Parshat Tetzaveh 5781: The “Why” of the Omission of Moshe’s Name from the Parsha

Shalom Friends;

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.

Please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Tetzaveh 5781: The “Why” of the Omission of Moshe’s Name from the Parsha

by Moshe Burt

Two years ago, the Parshat Tetzaveh vort was a discussion regarding the notable absence of Moshe Rabbeinu’s name in our parsha.

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, in his sefer “Unlocking the Torah Text” on our Parshat Tetzaveh notes (page 239):

For the first and only time [in Torah] since his introduction in the Beginning of Parshat Shemos, Moshe’s name is omitted from the entire Parsha. (Rabbi Goldin referring to Sefer Shemos, Perek 27, posuk 20 – Perek 30, posuk 10)

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 Goldin writes (ibid, page 239-241):

…The first sentence of… Parsha [Tetzaveh] does not begin with the usual formula, “And the Lord said to Moshe saying, ‘speak to 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…” (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Shemos, Perek 27, posuk 20) This phenomenon repeats itself throughout the Parsha.

In the aftermath of the sin of the golden calf [Eigel Zahav], Moshe turns to the B’nei Yisrael and proclaims, “You have committed a grievous sin, and now I will ascend to the Lord; perhaps I can atone for your sins.” (Sefer Shemos, Perek 32. posuk 30)

Moshe then ascends Har Sinai where he confronts Hashem and declares: “I beseech you! The people have committed a grievous sin and have created for themselves a god of gold. And now, if you will forgive their sin — and if not, erase me from Your book which you have written!” Hashem responds, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I shall erase from My book… (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Shemos, Perek 32, posuk 31-33)

The Rabbis are… puzzled by this interchange. To what “book” does Moshe refer when he bargains with Hashem for the people’s forgiveness?

One Talmudic tradition… maintains that Moshe refers to the books of judgement which are opened on Rosh Hashana… When Hashem determines the fate of His Creations. “If you will not forgive the B’nei Yisrael,” Moshe essentially says to Hashem, “then erase me from the heavenly books of judgement, that I may die… (Rabbi Goldin citing Talmud Bavli Rosh Hashana daf 16b)

Others, however, suggest that when Moshe exclaims, “erase me from Your book which You have written,” he is speaking of the Torah:
“If You will not the Am Yisrael,” he argues, then count me out! “Erase me from the total Torah text! I no longer want to be part of Your unfolding Divine plan. ” (Rabbi Goldin citing Midrash Rabbah Shemos Perek 47, posuk 9)

Hashem’s response makes it abundantly clear that He has no intention of erasing Moshe from “His book.” A problem, however, emerges. So significant are the words spoken by the righteous that, “the curse of a sage, even when conditionally stated (even when the conditional clause fails to be met), is never completely abrogated.” (Rabbi Goldin citing Talmud Bavli Makkot daf 11a)

Moshe has decreed his own fate and Hashem cannot ignore that decree. Some “erasure” of… [Moshe’s] name must occur. To fulfill the curse that Moshe has placed upon himself, therefore, Hashem deliberately omits Moshe’s name from the… Parsha of Tetzave. (Rabbi Goldin citing Midrash Hane’elam Zohar Chadash 60, Rabbeinu Bachya, Shemos Perek 32, posuk 32)

[But] why, of all the Parshiyot of Torah, is Parshat Tetzave chosen as the setting for Moshe’s absence? ….Parshat Tetzave precedes the dialogue recorded in Ki Tisa, why is Tetzave the appropriate Parsha through which to to fulfill Moshe’s self-imposed erasure?

A closer look at the dramatic encounter between Hashem and Moshe in Parsha Ki Tisa reveals a fascinating possibility [of] a powerful connection between that encounter and the philosophical theme of Parshat Tetzave.

During the critical, turbulent moments after the sin of 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 [essentially] says, …. 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 committed a grievous sin…. And now if You will forgive their sin — and if not, erase me from Your book that you have written!” If you will not forgive the B’nei 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 miss the point. I will accept no intermediary or substitute when it comes to personal responsibility. You cannot effect atonement for others. Those who sinned must directly pay the price.

Understood in this way, Moshe’s dramatic interchange with Hashem… reflects the critical lessons learned from that event [the sin of the golden calf ]. Even Moshe has to be reminded that he cannot serve as an intermediary between Hashem and His people. …Torah conveys the fundamental truth that is transmitted over and over again during the unfolding of events at Sinai: the hallmark of divine worship is direct, personal encounter between man and Hashem.

The very concept of the priesthood [the Kehunah] carries the potential danger that the Kohen will be perceived, erroneously. as an intermediary between the people and Hashem rather than as the nation’s representative within the [Mishkan or] Beit Hamikdash. To clarify that leader should ever perceive himself, ot be perceived as an essential go-between between the people and their Creator, Moshe’s name is omitted specifically from Parshat Tetzave. There could be no more appropriate response for the momentary, yet critical, lapse on Moshe’s part recorded in Parshat Ki Tisa — the instance, when, due to the unimaginable pressures of the moment, Moshe attempts to take upon himself the atonement of others.

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 thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now free of his parole and restrictions and that he and his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha are finally home in Eretz Yisrael. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of five and a half 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. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei 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!!!

Good Shabbos!
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.