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Parashat Vaykra: Lizkor Laolam lo Lishkoach - Remember Forever, Never Forget

Greatness and humility. It doesn't sound easy, and sometimes they even seem incompatible.

 

Vayikra invites us to enter a world of ritual and offerings to achieve closeness to the Kadosh Baruch Hu, the Lord, in order to achieve a spirituality that seems to be lacking in our everyday lives. Our parasha summons us to pause a little with our tasks and concerns to make room for something more.

 

Apparently, what we think makes us great doesn't really achieve it. At times, our achievements, possessions, or even the small moments when we feel like everything is going well make us think that we are great people with great power. However, the ups and downs that life gives us, the people around us, or ourselves when we achieve moments of introspection, show us that the truly great and powerful things in our lives come from a different kind of achievement or another kind of valuable moment.

 

Vayikra begins with a direct call to Moses from the Lord; "Vayikra el Moshe vayidaber Adonai elav mei'ohel moed." Distinguishing this call at the beginning of the third book of the Torah from most of the other calls with which the Lord usually begins His moments of approach to the People and the master of masters.

 

Rashi, one of the greatest and most respected commentators on the Torah and the Talmud, who lived back in the 11th century, describes it as an exclusivity that Moses, the prophet of prophets, has to receive an almost intimate treatment from the Supreme Being. Like a fond nickname before beginning to speak to him.

 

However, particularly in this section in the Torah scroll, we find those words, "Vayikra," in Hebrew with the last letter, the Aleph, smaller than the rest of the letters.

 

It is a mystery the true reason or message that the Torah wishes to give us with this smaller letter than the rest. We often find these types of gifts from the text in which we must argue and delve deep, and sometimes not so deep, and even discuss and dissent so that our hearts are completely turned on by the text and understand with the heart and not just with reason.

 

A beautiful interpretation of that difference in the size of the Aleph tells us that at that precise moment when he is called so directly by the Lord, he must shrink, become small, as small as the letter Aleph, so as not to feel above the rest of mortals for that special attention that God bestows upon him. Even when our tradition considers him spiritually above the rest of mortals, the message is clear: on every occasion, no matter how important you are or consider yourself, you must take care to be humble. However, it is not about humiliating ourselves or lowering ourselves before anyone. It is not about "turning the other cheek" when they want to attack or destroy us.

 

Particularly this Sabbath is called Shabbat Zachor. The word "Zachor," remember, refers to the episode that occurred in the desert, just after crossing the Yam Suf, the Sea of Reeds, right after the divine miracle of parting the waters. Then the Amalekites attacked our People from behind, where there were children, the elderly, and those who could not fight, just out of a slavery of 400 years. An attack that does not seem to be aimed at conquering territory or obtaining booty, but at indiscriminate hatred.

 

The maftir this week, Devrim - Deuteronomy 25:16, alerts us, "Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt."

 

Remembering, keeping the memory alive, and not forgiving. It doesn't sound like humility or the search for fellowship with another people who may have made a mistake when they perpetrated that attack.

 

There is a big difference between being humble and humbling oneself. The Torah conveys to us that we cannot always forgive and move on. That sometimes we must make it known that hatred and massacres have and must have punishment and consequences.

 

We are almost entering Purim. A tale that moves us when a descendant of these same Amalekites, the wicked Haman, tried again to destroy the People of Israel for spurious reasons. Even more so when Hamas, with an incredible resemblance to the villain of Persia, tries again centuries later.

 

Zachor et asher asa lecha Amalek. Zachor et asher asa lecha Haman. Zachor asher asa lecha Hamas. Remember waht Amalek did to you. Remember what Haman did to you. Remember what Hamas did to you.

 

On the same Shabbat, the Torah proposes to us to take care not to be humiliated and at the same time, to be humble. We must learn to discriminate to take care of ourselves and our own, and at the same time be supportive and attentive to those who do deserve our care, our appreciation.

 

Greatness to recognize when we must remember, humility to accept the differences of others and build a better world together, in peace and understanding.

 

Tikkun olam. Only Tikkun olam bemalchut Shaddai can improve the world in the Kingdom of God. What more? What less?

 

Shabbat shalom and Chag Purim Sameach!!

 

Rabbi Gustavo Geier

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