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Harav Y. Reuven Rubin Shlita

“Vayikra” sweet words sung with an age-old nigun by generations of young children. ‘Chumash Seudah’, the celebration of a boy’s entry into the structured learning of Torah starting with these words. From all the places to start this life of learning, the custom is to start at this crucial point, which introduces the laws of bringing sacrifices in the Mishkan.

“Hashem called to Moshe and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying, ‘Speak to Bnei Yisrael and say to them:

When a man amongst you offers a sacrifice to Hashem, from an animal, cattle or sheep you shall offer your sacrifice.” (Vayikra 1:1)

Rashi comments that whenever Hashem spoke to Moshe, He first called Moshe’s attention with a loving summons, “Vayikra”, the expression angels use when addressing one another, as we find in the verse, “They call one unto the other.” (Yeshayah 6:3)

The sefer Mevaser Tov asks: “If Hashem always prefaced His instructions with a loving summons, why is it only mentioned in this verse, which introduces the subject of sacrifices?

Furthermore, why is the letter aleph from the word Vayikra written smaller than the other letters in the Torah scroll?

Finally, what is the relevance of the sacrifices discussed throughout Sefer Vayikra to our own lives, in light of the Baal Shem Tov’s teaching that the entire Torah is eternally relevant to every Jew in every generation?”

The Rebbe answers, “When a person stands in close proximity to a beloved friend, he can understand from the subtle nuances of his friend’s speech what his friend truly desires. The same was true of Moshe, who was drawn close to Hashem with a loving summons, in order to receive the full depth of the Torah’s wisdom with a level of clarity that could not be expressed through words. However, just as aleph is the first letter in the alphabet, so too the first and foremost condition necessary in order to stand in Hashem’s presence is to be small in one’s own estimation, since humility draws a person close to Hashem, while arrogance cannot be suffered in His presence, as the Gemara states:

“Hashem says of the arrogant, ‘He and I cannot dwell together in the same world.’” (Sotah 5b).

The Ramban calls humility “the greatest of all noble traits.”

However real humility is a variable term, hard to explain in the abstract, but vital for our growth.

Let me share an example of the true virtue of humility as lived in real time.

I never really came to terms with his enormous ability to do what was needed, rather than what may have been convenient. Time and again he would extend himself beyond all limits for others without being asked or receiving thanks. He gave his entirety to projects others would deem beneath their dignity and would do it with a sweet smile.

I speak of the previous Bobover Rebbe HaRav Naftali Halberstam ZTL who was an angel that passed through this mortal world with the aura of complete holiness.

When I was a youngster, I had the merit to share many hours with this saintly soul. I won’t say I understood him, because he was a master in hiding behind a facade of simplicity. Many of us were fooled into thinking this Tzadik was just like the rest of us, but that was his secret because in fact his was a level of humility far beyond anything we could even dream about.

Born to the Royalty of pre-Churban Bobov, he basked in the sunlight of his holy grandfather the Bobover Rebbe HaRav Ben Zion Ztl and for a small period of time was allowed to aspire to the tranquil holiness that was part of his heritage. Then the hammer struck Klal Yisroel and nothing ever could be the same. He stood with his Holy Father the Rebbe Rav Shlomo ZTL and together they went through all the degrees of hell our enemies prepared for us. His Bar Mitzvah was celebrated in that gehinom, and his familial losses were huge. It’s not my purpose to write a biography here; I just want to set the stage so the reader can grasp some of what his true humility was.

Out of all that darkness came Reb Naftulcha, as he was lovingly known, a slight figure with a calm elegance that radiated friendship. When I came to the Bobover Yeshiva it was still in Crown Heights and the community was in its infancy. The Rav Ztl worked tirelessly for his kehilla, and at his side was his unique son, Reb Naftulcha who had been forged in the fires of our enemies so as to bring light to future generations.

I was a Yankee-born student, and so had the ability to speak English fluently. This stood me in good stead because Reb Naftulcha often needed an English- speaking helper for his projects. In those times the yeshiva stood on a very rocky foundation. Money was extremely scarce and no one was willing to carry the burdens of such an enterprise, except the one holy soul who was prepared to give up his position, to abandon what was deservedly his in terms of expectations, and offer his entirety to the klall. This was Reb Naftulcha Ztl and his yahrzeit falls just a few days before Purim.

The Rebbe Rav Naftali Ztl never asked for the responsibilities that comprised his every day. He was a peace-loving soul that sought to live a life given over to serving Hashem as his holy ancestors had. After the fires of the Churban one would have thought such an ambition would be granted. Yet, his role was deemed to be different, and he did what the klall needed, not what he may have sought for himself. Many a time I witnessed the gut- wrenching aggravation that visited his daily existence. His was a daily fight to cover the expenses of the rapidly growing Torah Mosdos of Bobov; he did this alone, with a smile and a sigh.

I paint this portrait of humility, this neshomah that was definitely called with love by Hashem, so that at this time of his Yahrzeit we can touch on his merit and know what to aspire to.

Purim was one of his special times. On Purim everything can change; through focusing on Hashem, we can break down all the walls that stand in our way. On this day I would make it my business to watch Rav Naftali closely. He always hid his fire, but on Purim he opened up. As the Olam danced, he would clutch his father’s hand, look up to the heavens and dance the dance of angels. His eyes looked beyond his challenges; he was attached to a greater force, a heavenly connection created by tens of thousands of kindnesses strewn through his humility.

He was one of the builders of what we all share in today, and did so with the call of “Vayikra” in his heart.