Teaching with Love by Rabbi Yosef Adler


The Midrash (VaYikra Rabbah 7:3) quotes a practice that it is advisable to begin the Chumash education of young children with Sefer VaYikra. It explains this practice with the phrase, “Yavo’u Tehorim ViYit’asku BeTaharah,” “Pure will come and be occupied with the laws of purity.” We should let the pure, innocent children begin studying the laws of purity. I myself experienced this as a student in Yeshivat Chafetz Chaim when the first thing that I was taught was Sefer VaYikra.

I believe that there may be a more compelling reason for this practice. Sefer VaYikra begins with the words “VaYikra El Moshe VaYidabeir Hashem Eilav,” “And Hashem called to Moshe and spoke to him saying…” (VaYikra 1:1). Rashi (ad loc. s.v. VaYikra El Moshe) points out that the words “VaYikra” and “VaYidabeir” are both used. This seems extraneous, because both words have very similar meanings. He suggests that the word “VaYikra” is Lashon Chibah, an affectionate calling. Hashem calls out to Moshe in an affectionate voice saying, “Moshe, how are you?” Only after this, does Hashem begin to describe the laws of sacrifices.

Why does Rashi choose to make this remark only on the phrase “VaYikra El Moshe,” in this week’s Parashah if, in fact, this phrase already appears in Sefer Shemot? Apparently, it is because of the delicate nature of the subject matter. The purpose  of sacrifices is not simply to slaughter animals, but rather, to teach a profound lesson and challenge: when we give sacrifices, we must feel that in truth, we are sacrificing ourselves on the altar and the animals are just our messengers. To elevate the Jewish People and enable them to reach this high level of understanding the correct approach to Korbanot, Hashem needed a to employ a particularly patient and loving technique. Had Hashem given these commands in a demanding tone, He would not have convinced anybody to be willing to make that type of sacrifice. Only the loving tone that Hashem used to speak to Moshe would have any chance of succeeding in convincing him of the commandment of Korbanot. Hence, here Rashi felt it important to emphasize that “VaYikra” denotes Lashon Chibah, a loving tone.

I believe that this explains the Midrash as well. One begins education with Sefer VaYikra not because of its content, but rather, to convey a message to the people. If an educator wants to successfully develop a loving relationship with his students, he must show that he cares about them. If he does, he will be able to effectively teach even the difficult Sefer VaYikra.

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