Moshe Rabbenu’s tiny ‘aleph’ – From the teachings of Rav Eliezer Berland

Rav Eliezer Berland teaches about Moshe's tiny aleph
In the merit of Moshe Rabbenu's tiny aleph, he was able to redeem Am Yisrael.


 Moshe Rabbenu’s yahrtzeit on Adar 7th falls out on March 5th, 2017 this year. To mark the occasion, we’re proud to present:


When Moshe wrote the Torah he didn’t write it from memory or through prophecy (ruach hakodesh), rather, he was told by Hashem, “Now write the letter beis of Bereishis,” and then he wrote a beis. “Now write a reish,” and he wrote a reish. “Now write an aleph,” and he wrote an aleph. “Now write a shin,” and he wrote a shin. Now write a yud,” and he wrote a yud. “Now write a taf,” and he wrote a taf.

When he reached the word “Vayikra,” he was told, “Write the letter vav,” and he wrote a vav. “Yud,” and he wrote a yud. “Kuf,” and he wrote a kuf. “Reish,” and he wrote a reish.

“Write an aleph…” and Moshe said, “I can’t write an aleph.”

“What do you mean you can’t write an aleph? What happened to you? Write an aleph! You already wrote me the book of Bereshis and the book of Shemos. Suddenly you’re getting stubborn? Moshe, what happened to you? Write an aleph!”

Moshe said,

“I cannot write the aleph. The meaning of “Vayikra” is that You will call me. What, am I worthy that You should call me? Is it true that You talk to me? Who am I that You should speak to me? I am the lowest of the low. I am worse than everyone.”

“I cannot write, “Vayikra,” (“He called”) –  let it remain “vayikar” (“He happened upon”) without an aleph , just as it is written about Bilaam, “G-d happened upon Bilaam” (Bamidbar 33:4). The same way that You speak to Bilaam, so do You speak to me. Maybe I am just another Bilaam?”


The Baal HaTurim says that Moshe wanted to write only “Vayikar.” Hashem said to Moshe, “Stop arguing and write the aleph.” Moshe answered, “OK. However I will write a really small aleph. I will write a miniscule aleph.”

Who is Moshe Rabbeinu? What is Moshe Rabbeinu? Moshe was not prepared to write the aleph because for his whole life long, he really thought he was just like Bilaam. Even during the episode with Korach, Moshe thought that he himself was Korach. While Korach thought that he himself was Moshe.

Moshe went to Korach to ask his forgiveness: “Maybe I hurt your feelings?” He also went to Dasan and Aviram and said, “Maybe I didn’t behave properly. I came to ask for forgiveness.” Korach answered Moshe, “Now you come, when the whole nation is on our side.” Moshe was left without even a minyan.

Truly, it was permitted for Moshe to think that he was Bilaam and that this was his level, but for other people, to think that Moshe was just a great magician like Bilaam – Hashem should have mercy – this caused them to die in the desert.


The Midrash Rabbah (Vayikra 15) says about the phrase: “He called to Moshe” that from here we can learn that every Talmid Chacham who has no daas (intelligence) a carcass is better than him. What is called daas? What is daas?

Daas means being modest and humble. Daas means that I am not worth anything. If a person thinks that he is better than someone else, he has some fleeting thought that he is better than someone else, then “a carcass is better than him.”

Even Moshe Rabbeinu, the head of all the prophets, who took Israel out of Egypt and bought the 10 plagues, plus a myriad of other miracles including splitting the sea and bringing down the Torah from heaven, also going without food or water three times, each for forty days – he said, “What did I do? Who am I? Did I do anything? It wasn’t me at all – it was Hashem! I didn’t do anything.”

This was Moshe. This was Moshe’s daas. Moshe learned Torah, and he knew it was a gift from Heaven. He went up to heaven and brought down the Torah. It was a gift from Hashem. If a person doesn’t have this daas, the Midrash Rabbah says, then a carcass is better than him.


The Matok MiD’vash says that all the Tzaddikim made the mishkan (tabernacle), deciding the details of how each and every part would be made, making kavanos (mystical intentions) and yechudim (mystical unifications) on each nail and stake – on each detail they made yechudim and kavanos.

But when it came time to attach all the pieces together and build the mishkan, the pieces didn’t fit together. So they said, “Moshe, what is happening here?” Moshe answered them, “The fact of the matter is that you all could try for a million of years to build the mishkan, but you will never succeed.”

This is why it was written, “And Moshe built the mishkan.” Only Moshe built the mishkan – no one else could have built the mishkan. They just brought him the parts and the whole thing built itself! They just put them in Moshe’s hands and all the parts attached themselves to one another.

The Matok MiD’vash says that the Tzaddik is above all conception. He’s not just a person who prays a lot, prays well, learns well, goes out to the mountains and screams to Hashem. Certainly, through these things a person can become a Tzaddik, but the matter of being the Tzaddik, in the aspect of Moshe is something altogether different. We have no conception of it.

Certainly, it’s dependent on prayers and learning, but also it’s something that is beyond our ability to comprehend. Of course this level has to be achieved through Torah and prayer. But first one needs to know the whole of the Torah, and pray every single prayer with all his might, to literally almost faint with each and every word. After doing all this, the spring opens, a new level, a new sefirah (kabbalistic world).

No one in the world has any idea of these levels, but the Tzaddik who is the aspect of Moshe merits to achieve all of this only through his modesty and humility, only through the aspect of ayin (nothingness).


Rabbeinu said that a person who makes teshuva will be constantly humiliated and embarrassed – everyone will ridicule him and make fun of at him – just as they did to Moshe Rabbeinu.

Everyone made fun of him and ridiculed him. Everyone spoke badly about him and even so, only Moshe was able to bring down the fire, bring down the Shechina.

Truthfully, in the end, only Moshe Rabbeinu, in the merit of his tiny aleph – in the merit of his modesty and humility, his feeling that he truly was lower than everyone else – this merit survives and exists. In the merit of Moshe’s tiny aleph he redeemed us from Egypt and he will redeem us again in the near future, may it be soon and in our days, Amen. 

originally published on the Shuvu Bonim website here


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