In the hebrew text of the Torah scroll, thousands of years of tradition dictate how each letter is to be written. Certain words, such as the first word of this week's Parshah, are exceptional in some way.

The opening phrase is "And G‑d called to Moses." This is the beginning of the third Book of the Torah, Vayikra (Leviticus). Unlike the preceding book which is mainly narrative, telling the story of the Exodus, this book mainly comprises direct instruction from G‑d. So it begins "And G‑d called to Moses." G‑d called to Moses from the Sanctuary, to teach him the laws which he would transmit to the Jewish people.

The first word in this phrase ends with a letter Aleph. What is unusual is the fact that this Aleph is very small compared with the size of the other letters. The scribe has to write very carefully a tiny Aleph. This has been a feature of every Torah scroll since the first one, written by Moses. What does the small Aleph signify?

One explanation is that the small Aleph hints at an important aspect of the role of Moses as lawgiver: humility. Moses received the Torah from G‑d and transmitted it to the Jewish people. However, in order for him to be able to receive Divine teachings, he had to achieve the quality of utter humility and selflessness.1 The Torah testifies that "Moses was very humble, more than any man on the face of the earth" (Numbers 12:3).

Because he had no interposing self he was able to act as a pure channel for the Divine. Thus the Sages tell us, "The presence of G‑d spoke from the throat of Moses." The small Aleph in the first word of the Sedra expresses this humility and selflessness. The Aleph signifies the nature of Moses and of all great teachers since his time.

We too need something of this humility in order for us to hear the words of the Torah. We need the ability to stop and listen. We need a very similar quality in order to be able to bring the Torah teachings into effect in our lives: acceptance. The small Aleph is also required in the process of transmitting these teachings to those around us and to the next generation: the humility of the teacher. The small Aleph is the key...