Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews

Leviticus: On humility, G^d and Moses show the way

The well-known rashi on the first word (Leviticus 1:1) explains how the small Aleph shows Moses’s humility. But there is more of that here.

When we read what it says, and not rush over the words, we may get questions. G^d’s questions! And only those who ask questions will get answers. Answers are not always instantaneously popping up. But keeping the question open, I found, eventually gives you answers. As R’ Yitzchak tell us, seek and ye shall find (Babylonian Talmud, Megillah 6b).

Let’s read word for word. The first three Hebrew words. “And [he] called onto Moses” – what is missing? No mention of who is calling. Next three words. “And G^d spoke to him” – what is missing? To whom did He speak? Next three words. “From the Tent of Meeting, to say” – what is missing? Who said something to whom?

G^d is so humble that He only dictated that Moses was spoken to. And Moses was so humble that he only found significant that G^d spoke. And the result is that what was said lives on, not hindered by egos of the participants in the exchange. The Rabbis explain that G^d implies in Jeremiah 9:12, If only they would forget Me but keep my Torah.

And this is the model for how husband and wife should interact. When he gives to her, it’s only because he wants her to have, not to look good or get something ‘in return.’ It’s not an investment. And when she receives, she only is full of how generous and loving he is, not how much she deserves. Same things when she gives him. And then, as a result, the children will continue that behavior, even when their parents are not around. And this is how all relationships should go, between partners, between friends.

This only works though, when both partners stay humble. When one of them going snobby (just what I deserve), the whole dance is thrown off.

A good teacher teaches because she wants her student to know, not to look great or have influence. And the best student values her teachers and is not all absorbed by how great a person or student she is. And as a result, the lesson can be a success.

And when all of humanity interacts like that, the bathroom looks clean every time someone had used it. And there will not be trash lying in the street. And the land, the rivers, the seas, and the skies will not be full of poison and junk. And the world will be filled with G^d’s Glory (Numbers 14:21, Isaiah 6:3, Psalm 72:19, Kedushah of the Mussaf Prayer).


Leimor occurs 936 times in the Torah. Of them, in a small minority of cases, 73 times, from Exodus 6:10 to Numbers 35:9, Leimor appears in the construction Mosheh Leimor. The Lammed in Leimor, when it immediately follows and connects to Mosheh, has a dot [Daggeish]. So, in our verse, it doesn’t. I don’t know the reason for that dot. But we know that a Daggeish can indicate dropped letters. Maybe here too, as follows. Seventy-three times, the Torah says: Vaydabber haSheim el Mosheh Leimor [And G^d was speaking to Moses to say]. But our verse has two words more, the two nameless humble words, Vayikrah (And [He] called) and Eilav (onto him). Then, maybe, the dot means, that also in places where the text doesn’t spell it out here, there G^d and Moses also do their humble dance.

But then we should ask why here it is written out in full. Maybe because this is the Book of the Priests (Cohanim). They come to mediate between man and G^d. That can only be done with utmost humility. And, that is what I usually find. Cohanim are very humble compared to how honored they are. Maybe also, since they don’t get to boss the people around. Rather, they are instrumental in conveying G^d’s Blessing onto them.


Latin letters stand on a line; Hebrew letters hang from a line. So, the small Aleph in the first word looks like a superscript first footnote indicator. But then, this Book seems like the First Book of the Torah. And in a way it is. Small children start with learning Leviticus because if deals with bringing offerings. That is easiest learned by people who are still free of sin.

Also, the First Book, Genesis, tells us about the Creator. The Second Book, Exodus, shows us the Birth of G^d’s Nation. These are introductions. But now comes how they can get close. (The offerings are about getting close.)


We’re not finished. The next verse (Leviticus 1:2) has more on humility still.

It starts with a command to Moses to speak to the Children of Israel. But does that really happen? Next thing we know, it reads: “And say to them, Adam [a person] when [he] is to offer from you an offering of G^d ….” We should have expected it to read: “When a person from you is to offer an offering of G^d.” Or, if the text wanted to stress who is the actor, it would use the Latin word order, beginning with him, a person from you. It should have kept ‘a person’ and ‘from you’ together. But Adam and ‘from you’ are strangely separated here. Why?

In my opinion, it can only mean that ‘from you’ is not specifying Adam. In fact, the ‘from you’ is easily stipulated in the continuation of the verse: ‘from the animals, [and to be precise,] from the cattle or from the flock.’

So it really says: “And [also] say to them [the animals], that when Adam [a human] is to offer from you, from the animals: from the cattle or from the flock, an offering of G^d, you should bring your offering.”

G^d lets Moses also talk to the animals, to explain to them that offering them like this is OK, so, to agree to it. That’s so sensitive, not to pass them over but rather to secure their consent and cooperation! So that they can show Adam that they happily innocently and humbly give their lives to G^d. And so should Adam happily dedicate all his life to the Creat^r.

That’s how sensitive we all can be to others when we’re humble enough.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (, born in 1953 to two Dutch survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are: his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach and lehavdiel bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff and Rav Meir Lubin. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (statistics), Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight Truth), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, GLBTQAI, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Sometimes he's misunderstood because he has such a wide vision that never fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what many love about him. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quit a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. November 13, 2018, he published his 500st blog post with the ToI. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having a peek outside of your cultural bubble. * NEW: To see other blog posts by him, his overspill blog you can reach by clicking on the Website icon next to his picture at the head of every post. There you may find precursors to later TOI blog posts, addition or corrections of published TOI blog posts, blog posts the TOI will not carry and some thoughts that are too short to be a TOI blog post. Also, the TOI only allows for one blog post per blogger per 24 hours. Sometimes, he has more to say than that. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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