1.

Generally in a Sefer Torah all the letters are the same size. However, there are some exceptions. Sometimes there is a letter that according to the mesorah — tradition — is written larger than the other letters, and at times there is a letter that is written smaller than the normal letters in that particular Torah.

It is interesting that this is so in the opening word in two of the five books of Torah. In Bereishit, the first of the five books, the opening word Bereishit (בראשית) has an enlarged beit, and in the first word of Chumash Vayikra, the third of the five books of Torah, the word Vayikra (ויקרא) is written with a small alef.

Indeed, much has been written and said about the significance of the large and small letters, but they can be explained also as conveying a poignant message to a Chatan and Kallah who are starting out on their life-long journey.

Bereishit deals with the Creation of the world. At the completion of the seven days of Creation we are told “On it He abstained from all His work — asher bara Elokim la’asot — that G‑d created to make” (2:3). The Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 11:6, see Rashi) explains that the word “la’asot” — “to make” — implies that there is an ongoing process of Creation. After G‑d initially created the world and all the creatures of the universe, He gave it over to the creatures to reproduce themselves and perfect the world. In other words, it is incumbent upon humanity to keep on developing and building the world.

The letter beit in Hebrew has the numerical value of two. The large beit is to emphasize that when building, man should have a partner. Much more can be accomplished when two work together than the sum of what each one can accomplish independently (see Sotah 33a). Hashem Himself asserted this principle when He proclaimed “It is not good for man to be alone; I will make for him a helper” (Bereishit 2:18). The husband and wife team are the essential ingredient necessary for la’asot — to continue to perfect this world and make it a better place for humanity.

Vayikra — calling — is a form of communication. Rashi in his commentary on the word explains that “Vayikra” — with an alef (as opposed to the word “Vayikar” (without an alef) which describes Hashem’s communication with Bilaam) connotes a “keriah shel chibah” — “a calling of love” — an expression of affection.

Commentaries also say that the small alef is an indication of Moshe’s humility. The numerical value of the letter alef is one and the smallness indicates that Moshe never considered himself important or significant.

The message of the small alef to a Chatan and Kallah is that your communication must be a calling of love and with a tone of affection. This can be accomplished when humility prevails among you. When the haughtiness of the “I” and “me” is replaced by the gentleness of the “we” and “us,” the communication is then pleasant and productive.

For a successful, happy and long-lasting marriage it is necessary that you always remember the message implied by these two letters of our Hebrew language, the alef and the beit.

My dear Chatan and Kallah, standing here together tonight under the Chuppah canopy, you have demonstrated your understanding of the message Hashem conveyed with the large beit. What is left for me is to accentuate that all the years of your beit — togetherness — you should always remember the message of the small alef. Forsaking the “I” and always utilizing the “we” approach will make your vayikra — your communication — an expression of love and affection. This will earn you what we will soon mention in the seventh berachahahavah v’achvah shalom verei’us” — “love and friendship, harmony and fellowship” all the days of your life.


2.

This week we started reading Chumash Vayikra, the third of the five books of the Torah. Primarily it discusses the laws of karbanot — the offerings, or as some call it the sacrifices, which the Jews would bring to the MishkanTabernacle. These offerings were also brought later to the Beit Hamikdash and will again be in effect speedily when Mashiach arrives and the third Beit Hamikdash will be built.

In the opening pasuk we are told that Hashem affectionately called to Moshe, and His dialogue opened with the words Adam ki yakriv mikem karban l’Hashem.” The literal interpretation of these words is “when a man offers of you an offering unto Hashem.” Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad Chassidut, in his work Likkutei Torah, notes a difficulty in the words of the pasuk. If the intent of the pasuk is just to inform us of the laws of offerings, then grammatically it should say “Adam mikem ki yakriv karban l’Hashem” — “When a man of you offers an offering to Hashem” etc. followed by a statement that the following are the types of offering and their laws?

Hence, he concludes that the word “karban” stems from the word “karov, which means becoming closer, and through bringing an offering one comes closer to Hashem. The Torah is teaching, however, that Adam ki yakriv — when a man desires to draw close to Hashem — there must be “mikem” — “from you” — part of himself (the transforming of his personal animalistic soul) in the offering.

Nowadays, we do not have a Sanctuary to bring offerings but nevertheless the lesson derived from Torah law is timeless.

If one wants to draw near to Hashem or to his fellow man, or if a husband and wife want to draw near to each other, it can be accomplished only if each party demonstrates sincerity by giving a little bit of themselves and not just lip service.

Additionally, the wording of the phrase indicates that should one desire to become closer, [remember that] mikem — it depends on you. The initiative needs to be yours.

Now, it is also noted that the pasuk begins “When a person wants to offer” — in the singular and concludes, “takrivu et karbanchem” — “you shall bring your offering” — in the plural. Why the shift in grammatical form?

King Shlomo says, “As water reflects a face back to face, so one’s heart is reflected back to him by another” (Proverbs 27:13). Some commentaries explain this to mean that kindred hearts find their sentiments, feelings and convictions reflected in one another.

In light of the abovementioned explanation that Adam ki yakriv refers to one’s effort for becoming closer, the Torah is implying that when a person realizes his need to do something to become closer — ultimately takrivu et karbanchem — the second party will sense it, and both of them will become closer one to the other.

I will conclude with a Midrashic insight as to why the Torah says “adam — a man [ki yakriv]” and not “ish — a person — [ki yakriv].” The reason according to the Midrash (2:8) is that “Adam — [a] man — is an expression of love, brotherliness and friendship.”

In Yiddish, the word “adam” is interpreted “a mentch.” This is a Yiddish word that is sometimes even used in English as a general description of a person with many desirable human qualities.

Thus, the Torah is saying that when adam ki yakriv — one desires to get closer — he should be a mentch, and by giving of himself he will achieve his goal and arouse the same feelings in the one with whom he seeks closeness.

May Hashem bless you, dear Chatan and Kallah, that both of you should be real mentchin all the days of your life and thus merit togetherness coupled with happiness and success.