Vayikra (he called) to Moses… when any person of you will offer a korban...”

-Vayikra 1:12

The letter aleph in the first word of this parshah (Vayikra) is smaller than the normal size of all letters in the Torah. This small aleph indicates the extraordinary humility of Moses, of whom the Torah says, “The man Moses was very humble, more so than any other person on the face of the earth” (Beha’alotecha 12:3).

Moses was blessed with superior qualities and he was the greatest prophet of Israel ever. Even so, he regarded himself inferior to everyone. He viewed his superior qualities as a special endowment or gift from G‑d, and not as some special achievement on his part. In his mind, therefore, he was convinced that if someone else had been blessed with the same abilities, that other person would have achieved more than he did himself. By virtue of his humility, Moses merited the highest levels of achievement, that he was chosen to redeem Israel from Egypt, that he received the Torah for Israel, and so forth.

This idea of humility and self-negation is the underlying concept of sacrifices, the central theme of our parshah. Thus it is written, “Adam ki yakriv mikem-When any person of you will offer a korban (offering; sacrifice)..” (Vayikra 1:2). The word mikem (of you) qualifies adam (person), thus should follow right after it. Why is it placed later, after “ki yakriv-will offer”? Chassidut explains that this order signifies the meaning of sacrifices, of serving G‑d.

The term korban (sacrifice) derives from the word karav (to approach; to come near). Our verse thus informs us: When any person desires to draw close to G‑dliness, then you must make an offering mikem-of yourself. A true sacrifice is not the offering of something external to the person, but an offering of the person himself. It means self-negation.

On the one hand, everyone must be aware of his unique talents and abilities. A Jew must know that he is genetically endowed with special qualities. Thus when it comes to matters of Torah and mitzvot, he should not think, “who am I and what am I, to be involved with matters of holiness and spirituality?” On the contrary, he must seize the opportunity and appreciate that he is fully qualified to deal with the most sublime tasks, and that, indeed, is his purpose in life.

On the other hand, one must never forget that his special qualities and talents to achieve the highest levels are no more than a Divine endowment. Like Moses, he must think that if another had been granted his abilities, the other one might be greater still and achieve even more. This consciousness precludes a tendency towards arrogance and presumptuousness, and preserves a proper sense of humility.

Furthermore, it allows one to offer sacrifices in the true spirit, to the point of meriting to offer these in the most ideal manner in the third Beit Hamikdash, “where we will offer to You our obligatory sacrifices... with love, in accordance with the precept of Your Will,” very speedily with the coming of Moshiach.