The usual translation for קטנתי “Katonti” in Vayishlach is “I’ve been diminished” or “I have become small” but the Torah trope melody (a dynamic upswing) suggests otherwise!

The seeming absurdity of singing “Katonti” to such a dynamic upswing tone is perhaps why some communities or traditions (see the Koren) actually read it with a Revi’i trope which goes downwards, goes lower, and has a diminishing sound. But most do not read it that way! Most stick with the Azla-Geiresh upswing melody. How to reconcile this apparent incongruity?

Perhaps this is a hint to true humility & the Chassidic key term of “Bittul” – being as a stimulant & not a depressant, a riser not a downer, enabling us to connect ever higher thru self-transcendence. Minimizing our ego doesn’t make us smaller, instead it allows us to attach to and become part of something much greater. 

We often read this Torah reading of Vayishlach before Chanukah, right around Yud-Tes (19th of) Kislev time, when we celebrate the Alter Rebbe’s release from Czarist prison and the vindication of Chassidus and its ability to thrive. Soon after his release, the Alter Rebbe wrote a famous letter, expressing his humble gratitude for the kindness bestowed upon him. He opens this letter with the word from our forefather Jacob in this week’s Parsha: Katonti! It’s called the Katonti letter and its printed in Tanya. Indeed, the Alter Rebbe’s emphasis on and rich understanding of Bittul helps us appreciate this uplifting and enriching aspect of it.

So much to be said on how Bittul is misunderstood and mistranslated, Self-nullification doesn’t do Bittul justice. Perhaps to add more here about it another time.