This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Parshat Tetzaveh is dedicated Lilui Nishmas for the Yahrtzeit of My Father: Me’ir ben Shabtai HaKohen who was niftar on 9 Adar 5777.
You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.
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In a way, Parshat Tetzaveh is an extension of Parshat Terumah where, l’chatchila (the way things oughta be), one’s intent should be as pure as the components used in construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and it’s accoutrements. Parshat Tetzaveh is dedicated to the enunciation for the Jewish people of the laws concerning the Kohen’s garb, the anointment oil and the Avodah (service) of the Kohanim. This service reflects the purity of the Kehunah as a paradigm to the Jewish people, just as l’chatchila the purity of Jewish people should be a light revealing the ways of Hashem unto the world.
But wait! Stop the music. Something seems amiss. Where’s Moshe?
We note that Moshe Rabbeinu is notably absent in our parsha. Both the laws concerning Kohanim and Moshe’s absence seem interwoven with the lesson of the delicate balance between when and how one should choose their words when speaking, and when one should remain silent.
Our Parsha, unlike any other place throughout Torah (including Sefer Devarim where Moshe himself speaks to the Jewish people in one continuous Mussar shmooze reviewing the laws and the events of the 40 years in BaMidbar and where each of the Parshiyot are distinguished only by the sections of Halachot enunciated) from the time of his birth through Vezos HaBeracha, omits any mention of Moshe Rabbeinu.
Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, in his sefer “Unlocking the Torah Text” on our Parshat Tetzaveh writes (Sefer Shemos, page 239):
…The first posuk of the Parsha does not begin with the usual formula. “And the Lord said to Moshe saying, speak unto the B’nei Yisrael and say…”
In place of the familiar opening, we find the abrupt directive, “And you [meaning Moshe] shall command the B’nei Yisrael…”(Sefer Shemos, Perek 27, posuk 20 as rendered to English by Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, in his sefer “Unlocking the Torah Text”)
This phenomenon repeats itself throughout rhe Parsha.
A few years ago, Rabbi Wagensberg, in his Shiur on our Parsha, brought sources which gave possible explanations for the absence of Moshe’s name from the Parsha. He mentions the Ba’al HaTurim who stated that Moshe’s name is absent because of his response to Hashem after Cha’it HaEigel. When Hashem stated his intention to destroy B’nai Yisrael and start again creating a people from Moshe’s seed, Moshe responded that “If you do not forgive their sin, blot me out from the book which you have written.” (Midrash Says, Sh’mos, Tetzaveh, P.273) “The Midrash Says” goes on to state that “A Tzaddik’s words must take effect (even if the condition attached to them is not fulfilled). Hashem consequently erased Moshe’s name from Parsha Tetzaveh.” (Midrash Says, Sh’mos, Tetzaveh, P.273)
Rabbi Goldin, in his sefer “Unlocking the Torah Text” on our Parsha )page 241 adds further clarity to the understanding that the absence of Moshe’s name was due to his response to Hashem after Cha’it HaEigel:
A closer look at the dramatic encounter between Hashem and Moshe in Parshat Ki Tisa [which immediately follows our Parsha] reveals a fascinating possibility. The Rabbis perceive a powerful connection between that encounter and the philosophical theme of Parshat Tetzaveh.
During critical… moments following the sin of the egel zahav [the golden calf], Moshe apparently makes a fundamental error in his own assessment of his leadership role — an error which must be emphatically and immediately corrected by Hashem.
The episode begins as Moshe turns to the B’nei Yisrael and says, “You have committed a grievous sin, and now I will ascend to the Lord; perhaps I can atone for your sin.” You have distanced yourselves from Hashem and can no longer approach Him on your own… I will ascend to meet Him; perhaps I can secure atonement for you.
Ascending Har Sinai, Moshe confronts his Creator: “I beseech You! This people have have committed a grievous sin and have created for themselves an idol of gold. And now if You will forgive their sin — and if not, erase me from Your book…” If You will not forgive the Am Yisrael, allow me to atone for them. Punish me in their stead.
Hashem’s response is swift and emphatic: “Whoever has sinned against Me, I shall erase from My Book.” Moshe, in spite of all that has happened, you still miss the point, I will accept no intermediary or substitute when it comes to personal responsibility. You cannot effect atonement for others. Those who have sinned must directly pay the price.
Understood in this way, ….even Moshe has to be reminded that…. Torah conveys the fundamental truth that is transmitted… during the events at Sinai: the hallmark of Divine worship [or service] is direct, personal encounter between man and Hashem.
We can now understand the connection drawn in the Midrash between this event and the omission of Moshe’s name in Parshat Tetzaveh.
Rabbi Wagensberg also brought The Gr’a as a source, which it is said, stated that on the 7th of Adar during the week of Parsha Tetzaveh, Moshe was niftar and we commemorate his Yahrtzeit. Perhaps for that reason, Hashem has omitted Moshe’s name from the Parsha. Moshe, the strong, but selfless and humble leader who would not accept Hashem’s recording in Torah of His special calling of “Vayikra el Moshe.” Moshe reluctantly, only assented to the use of a small “aleph” at the end of the word “Vayikra.” It would seem possible then, that omission of Moshe’s name in our parsha could be Hashem’s way of honoring Moshe for his humility.
However, Rabbi Wagensberg noted that in Biblical Times in Eretz Yisrael, Torah was read in a 3 year cycle and not a 1 year cycle. It’s not possible that the Great Vilna Gaon would have overlooked this point. It would seem then that something else is at work here.
He then proposes a possible answer as to why Moshe was not openly mentioned, but rather concealed — Nistar in our Parsha. Parsha Tetzaveh has 101 posukim. If one counts the inside, concealed letters of Moshe’s name (Mem, Mem; Shin, Yud, Nun; Hay, Aleph), You find Mem = 40, Yud = 10, Nun = 50 and Aleph = 1. Hashem, it seems, omitted Moshe’s name from the Parsha not out of anger for Moshe but maybe, out of anger at B’nai Yisrael who were far beneath Moshe’s level of Selflessness and Spirituality.
But then a revelation occurs. Perhaps one could theorize regarding the great ones who have been taken from us; Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rav Shlomo Carlebach, Rav Me’ir Kahane, Rav Schach and the many other great names of the great Tzaddikim which go on and on, too numerous to remember; and fourteen years ago at this time, the Tzaddik Adir Zik, who fought with all of his talents, resources and with his last breaths out of an endless, passionate love for his Jewish brethren and for Eretz Yisrael, Adir Zik was niftar a mere 10 days before the heinous Knesset passage of the Expulsion law which sanctioned the state’s legalized theft of the property and possessions from our fellow Jews while promising compensation for those removed from their homes, possessions and employment, promises to this day apparently not totally fulfilled.
And it seems that throughout history from the death of the Tzaddik Metushelach which closely preceded the Mabul (the great flood) by a mere 7 days; through to our days when the passing of a number of great Gedolim closely predated Oslo and other terrible events of political, diplomatic blunder and lack of both Jewish national self-respect and self-esteem, such that perhaps Hashem can’t bear to have the great Tzaddikim live to witness what Am Yisrael wreaks upon itself.
And another possible answer as to why Moshe Rabbeinu’s name is missing in our Parsha could be out of anger at B’nai Yisrael who were far beneath Moshe’s level of Selflessness and Spirituality. Perhaps, in our time, Hashem is angry at an Am Yisrael who lacks collective “fire in the belly”, who lacks a loving compassion for their Jewish brethren and for Eretz Yisrael; our Biblical Jewish heritage and legacy. Perhaps collectively, we either don’t want our land badly enough, or lack the collective heart and backbone to stand up to our politicians and demand righteous leadership. Perhaps collectively, it’s each guy for himself and his own and to heck with Am Yehudi, to heck with “…that place; after all, it’s not my neighborhood at risk.” Not your community?? Will the current political campaign, which we are in the midst of, result in a collective demand for and manifestation of a stronger, more righteous governmental leadership?
But perhaps, after Gush Katif, the Shalhevet neighborhood and Beit Shapiro in Chevron, the repeated destruction and trashing of Federman’s farm, now three episodes of either IDF, police and yassamnik violence and brutality in Amona, etc., chas v’chalila that it would be written in future history that Observant Jewry turned the other cheek, this time toward the Amalek within — those who either loathe their Jewishness, or who would cloak themselves in an outer appearance of observance while missing the boat on the inextricable Divine connection between Torah and the Land of Israel.
But it seems to this author that Hashem wants to see us put into practice and actuate our principles; to act beyond tefillah and learning in the Beis Medrash.
Nearly fourteen years ago, the Am Yisrael was too busy fighting and hating each other and were too self-directed to care about the Klal and so 9,000 formerly productive, independent citizens had their lives uprooted and are still suffering the after-affects of the expulsion from Gush Katif. And while we were told by a prime minister about forty years of peace, what we got in return for expelling our brethren: periods of massive rocket fire at S’derot and Askelon and numerous other locations in the south as well as increasingly calibrated rocket fire as far north as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, a Lebanese war and three wars in Gaza.
And the Arabs — the murderous Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS, etc. have taken heart from the expulsion and subsequent government blunders, from the appearance of Israeli military impotence in those wars and perceive our end as “the writing on the wall.”
We can act to manifest change. Just as it seems obvious that the Jews of Shushan put aside personal and familial issues for the sake of unity and Jewish survival, we too can collectively step up in unity with the game on the line. With heart, creativeness, fire-in-the-belly and pitching in, we are capable of compelling change from governance which loathes both Jewish values and the Land of Israel, to governance which embraces them.
Like in the time of Mordechai and Esther and the Jews of the city of Shushan, I believe that embracing our Jewish values, just as the Kohanim donned their Bigdei Kehunah, is again the message this year of our Parsha Tetzaveh.
May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the twice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of four plus years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.