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D’var Torah: Behar Bechukotai

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Do you know a four lettered Hebrew word comprised of the same four letters?

The answer is וווו spelling the word ‘U’vavo’ meaning, ‘and his hook’.
I doubt there is a phenomenon of this sort in any other language and I doubt that there is a letter as significant and powerful as the ‘ו’ in any other language.

Let’s look at an example in Parashat Bechakotai. The Torah presents us with the tochacha in which we’re told, God forbid, the time could come when the people of Israel, dispersed amongst the nations, would suffer immeasurably. Hashem then gives us a promise, וזכרתי את בריתי יעקוב I remember my covenant with Jacob – meaning, God tells us – the Jewish people will live on forever.

Rashi highlights the fact that the name ‘Ya’akov’ in this verse, is spelled with a ׳ו׳. It’s one of only five occasions in the whole of the bible in which Ya’akov has a ׳ו׳. He points out that this matches the five occasions on which Eliyahu the prophet is missing a ‘ו’ at the end of his name.

Rashi tells us that Ya’akov took the ׳ו׳s from Eliyahu as collateral, to guarantee that one day, Eliyahu will come to the descendants of Ya’akov to retrieve his ׳ו׳s and then in our presence he would herald the arrival of the great messianic era.

Now, why the ו to represent all of this? In the concluding Mishnah in Masechet Ediyot, our sages teach us that Eliyahu will come ‘לעשות שלום בעולם’ – ‘to make peace on earth’. The ו is the ultimate coordinating conjunction. It is a symbol of togetherness, of unity and of peace. We know from the book of Shemot, that in the construction of the Mishkan, that ווים (hooks) were used. And indeed, in the Torah, the letter ו looks like a hook. The ווים were used in order to bring all the elements together to construct one edifice.

That’s the power of the ו, that’s why the middle letter of the Torah is a ו in the word גחון in Parshat Shmini, bringing the two parts together. As is the case with the opening letter of every column of the Torah, with the exception of only five (all for good reasons), starts with a ו, to show that the whole Torah was given as one from Hashem.

So this is the power and significance of the letter ו – and we are finding that it is the prevailing mood and atmosphere within our society right now, as the coronavirus sweeps through our counties. In the midst of the tragedy we are seeing a welcome element of unity. People feel connected to one another and at peace.

The reason is obvious! All our societies are being threatened by the same hidden enemy. Let us therefore guarantee that the spirit of the letter ו, this element of togetherness and peace, will prevail well beyond these times. May we witness the coming of the prophet Elijah, followed by the messianic era speedily in our times.

Shabbat Shalom