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Elli Schwarcz – Where is Moshe Rabbeinu? Parashat Tetzaveh 5782

Moshe Rabbeinu’s name is absent from this week’s Torah reading.


Ba’al Haturim points out that this is the only Parashah since the recording of Moshe’s birth in Egypt (in Parashat Shemot) in which Moshe’s name does not appear.* Why, in fact, is Moshe not mentioned? Ba’al Haturim, answers by citing Moshe’s prayer in Parashat Ki Tisa:


???????? ??? ???????? ????????? ????? ????? ??????? ??? ??????????? ?????? ??????????

…but if not, erase me now from Your book, which You have written.

-Ki Tisa, 32:32


After the sin of the Golden Calf, Hashem expressed His intent to wipe out the people and begin a new nation, starting with Moshe Rabbeinu. Moshe, within his spirited defense of B’nei Israel, told Hashem that in that case he would want no mention of his own name in the Torah. With his love for his people and in his legendary humility, he saw no reason to be mentioned if not in connection to B’nei Israel’s history and destiny.


Explains the Ba’al Haturim: the omission of Moshe’s name from our Torah reading is a fulfillment of Moshe’s request that his name be erased from the Torah!


Now, although Moshe’s prayers were obviously accepted, and so there is no reason for his name to be erased from the Torah, there is a Talmudic teaching that “The curse of a righteous person, even one made on a condition that was not met, is still (partially) fulfilled.” As such, although Moshe’s ‘negative request’ was not activated, it would still need to be fulfilled on some level– and so his omission from Tetzaveh is the fulfillment of that ‘curse’.


Still, we may ask: why Tetzaveh? Of all the Torah portions from which Moshe’s name could have been absent, why was this particular portion chosen for this distinction?


The Ga’on of Vilna answers with a typically amazing observation. Moshe Rabbeinu died on the seventh day of Adar- and the anniversary of his death almost always falls in the week of Parashat Tetzaveh’s reading. For this reason, Hashem chose to omit him from Tetzaveh as a message: even after Moshe would pass away, the Torah that he taught us would live on forever. In other words, Moshe’s absence in this Parashah symbolizes his death years later- highlighting that the Torah is still taught and learned even when he is ‘not with us’.


The Ga’on then points out something incredible. Take the letters of ‘Moshe’: ???


Now, spell those letters out as words– that is:

??? ???? ???


The Gematria (number value) of these ‘hidden’ letters is 101… corresponding to the 101 verses in Parashat Tetzaveh. Again, even when Moshe is ‘hidden’- when he is no longer alive- we still have the Torah that he taught us!**


Perhaps we can suggest another explanation of Tetzaveh’s connection to Moshe’s ‘curse’. As we mentioned, Moshe’s statement about being erased from the Torah was an expression of his humility. As we’ve learned in the past (see “Moshe: Servant of God”, 2014), Moshe completely nullified himself to Hashem, and always wanted Hashem’s Honor to be seen by all. This trait is clearly seen during this same prayer, with Moshe’s reaction to Hashem’s plan:


?????? ???????? ????????? ?????? ???????? ????????? ??????? ????? ????????? ???????????? ????? ?????? ????????? ????? ???????? ??????? ?????????? ??? ??????? ?????????

Why should the Egyptians say: ‘He brought them out with evil [intent] to kill them in the mountains and to annihilate them from upon the face of the earth’? …

-Ki Tisa, 32:12


So Moshe was worried that Hashem would be disrespected, and that His Name would be disgraced if B’nei Israel were to be wiped out, has ve’shalom.

In this light, Tetzaveh is the perfect place for Moshe’s name to go missing. As we read last week (see review below), donations for the Mishkan had to be given solely for Hashem’s Name.

Our Parashah, which follows Terumah by listing the various vessels and service within the Mishkan, embodies the completion of this endeavor. Thus, Moshe’s name is left out specifically here- because he was insuring- through the Mishkan- that Hashem’s Name would be sanctified, and so he himself would be only too happy to be omitted!


And consider this: Rashi, based on the Midrash, says that the Mishkan was intended to help us achieve atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf.***  So we can say that within B’nei Israel’s atonement- in which they sanctified God’s Name after having disrespected Him- they now nullified themselves to His will. Moshe, leading the way, went missing. He, above everyone else, had perfected the trait of nullification, and so his name is not even mentioned here!

May we learn from Moshe Rabbeinu, remembering that the Torah is eternal, and that we must always strive to sanctify God’s Name.


Review and conclusion of “Terumah: True Giving”

We read last week about the donations that B’nei Israel gave towards the building of the Mishkan. Being that this would be a source of direct honor to Hashem’s Name, only contributions with completely pure motives could be accepted. We also learned that, ironically, only through this selfless giving could the materials truly said to be ours. The Talmud teaches that the world ‘belongs’ to Man only after he acknowledges that everything is from Hashem. Similarly, when the donors “took” the terumah for “Hashem’s Name,” thus cognizant that it was indeed “Hashem’s terumah,” they merited that this extraordinary Mitzvah be attributed to them.

Some commentators point out that this connects to a well-known idea in general: one who gives charity does not lose, but rather gains. He gains eternal reward- and even stands to profit in this world (“Give ma’aser so that you will become wealthy.”- Gemara). This, then, is why B’nei Israel were told to “take” terumah

Have a great Shabbat!

Elli Schwarcz is an alumnus of the Toras Moshe, Ner Israel, and Carteret Yeshivos, and has been involved in Jewish outreach for almost 15 years. He is a Hebrew School and English Language Arts teacher, and has a Master’s Degree in Counseling from Johns Hopkins University. Of all his pursuits, Elli most enjoys teaching high-level Jewish thought and Talmud to teenage boys, exposing them to the beauty and wisdom of their heritage while highlighting their own ability to engage in advanced Torah learning. Elli lives in Lakewood, New Jersey, with his wife and children.




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