Parshat Tetzaveh 5783: Moshe’s Omission From the Parsha — Past Reflections, Fresh Clarity

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Parshat Tetzaveh is dedicated Lilui Nishmas for the Sixth Yahrtzeit of My Father: Me’ir HaKohen ben Shabtai 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 5783: Moshe’s Omission From the Parsha — Past Reflections, Fresh Clarity

by Moshe Burt

We open this vort with excerpts from Rabbi Shmuel Goldin’s Parsha Summary in his in his sefer “Unlocking the Torah Text,” Sefer Shemos (page 237) :

After detailing the plans for the construction of the Mishkan, Hashem turns His attention to those who will serve within its walls.

Parsha Tetzave introduces the concept of the Kehuna, as Hashem designates Aaron as Kohen Gadol (High Priest) and his sons as Kohanim. They are to serve as representatives of the people within the Mishkan and, later, within the Beit HaMikdash.

Rabbi Goldin now provides a context (ibid, 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)

…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)

This phenomenon repeats itself throughout the Parsha.

A number of 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’nei 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.” (Sefer Shemos, Perek 32, posuk 32 as noted in “The Midrash Says,” Sefer Shemos, 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.” (ibid. “The Midrash Says,” Sefer Shemos, Tetzaveh, P.273)

Rabbi Goldin, in his sefer “Unlocking the Torah Text” on our Parsha, (pages 241-242) 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 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, Moshe’s dramatic interchange with Hashem following the chet ha’egel [the sin of the golden calf] reflects the critical lessons learned from that event. Even Moshe has to be reminded that…. the Torah conveys the fundamental truth that is transmitted… during the unfolding 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.

To clarify that no leader should ever perceive himself or be perceived as an essential go-between between the people and their Creator, Moshe’s name is omitted specifically from Parshat Tetzaveh. 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 unimaginable pressures of the moment, Moshe attempts to take upon himself the atonement of others.

Rabbi Wagensberg, in the shiur mentioned above, 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 this author fathoms a possible revelation. Perhaps one could theorize regarding the great ones who have been taken from us; Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Shlomo Carlebach, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 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.

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, Arab/Islamic terror attacks and campaigns 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. Close to home, in Ramat Beit Shemesh, HaRav Chaim Zev Malinowitz, z”l, who was Rav of Knesset Beit Tefillah Yona Avraham, passed within months of the onset of the corona pandemic.

And another possible answer as to why Moshe Rabbeinu’s name is missing in our Parsha could be out of anger at B’nei Yisrael who were far beneath Moshe’s level of Selflessness and Spirituality. Perhaps, in our time, Hashem is angry at an Am Yisrael who lack collective “fire in the belly”, who lack a loving compassion for their Jewish brethren and for the Land in which they live — Eretz Yisrael; our Biblical Jewish heritage and legacy. Perhaps collectively, we either don’t want our land badly enough, or lack the collective heart, courage, moral strength and backbone to stand up to our politicians and demand righteous leadership.

Will this current governing coalition reflect a stronger, more righteous governmental leadership? Time will tell.

Rabbi Goldin concludes (ibid, page 243) :

As intriguing as the Midrashic explanations for Moshe’s “absence” in our Parsha may be, a much simpler, yet equally powerful, pshat explanation can be offered.

Parsha Tetzave is “Aaron’s Parsha,” the section of Torah text which introduces the glorious role that Aaron and his descendants will assume across the ages. In recognition of the fact that this is his brother’s “moment,” Moshe is forced to take a step back out of the limelight. Moshe is certainly present, playing an essential role in the proceedings. Aaron, however, is center stage.

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, that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes and the oft-destroyed Yeshiva buildings in Homesh be rebuilt, all at total government expense; due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now in his third year at home in Eretz Yisrael and has embarked on a new chapter in his life. May Esther Yocheved bat Yechiel Avraham have an aliyah in Shemayim and may her spirit and memory continue to lift Jonathan to at least 120 years. 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 eight 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.