Erasing Moshe’ Name from the Torah
Sources: Partners in Torah
ואתה הקרב אליך את אהרן אחיך … מתוך בני ישראל לכהנו לי
Bring near to yourself Aaron your brother…to minister to Me.
When G-d threatened to destroy the Jewish people following the Sin of the Golden Calf, Moshe staunchly defended them, stating: “And now if You would but forgive their sin! – but if not, erase me now from Your book…” (Shemot 32:32)
G-d responded by declaring, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I shall erase from My book.” On the surface, this appears to be a rejection of Moshe’ request, as Moshe had no part in the Sin of the Golden Calf. In addition, according to Moshe’ words, his request to be removed from the Torah was conditional: If G-d refused to forgive the Jewish people, Moshe did not wish to be included in the Torah. Since G-d ultimately forgave the Jewish people, there was no longer any need to remove Moshe’ name from the Torah at all. Yet, a close reading of this week’s portion shows not one mention of Moshe’ name.
The question is why Moshe’ name does not appear in Parshat Tetzaveh? If it was a punishment, what was the cause? If not, what purpose did it serve? Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch answers that removing Moshe’ name was not a punishment. Rather, it was a sign of praise. The same Moshe who received the Torah on Mount Sinai selflessly offered to forfeit his spiritual legacy to help the Jewish people survive. By removing Moshe’ name from a portion of the Torah, G-d showed the Jewish people that true dedication means being willing to live by the idea that “it’s not about me.”
Rav Ovadya Yosef zt”l points out that, technically speaking, G-d granted Moshe’ request to have his name removed. He notes that in Hebrew, Moshe’ request to be removed from G-d’s book מחני נא מספרך can be read as: מחני נא מספר כ “Erase me from Sefer Chaf” (Book 20). Tetzaveh is the 20th portion in the Torah. By removing Moshe’ name from Tetzaveh, G-d granted Moshe’ request.
The question still remains: Why was Moshe’ name omitted specifically from this Torah portion? Rabbi Yissocher Frand explains that Tetzaveh is the portion that discusses the clothing of the High Priest, the Kohen Gadol. In effect, the portion belongs to Aaron, the Kohen Gadol. We are taught, however, that G-d originally intended for Moshe to serve as both the leader of the nation and the Kohen Gadol. Only after Moshe demurred to the point of incurring G-d’s anger, was Aaron granted this status instead of Moshe. (Shemot 4:14-17)
Given this background, the fact that Tetzaveh does not mention Moshe at all is extremely significant. Moshe could have been Kohen Gadol, yet he was compelled to step aside and allow his brother take over the position. By removing his name from this of all portions, Moshe taught that the concept of, “it’s not about me,” applies not only to issues of life and death, but even to those situations in which we have much to lose by stepping aside.
The following story illustrates this concept: A man studying in the Old City of Jerusalem had great difficulty finding a wife. After many years of struggling to find his match, he eventually married and was even blessed with a son. On the day his son was born, the man went to the Western Wall to express his gratitude for the long road he had traveled. As he came up the steps to the Old City, he entered the dining hall of his Yeshiva, hoping to share the good news with his friends.
When he entered the dining hall, he noticed that there was already a party going on – for a much younger man who had just got engaged. Instead of injecting himself into the other celebration, he waited until the end of the event without letting anyone know about his good news. Several days later, someone put two and two together and asked him how he was able to control himself after all he had been through. “It was his simcha,” the man said. “How could I take it away from him?”
Each of us has unique talents and abilities that shape our purpose in life. Certainly, we are obligated to use those talents and abilities to help the world around us. At the same time, we are obligated to remember that other people have contributions to make as well – often in the very area in which we have the most to offer. In such cases, it may appear that the other person is stealing our thunder, or worse, undercutting our mission in life. Knowing when to take ourselves out of the picture with quiet dignity, however, is one of the most powerful acts of kindness we can do for another human being.
Megillat Esther is the classic work that teaches us how to see the guiding hand of G-d — even in seemingly natural events. Just as through analyzing the elaborate details of the megillah every “coincidence” is revealed to be another piece of a puzzle leading to the ultimate salvation, the same is true in our own lives. Through careful analysis, every event is shown to be a part of a greater and unifying purpose. The commentaries take this idea further and suggest that even the intricate details of the laws of just reading the megillah teach us life lessons about revealing G-d’s providence in our daily lives.
First Aliyah: G‑d commands the Jews to use the purest of olive oils for the daily kindling of the Menorah. Moshe is instructed to consecrate Aaron and his sons by dressing them in special priestly garments. The Torah describes the making of the High Priest’s ephod — a reversed apron which covered the back — and its precious-stone-studded shoulder straps.
Second Aliyah: We now read about the High Priest’s Choshen Mishpat(“Breastplate of Judgment”). It contained four rows of precious stones, each row containing three stones. Artisans engraved the names of the Twelve Tribes of Israel upon these twelve stones. This cloth breastplate contained a fold wherein the Urim v’Tumim, a parchment on which was written G‑d’s Name, was inserted. The Choshen Misphat was then secured by straps which connected it to the ephod.
Third Aliyah: This aliyah describes the last two of the garments which were exclusive to the High Priest: the me’il and the tzitz. The me’il was a blue robe which was adorned with golden bells and cloth “pomegranates.” The tzitz was a golden band worn on the forehead, which was engraved with the words “Holy to G‑d.” The Torah then describes the four garments worn by both the High Priest and the regular priests: tunics, turbans, sashes and pants.
Fourth Aliyah: This aliyah prescribes the procedure for consecrating Aaron and his sons as priests. Aaron and his sons were brought to the door of the sanctuary, they immersed in a mikvah (ritual pool), and were dressed in the priestly garments. Moshe then offered various inaugural sacrifices on their behalf.
Fifth Aliyah: The Torah continues describing the procedure for the offering, and the consumption of the inaugural sacrifices. G‑d commands Moshe to repeat this inaugural service for a seven day period, after which the consecration will be complete. Also included in this section is a description of how future High Priests are to be inducted.
Sixth Aliyah: G‑d instructs the Jews to offer two burnt offerings daily for perpetuity; one lamb in the morning and one in the afternoon. G‑d promises to dwell in the Tabernacle.
Seventh Aliyah: This section describes the Incense Altar which stood in the sanctuary. The priests are commanded to burn incense upon this altar twice daily.
As Sam is walking down Broadway, he’s accosted by a meshulach or a Jewish fundraiser.
“Please sir, can you give me $5?” says the fundraiser.
“What do you need it for?” asks Sam.
“For a cup of tea,” replies the fundraiser.
“But a cup of tea is only $2,” says Sam.
“I know,” says the fundraiser,”but I’m a big tipper.”
President Clinton was very curious about how the Jewish people knew everything before he did. So he called the CIA and FBI and asked them to figure it out. A week later they came back and said, “Mr. President, the Jews have something call shabbat (Sabbath), and they meet each other at the synagogue, and there is a code. They sit, they pray, and there is a word that is the key to this secret. It’s … “Nu?” When one says to other, “Nu?,” the other tells him everything…every bit of news.”
This Clinton wanted to see for himself. The secret service dressed him like a Hassid (very religious Jewish sect), and taught him to read from the right to the left in the siddur (Hebrew prayer book). Clinton arrived at a synagogue on shabbat, and sat beside another religious man. He waited for a moment, and said, “Nu?”
The man answered… “Shh, Clinton is coming!”
Bait Aaron, A Place of Torah
‘[The Torah] is a tree of life to those that support it.’
That is, the Torah not only gives life to those who study it, but also to those who support those who study it.
On behalf of myself and all the staff at Bait Aaron, we wish you a Happy Purim!
Bait Aaron has had an amazing year filled with many accomplishments because of supporters like you who care about our Sephardic Heritage in the Greater Beverly Hills Community. Your support has allowed Bait Aaron to remain active from 5:30 am until late at night.
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In the merit of your generous and diligent mitzvah, may you and your family indeed “rise” to ever greater heights – in both material and spiritual matters – yielding abundant blessings. In Moshe’s end-of-life blessing to the tribes of Yissachar and Zevulun he says: “Rejoice, Zevulun, in your departure, and Yissachar, in your tents.“ Rashi explains this verse (based on the Midrash): Zevulun and Yissachar entered into a partnership. Zevulun would dwell at the seashore and go out in ships, to trade and make profit. He would thereby provide food for Yissachar, who would, in turn, sit and occupy themselves with the study of Torah.” Rashi continues: Consequently, Moshe mentioned Zevulun before Yissachar [even though the latter was the elder of the two], because Yissachar’s Torah came through [the provisions provided by] Zevulun. The Midrash concludes with the statement: “This is the meaning of the verse‘[The Torah] is a tree of life to those that support it.’” That is, the Torah not only gives life to those who study it, but also to those who support those who study it.
Founder & Rav, Rabbi Moshe Nourollah