Weekly Torah Portion: Tetzaveh


Shalom. This week we are reading parashat Tetzaveh,
the eighth Torah portion of sefer Shemot, the book of Exodus, beginning with the twentieth
verse of chapter 27. This portion is a direct continuation of the
previous parasha, Terumah, continuing with instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle
and the creation of all its details. Our Torah portion begins with G-d’s command
to Moshe for the Children of Israel to take olive oil for kindling the Menorah daily. In summary, the first half of the parasha
deals with the Divine command to fashion priestly garments for Aaron and his sons, the cohanim. The garments of the High Priest are the breastplate,
the ephod, the robe, the tunic, the turban, sash, pants and headplate, eight garments
in all. While the garments of the ordinary priests
are four: a tunic, sash, headdress and pants. The second half of the portion is occupied
with the offerings and other details of the inauguration ceremony of the cohanim, which
are to be offered for the inauguration of the Tabernacle. The portion also includes the commandment
of the daily tamid offering, as well as the command to create the golden altar for the
daily incense offering. … Parashat Tetzaveh is generally read before
Purim, and that’s no coincidence, as we shall see, just as the Purim story itself,
as seen over and over again in the scroll of Esther teaches us there is no such thing
as coincidence at all. In fact, this Shabbat, upon which we shall
be reading parashat Tetzaveh is also a special Sabbath – called Shabbat zachor, ‘the
Sabbath of Remembrance,’ always the Sabbath that immediately precedes Purim. On this Sabbath we will read another Torah
reading as the additional reading, the maftir: the commandment to remember never to forget
the evil of Amalek, the forebear of Haman, found at the end of Deut. Chapter 25. So continuing with what we were learning about
last week…this portion is a continuation…and all this time, Moshe is ‘with Hashem’
studying Torah on Mount Sinai, forty days and forty nights. But last week’s parashat Terumah began with
the words, ‘Hashem spoke to Moses, saying…’ and this week’s parashat Tetzaveh begins
with the words ‘And you, command the children of Israel that they shall take for you pure
olive oil…without mentioning Moshe’s name. ‘And you!’ Neither is Moshe’s name mentioned anywhere
in this Torah portion at all. In point of fact, this is the only Torah portion
throughout the remainder of the rest of the Torah since the first portion of Shemot, Exodus,
when he was born, that does not mention Moshe’s name. How very unusual. A number of ideas have been offered that seek
to address this mystery, but the accepted conventional wisdom ties this phenomena of
‘Moshe’s disappearance’ to Moshe’s request of Hashem that we will encounter in
next week’s parasha of Ki Tisa, at the time of G-d’s anger with Israel in the aftermath
of the debacle of the golden calf. Make a long story short, in response to G-d’s
anger at Israel, Moshe said (32:32) ‘And now if You would forgive their sin! But if not, erase me now from Your book that
You have written.’ Ultimately G-d did forgive Israel. But, according to this insight, Moshe, having
said what he said, that can’t be taken back, words have power, and make an impression on
the universe, especially when expressed by such a tsaddik, such a righteous man as Moses. Thus even though G-d did not ‘erase his
name from the book,’ the request was symbolically fulfilled, because this week it is erased
– and this week of the Torah reading of parashat Tetzaveh always falls during the
week of the 7th of Adar, which is the anniversary of Moses’ death. So this week Moshe is not mentioned. The aforementioned is a very famous idea. But I don’t think it’s the last word. if you’d open up your hearts in the deepest
way with me, I would like to share another thought with you. Because I don’t find that idea to be a satisfactory
explanation of this phenomena. Moshe’s name not being mentioned is so unusual,
such a great mystery, I would like to explore it further, with the help of the great Meor
Eynaim of Rabbi Nachum of Chernobyl. So – we are currently in the month of Adar,
and our sages emphatically taught, ‘When Adar enters, we increase in joy.’ Adar is a time of true joy. But the question arises, after all, the miracles
of Purim did not occur until the 14th and 15th days of the month; why do our sages instruct
us to magnify our joy already from the beginning of the month? But the fact is that the secret of the month
of Adar is hidden in its name. How apropos, since the lesson is all about
hiddenness. The word ‘adar’ is made up of the three
Hebrew letters, Aleph Daled Reish. Adar is an allusion to Aleph Dar, making the
world into a home for the Master of the World. G-d’s desire to be welcomed into this world. Aleph alludes to G-d, as in the verse, ‘You
are the Master (aluf) of my youth’ (Jer. 3:4). Just as the aleph is the master, the first
of all the letters, so too Hashem is the first, the precedence of all existence which is the
aspect of Adar – the aleph dwelling in this lowly world, for He seeks to cause His presence
dwell together with His creations. That is the true source of Purim joy, which
was revealed to the Jewish people through the Purim story. This past week we marked the occurrence of
zayin Adar, the seventh day of the month of Adar. We mentioned earlier that this is the anniversary
of Moshe’s passing. This is a rather special day, even if it is
not observed as an actual holiday. But its story is really interesting. Open up your heart in the deepest way and
listen to this. You see, the wicked Haman did a lottery (that
is the meaning of the Hebrew word ‘Purim’ ‘lots,’) he threw lots for every day and
month of the year, to determine what day would be most auspicious to slaughter all the Jews. He determined that the best, the most successful
day would be the month of Adar, because this is the month of the passing of Moshe Rabbeinu. Moses passed away on the seventh day of Adar,
therefore he reasoned that this is a very unlucky time for the people of Israel, the
time they lost their beloved teacher, whose merit protected them while he was alive. Trouble is, say our sages – there was only
one problem with his grand plan….he didn’t know that Moshe was also born on the seventh
day of Adar. Oops. As is the way with the perfectly righteous,
Moshe lived a complete life – to the day. So it’s actually a very auspicious time
for the people of Israel. In fact, the day before the seventh of Adar
– the sixth day of Adar, which occurred this week, Moshe completed his recitation
of the book of Devarim, Deuteronomy, which he began on the 1st day of Shevat. Then he wrote down all five completed books
as dictated to him by the Al-mighty. This scroll was placed into the ark of the
covenant next to the tablets of the law. All this was in preparation for his death. Ostensibly – meaning on a surface level
– this teaching about Haman not knowing that the seventh of Adar was also the day
of Moshe’s birth, seems to mean just that – that the wicked Haman’s information
was flawed, his intelligence network was incomplete, his internet connection was down…it was
a simple mistake, a lack of information on a simple calendar level. But I don’t think that this is the meaning
of this enigmatic idea. What, the anniversary of Moses’ death was
printed on all the dime store calendars and on the homepage of Wikipedia where it lists
‘On this Day’, but that all these resources available to the powerful Haman failed to
mention that it was also his birthday? Nobody knew that, that basic information? I don’t think that’s what it means at
all – that he didn’t ‘know’ that it was also his birthday. I think our sages are telling us, with their
inimitable holy insight, not that Haman didn’t know that Moses died on the same day that
he was born…but that Haman didn’t understand what it means, that Moses was born on the
same day he died. As the holy Zohar teaches, Moshe’s influence
is felt in every generation, Moshe’s essence is the aspect of the knowledge of each and
every Jew in his or her acquisition of the knowledge of the Torah. His essence is the aspect of the collective
wisdom of Israel, and every single individual of the nation has some small spark of Moshe’s
intellect which aids in the acquisition and understanding of Torah, each person according
to his or her level. Because Moshe was the master, selfless teacher
of all of Israel, whose dedication – whose selflessness – was so great that he was
able to say, ‘if You don’t forgive them, erase my name from Your book’ – I can’t
be without them, I would rather have never been here at all if not for my people Israel. Regarding Moshe the Torah states, ‘and no
man knows his burial place to this day’ (Deut. 34:6). In addition to its plain meaning, there is
another level of meaning to this verse, and that is exactly as we have just discussed. Moshe’s presence is vitally felt in every
generation, and shines like a guiding light for every individual, and therefore ‘no
man knows his burial place,’ because his presence is felt as a guiding force within
the intellect of each and every Jew. So Haman thought that because Moshe passed
away on the seventh of Adar, Israel’s aspect of knowledge, which is what Moshe represents,
their connection to Torah – was also dead. In which case he could best them. But he didn’t know…that Moshe was born
on the seventh of Adar…as soon as he died he was born…as an aspect of the collective
consciousness of the nation which is felt by each individual who seeks to acquire the
knowledge of Torah on a personal level. And so in our Torah portion. Moshe’s name is not mentioned because his
presence permeates every aspect of the parasha. And Moshe was intimately bound up with the
tabernacle. The children of Israel were to bring the pure
olive oil to him; he was to bring Aaron and his sons near to him, he was to anoint Aaron,
he was to officiate at the inauguration, and as we shall learn later, Moshe was to construct
the tabernacle – singlehandedly – upon its completion. Only he could do this, could bring the tabernacle
to its completion so that the Divine Presence could descend. Moshe is here, the portion begins with the
word ‘v’ata,’ and you, and the letter vav is the signal of continuation….but in
the spirit of Adar he is hidden in plain sight… the people of Israel are commanded to bring
pure olive oil to Moshe. Olive oil represents wisdom, they are enjoined
to emulate Moshe, who forever represents understanding of the Torah, the Torah which is called after
Moshe’s name, as in, ‘remember the Torah of my servant Moshe’ (Malachi 3:22). Just as the Children of Israel are commanded
to bring the olive oil for the Menorah to Moshe, so too, in the book of Numbers, we
recall that they are commanded ‘speak to the children of Israel and they shall take
to you a para aduma, a completely red cow…’ (Numbers 19:2)…only Moshe fathomed the secret
of the red heifer, for Moshe is the connection of every generation of Israel. I guess the joke’s on Haman. Oops. We find another teaching of our sages, R.
Elazar taught, ‘When a person has knowledge, it’s as if the Holy Temple has been built
in his generation.’ As we have seen, Moshe represents knowledge. Thus this teaching is another enigmatic allusion
to the connection between Moshe and the Holy Temple. Indeed, Moshe, representing the intellect
and desire for Torah knowledge of all of Israel, forever has an inexorable bond to the Holy
Temple, G-d’s ultimate request of the people of Israel: Let me in, so that I can be for
you a G-d. As we read in this week’s parashat Tetzaveh,
“I shall set My meeting there with the Children of Israel, and it shall be sanctified with
My glory. I shall sanctify the Tent of Meeting and the
altar, and Aaron and His sons shall I sanctify to minister to me. I shall rest My presence among the Children
of Israel, and I shall be their G-d. They shall know that I am Hashem, their G-d,
who took them out of the land of Egypt to rest My presence among them, I am Hashem, their G-d.

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