Even if you cannot read Hebrew, you can see in the image above that one of the letters is much smaller than the rest. This small letter, which is referred to as the “shrunken ALEF” happens to be the smallest letter found in the entire Torah, and its placement at the beginning of the Book of Leviticus invites interpretation.
What is the purpose of this small ALEF? And why has the custom been preserved throughout our history?
One commentary points out that the letter ALEF is the first letter in the Hebrew word “Ani” which means “I”. Thus, it is argued that this shrunken ALEF is the Torah’s way of suggesting that we should posture ourselves with humility and respect as we begin the Book of Leviticus.
This posture of humility is something that we should strive to achieve on a daily basis, as an inflated ego interferes with good communications and diminishes the human capacity to learn and grow. Thus, this long standing tradition in the calligraphy of Torah serves to remind us that a little humility can go a long way in generating a kinder and gentler world.