Crowns and a Small Aleph


It is not just the stories and laws and words of the Torah that have meaning. We are taught that each-and-every letter, each crown or tagin on the letter, of the Torah is significant.

“Rabbi Yehuda, quoting Rav, said: `When Moses ascended to receive the Torah he found God sitting and tying crowns to the letters. He asked, “Master of the Universe, for whom are You delaying the Torah’s granting on Mount Sinai by adding these crowns?” God replied: “A person who will appear a few generations from now and who will be called Akiva, son of Joseph. He will explain each-and-every crown on these letters and will generate mountains of laws from them.”

Moses said: “Master of the universe, please let me see him.” God answered: “Walk backward.” Moses went and sat in the eighth row of benches in Rabbi Akiva’s academy. He could not understand what the others were saying. He felt weak due to his sadness over not understanding anything. When Rabbi Akiva reached an item Rabbi Akiva’s students asked their teacher: “Rabbi, how did you reach that conclusion?” He answered: “The source of my statement is that Moses received this law at Mount Sinai and passed it on to succeeding generations.”

Moses felt relieved because he heard Rabbi Akiva citing him.

Moses reappeared before God and said, “Master of the Universe, if you have such an individual as Akiva, why are you giving the Torah to me?” God retorted: “Silence! That is my decision.”

Tomorrow we begin the portion Vayiqra.

Generations have commented on the first word which ends with a miniature Aleph in the scroll. Why the small Aleph? There are countless explanations.

One explanation is that in calling out to us, God had to contain God’s voice to a silent tiny letter. By doing so, this would allow room for nature and humans to operate in the universe.

Generations later…

“When Rabbi Akiva, son of Joseph, ascended to the heavens, and he found God sitting by the Torah, painstakingly pouring over its letters. Drawing close Rabbi Akiva noticed that God was carefully erasing the Holy Name in the text.

He asked, “Master of the Universe, what are You doing? Isn’t it one of the greatest profanities to erase Your name?” God replied: “Sometimes it is necessary for Me to Tzimtzum/withdraw my name.” Akiva asked: “Master of the Universe, you have already done so in the tiny aleph at the beginning of Vayiqra. What good can come of you withdrawing your name even more so?

God answered, “Walk backward.” Akiva walked backwards and find himself in a dark room, a huge screen on a wall, the moving light and sound like nothing he had seen before. In front of him were people holding hands crying tears of joy.

The talking picture fascinated him. And he sat down to watch what they were witnessing.

He watched the stories unfold on the screen. He understood not as much as he liked and the situations were confusing.

Israeli Jews sitting with Moslem Palestinians negotiating peace. People of races and colors reaching out to assist each other. Republicans shaking hands with Democrats about policy they could work on together. Leaders of countries dealing with each other fairly and with transparency.

Akiba heard the word “messianic” being uttered by the people watching the moving picture – the “Mashiach” was something he well understood. He too alongside the people in the room began to cry tears of joy. He felt relieved that the old age prophecy might come true – a time of peace and wholeness ahead.

Rabbi Akiva reappeared before God and said: “Master of the Universe, with the time of the Messiah nigh, You choose to erase Your name?

God retorted: “Silence! For the sake of peace it is my decision.”

Vayiqra. And God called out to Moses. Ending in the miniature Aleph. A small Aleph representing tzimtzum withdrawing Godself. Making room for humanity to operate in the universe.

Too much ideology and too many ideologues hear a God that calls out and embodies and emboldens their positions. They expand the small Aleph of Tzimtzum replacing it with a huge letter of enormous proportions. God is made so big by their stance and certitude that God gets in the way.

Rabbi Akiva reappeared before God and said: “Master of the Universe, with the time of the Messiah nigh, You choose to erase Your name?

God retorted: “Silence! For the sake of peace it is my decision.”




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