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Parshat Vayikra 5766 - Awesome Miracle or Cool Coincidence?

by in Vayikra .

You pray but G-d doesn’t hear – or, if He does hear He doesn’t answer?  Nonsense! He hears and He answers, it is YOU who don’t hear!  There is an art to hearing Hashem’s voice, and in this Insight I’ll show you how.  It is not about prophecy.  It is about being in touch, understanding His ‘language’, and removing the clatter of our own egoistic noise so that we can hear the very still sound of His voice.  How do you do this?  The answer is embedded in the first word of the Parsha, the name not only of the Parsha but of the third Book of Torah and the subject of nearly all of its content: Vayikra.


The first thing you notice when looking at the word is the very small aleph that the Torah uses in spelling the last letter of the word Vayikra. The reason is [1]because when G-d prophetically appeared to Bilaam[2] the word used to describe that encounter is Vayaker (and he chanced upon him) rather thanVayikra (and he called him).  Moshe, in his humility, found it difficult to write the word Vayikra that G-d dictated to him.  It sounded arrogant that G-dcalled him, Moshe, whereas He merely “chanced” upon  Bilaam – no lesser a prophet than he.  Hashem never actually issued Bilaam with a prophetic calling. So as not to emphasize this difference, Moshe omitted the aleph, converting the word from Vayikra, a calling, to Vayiker – a chance occurrence, a coincidence.  When Hashem insisted he insert the Alephconverting the word back to “and He called”, Moshe’s reluctance manifests in the diminution of aleph’s size.


This word vayiker (in a different grammatical form), is also used with reference to Amalek (asher karecha baderech – who chanced upon you on the way).  Rashi[3] explains the root of that word karecha, as kar, meaning cold: After emerging so miraculously unscathed from Egypt, a mystique of invincibility surrounded the Jewish Nation.  No enemy no matter what its strength relative to the Jews, would attempt an attack on them for fear of their supernatural alliance with G-d and the strength it gave them.  Amalekhowever did attack them and in doing so broke the mystique and demonstrated that they are indeed no less vulnerable to attack than any other nation.  This “cooled” the fear that other nations had of Israel. (Like when a person has jumped into a steaming bath, it becomes easier for others who until then were afraid of its heat, to follow suit. So too, once Amalek had chilled the fear others had of Israel; they were more ready to attack).


There is a profound linkage between the ideas of coincidence and “the cooling effect”. There is also a vast difference between the idea of a calling and that of a coincidence.


Imagine a parent warning her child not to go outside into the yard.  The child disobeys, runs outside, trips and hurts himself.  His mother while consoling him tells him “do you see what happens when you disobey your parents?”  In the child’s mind there is a moment of awe for parental power and Mom’s alliance with G-d!  Then, his sister blurts out, “Oh rubbish Mommy that was just a coincidence!” The chilling effect!  That moment of awe has been lost forever.


We are presented with hundreds of choices every day to respond to an occurrence either as a coincidence or as a calling.  A calling leaves us awe struck.  A coincidence leaves us thinking that at best “that was cool”.  If Moshe would have responded to the burning bush with a sense of cool coincidence, the Exodus would not have occurred – or at least our history would have taken a very different course.  Yosef could have seen his being called to interpret Pharo’s dreams as a coincidence of good fortune.  Instead, by seeing the Divine hand he saved Egypt from famine and paved the way for his family’s reunification and survival.  The Jewish people could have seen the splitting of the Red Sea as an amazing coincidence of timing of tides and winds (as in fact the Biblical Critics do!).  We could see the chain of miracles that lead to the founding and keeping of Eretz Yisrael (sometimes more despite our efforts than because of them!) as coincidence and that would cool any sense of Divine intent to our possessing our Land.


Each day you can integrate the things that happen to you and around you asvayiker, chance happenings and coincidences.  Or you can interpret them as Vayikra, a calling from G-d Himself to you. You can choose to see these events as His finger pointing you in a certain direction, a hint, a clue, an answer to a prayer.  And, what you choose is a manifestation of your faith. Faith is knowing that in a world orchestrated by Hashem, there is no coincidence; there is only human choice and Divine direction.


Does that mean that each and every event in your life is a message to you? No, probably not. You are not the only person in the world G-d is communicating with.  But there are some guidelines to help you determine when He is ‘talking’ to you.


Firstly, it helps each morning (or the night before) to ask G-d for guidance in particular areas.  G-d doesn’t usually do your work for you nor make your decisions for you.  He doesn’t even do your thinking for you.  But He does give you guidance; all the time.  So be specific about the guidance you are seeking from Him.  It may be helpful to briefly note your prayer down for later reference.  Let G-d (and yourself) know that you are open to following whatever guidance He gives you.  At the end of your day, take the same journal in which you wrote your prayer and now review your entire day in your mind. Think of anything “coincidental” that happened.  Do not only think of dramatic events. Think of trivial details too.  At first when you try this exercise you may find no coincidences to record.  But as you persist, after a few days you will begin to notice them. At first you might only notice one or two, later on many more.  Record those coincidences without evaluating or judging them. Then read your prayer from that morning or the night before.  See if there are any linkages between the guidance you asked for and the coincidences you experienced.  You will be shocked as you discover how often your prayers are answered.  You have just learnt the art of hearing G-d’s still voice.


There is another technique.  Sometimes G-d speaks to you not through coincidences that happen outside of you, but through a quiet, knowing voice deep in your subconscious, in your intuition.  Some people know that voice well, and listen to it.  Some find it harder to access.  The reason we cannot always hear that voice is because of our own egos.  So the method of accessing that voice is through silencing the ego.[4]  The moment the ego is quiet, a knowledge born not out of analysis and thought but out of Binat Halev(intuitive understanding), becomes audible.  Once your ego has been silenced, look deep into your heart (not mind) and ask it what it is feeling (not thinking) at that moment.  Observe the feelings without judging or evaluating them.  There might be a tightness in your chest, a knot in your stomach, a feeling of elation and upliftment, a sense of anticipation or fear. Whatever the feeling, just notice it.  Then, while focusing your attention on that feeling, try to sense the source of the feeling.  Where is it coming from?  Record your findings. Then again, refer back to your prayer and notice the linkages. Reflect on them for a few moments in secluded silence.  And clarity begins to emerge.


Eastern Philosophy?  Not at all.  What is the difference in the spelling of the word vayiker (He chanced – meaning a coincidental encounter) and Vayikra (a deliberate Divine calling)?  An aleph made small.  Aleph stands for Ani orAnochi (I), the ego – but the aleph is a silent letter.  When the ego is silenced, Ani does not mean the egoistic I, it means the Divine self, the G-dly essence at a person’s core.  The silent aleph, the silencing of the ego transformsvayiker – coincidence; into Vayikra – calling.  The ego needs coincidence, otherwise there is a force more powerful than it at play.  The self needs faith, for that is the only force at play.  You can cool even the most fervent faith with the acceptance of coincidence.  You can build even the most cynically agnostic into a passionate believer by excluding the possibility of coincidence. [5]  The letter aleph is made up of two yud’s and a slantingvav, the numerical value 26, the same as the numeric value of G-d’s name. In the silence of the aleph, the silencing of the ego, we can discern the sounds of G-d Himself.  His voice is all around us, it is deep inside us.  If we listen, we will hear.



[1] Rashi “Vayikra el Moshe”, 1:1


[2] Bamidbar  23 :4


[3] Rashi, Devarim 25:18


[4] There are many different ways to silence the ego.  Passionate Esek HaTorah is the most powerful method if one knows how to loose ones ego in that practice.  Some use Tehillim or music.  Meditation is perhaps the quickest and most accessible method. (See my essay “Chochma bagoyim – using secular methodology for personal development” on (coming soon) for the source and rationale for using techniques such as meditation for ego control and its comparison to using conventional Musar techniques).  Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan’s works on meditation are enlightening.  Secular manuals like Eckhard Tolle’s Power of Now, are extremely helpful for beginners. Perhaps most important of all is the ability to identify our ego and when it becomes active.


[5] See Deepak Chopra’s book on Synchronicity, for a brilliant secular and scientific exposition on the futility of belief in coincidence.

Latest update: October 18, 2014

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