The Book of Leviticus begins with the word “vayikra” (ויקרא), but the letter aleph at the end of the word is written smaller than the other letters. The medieval commentator, Rabbi Jacob ben Asher, explains the reason behind the mini-aleph. Although Moshe was a great man, he was also extremely humble, an attribute that is best illustrated in the exchange between Moses and God regarding the word “vayikra”.
I find it one of the most revealing moments in Moses’ life. To understand it we must remember the context. He has just been challenged by the Israelites to provide them with meat. “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost – also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” It is not their desire for meat that distresses Moses, so much as their false nostalgia, their ingratitude, their continued failure to grow up. He prays to die: