide them. This is very different from the word “וַיִּקְרָא” which Rashi explains is a language of affection and shows how much Hashem desired to speak specifically with the very righteous Moshe. Having explained on a midrashic level why the א is small in the last paragraph, on a pshat level, why would the א be written smaller knowing the bad connotations of the word “ויקר”?
The Kli Yakar explains that by writing the word “ויקר”, we actually want to compare Balaam’s prophecy to Moshe’s, but not in the way you might think. As we said earlier, Balaam did not deserve from his own merit to be a Navi, it was only in order to be able to refute the other nations’ claims that Hashem granted him nevuah. So Balaam exceeded his abilities by becoming a Navi. Moshe, on his own level, also exceeded his abilities in his own prophecy. The fact that Moshe could talk to Hashem face to face was not supposed to be attainable by anyone human, yet Moshe did so on many occasions. By making it appear as if the Torah wrote “ויקר”, we are connecting Moshe and Balaam and showing this common theme between them.
What was it that allowed these two men to go beyond their potential and allow them to reach higher levels than were possible for them? The answer to this question is also the same for both; it was purely because of the honor and the merit of Bnei Yisrael. Because of the high level that Bnei Yisrael reached in order to accept the Torah, Moshe was able to go up to the heavens and study it straight from the mouth of God. This is why once Bnei Yisrael sinned with the Golden Calf, Hashem tells him, “לך רד” “Go, descend”(Shemos 32:7), which the gemarah explains means to descend from his high level. Later on, the pasuk tells us that Moshe regained that kedushah and spoke to Hashem face to face (See 33:11). Similarly with Balaam, the only reason he became a Navi was to refute the nations’ complaint that they could have kept the Torah as well as the Bnei Yisrael. Now that this has been refuted, it is a great honor and credit to us that we are able to serve Hashem properly, like no one else can.
With this idea, the Kli Yakar explains why Rashi felt the need to bring two explanations for the word “ויקר”, transience and impurity. After we have explained that the Torah is trying to show how much Moshe and Balaam gained because of Bnei Yisrael by using the word “ויקר”, why is there an א in the pasuk at all, big or small? Rashi explains that the concept of impurity obviously doesn’t apply to Moshe’s prophecy. However, his nevuah was still transient since it was really beyond what he was supposed to have had and could have been nothing more than “happenstance”. Therefore the א was still written, albeit small.
It is easy to look at this explanation and decide that it is an insult to Moshe Rabbeinu, that in reality he did not deserve to see Hashem and was just the lucky man who happened to be leading Bnei Yisrael at the time that they were at their highest level. God forbid! Moshe was the most-deserving person to be able to speak to Hashem face to face in all of history, the same way that Balaam was the most deserving non-Jew to be a prophet. (Balaam, however, misused his opportunity.) Instead, we should focus on how much Hashem loves and affords honor to us, the Jewish People. Deserving or not, it was only in our merit that Moshe was able to reach the heights that he did. For we are Bnei Yisrael, the chosen nation of Hashem. Let us learn to appreciate and understand what that means. Am Yisrael Chai!
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