How is this week’s parashah different from all the other parshios in the
last four Books of the Torah? Parashas Tetzaveh is missing something that
appears in every parashah from Shemos and on – the mention of the name of
Moses. From the time he first appears in the hallowed pages of the Torah
as a baby in a basket floating among the reeds of the Nile River, Moses’s
name is mentioned thousands of times in every context. But not this week.
Not even once. Why?
The Talmud tells us that when Moses pleaded with Hashem to forgive the
Jewish people for the sin of the Golden Calf, he declared, “If You do not
forgive the people, erase me from Your Book.” And Hashem, apparently not
having forgiven the Jewish people completely, accommodated him by removing
the mention of his name from one part of the Torah - this week’s parashah.
But Hashem certainly did not pick a parashah at random from which to
delete mention of Moses’s name. There must have been some significance in
the selection of Tetzaveh. What message is implied in this omission?
The answer lies in our appreciation of Moses as the greatest prophet who
ever lived. How exactly did his level of prophecy differ from that of
other prophets? Maimonides explains that Moses had the gift of spontaneous
prophecy. Other prophets needed to induce a state of ecstasy in themselves
before they could attain to prophecy. In the Book of Kings, we read about
Elisha calling for a musician to help him achieve a state of serenity and
expanded consciousness. Moses, however, needed no special preparations of
this kind. He could naturally and easily communicate with Hashem at all
times. Through his tremendous devotion and righteousness, he had risen to
such a level of spiritual development that he was permanently in a state
of prophetic ecstasy. He no longer needed external stimuli to induce the
spirit of prophecy.
Tetzaveh, this week’s parashah, highlights the importance of a particular
kind of external stimulus to the spiritual condition of a person - his
garments. “Clothes make the man,” goes the saying. The priestly garments
described in this week’s parashah certainly made the Kohein. When he
donned these consecrated garments, he was infused with a state of priestly
sanctification, without which he would not have been qualified to perform
the Temple service. According to the Talmud, a Kohein who omitted even one
of these special garment was considered a zar, a non-Kohein, with regard
to the service. The priestly garments, then, are the epitome of external
stimuli by which a state of holiness is induced.
In this light, we can understand why Hashem chose Tetzaveh for the
omission of the name of Moses. Not only did the laws of the garments
themselves not apply to Moses, the very concept of the garments was not
relevant to him. He had purified and sanctified himself to such a degree
that his state of prophetic holiness had become part of his very being,
not a temporarily induced condition.
A guest in a hotel heard that a certain sage famed as the “guardian of his
tongue” was in the dining room. The man, who had never seen the famous
sage, rushed to catch a glimpse of him. In the dining room, he found two
venerable sages deep in conversation. But which was the famous one?
The man watched them for a few minutes. One was speaking animatedly and at
great length. The other was practically silent. Aha! He thought. The
silent one must be the “guardian of his tongue.”
With great awe and trepidation, he approached the silent sage and greeted
“You are mistaken, my friend,” the silent sage replied. Noticing the look
of bafflement on the man’s face, he continued, “Let me explain. Guarding
his tongue had become such a natural characteristic of my friend that he
can allow himself to speak freely. But I, alas, must consider my words
carefully before I speak, and it is safer for me to remain silent.”
In our own lives, although we cannot expect to attain the spiritual levels
of Moses or one of our great sages, we can follow their lead within the
parameters of our own abilities. We can take the fine characteristics in
which we excel personally - whether it is kindness, charity, concern for
the sick, honesty or anything else - and integrate them so deeply into our
personalities that they become part of our very essence. To do so does not
require additional expenditures of time or exertion, only an investment of
spiritual and emotional energy. It is an investment guaranteed to pay
Text Copyright © 2008 by Rabbi Naftali Reich and Torah.org.
Rabbi Reich is on the faculty of the Ohr Somayach Tanenbaum Education Center.