Watch: A short lesson by Reb Yoel Kahn on Parshas Tetzaveh with English subtitles and transcript.
Watch a short lesson by Reb Yoel Kahn on Parshas Tetzaveh with English subtitles and transcript.
Scroll down for the English transcript.
Parshas Tetzaveh is the only parshah in which Moshe Rabbeinu’s name is not mentioned. (Sefer Bereishis does not mention Moshe’s name either, because that chumash deals with the period before his birth. Some parshiyos in Sefer Devarim do not mention his name either, but that chumash opens with the possuk, “These are the words that Moshe spoke,” so it is as if his name is mentioned throughout that chumash. But from Parshas Shemos until the end of Sefer Bamidbar, Parshas Tetzaveh is the only parshah in which Moshe’s name is omitted.)
Why is this so?
Sefarim explain that after the chet ha’eigel, Moshe pleaded with Hashem to forgive Bnei Yisroel, adding: “If You do not, erase me from Your book that You have written.” That “curse” was fulfilled by having his name erased from one parshah. Why precisely Parshas Tetzaveh? One reason is because this parshah occurs in proximity to Zayin Adar, the date of Moshe’s passing.
Although Moshe’s name is not mentioned clearly in this parshah, the Megaleh Amukos explains that his name is hinted to in a hidden manner. How is this so?
Every letter consists of two parts: the letter itself, and its milui—the additional letters that are used to vocalize it. For example, the letter aleph openly consists of the letter aleph, but concealed within it are two milui letters—lamed and pei.
With this in mind, let’s analyze the name Moshe. Moshe consists of three letters: mem-shin-hei. The milui of the letter mem is a final mem, which has the gematria of 40. The milui of the letter shin consists of a yud and a nun, which together equal 60. Finally, the milui of the letter hei is an aleph, with the gematria of 1, totaling 101.
Moshe’s visible name does not appear in Parshas Tetzaveh. However, Moshe’s hidden name—namely, the milui of Moshe—is indeed found in the parshah: the parshah includes a total of 101 verses.
What is signified by the fact that Moshe’s revealed name does not appear in Parshas Tetzaveh, while his hidden name does?
The Waters of Alma De’iskasya
The name “Moshe” was given to him because he was drawn out of the water (meshisihu). What is so special about this fact, to the extent that this is the name he is known by throughout the Torah, and by all Jews until the end of all time?
Kabbalah and Chassidus explain that dry land represents alma de’isgalya, a lower, revealed level (just as terrestrial animals are visible), while the sea represents alma de’iskasya, a higher, concealed level (just as aquatic creatures are concealed by the water). Unlike regular neshamos, which derive from alma de’isgalya, Moshe Rabbeinu was drawn from the water—the higher level of alma de’iskasya.
It follows that even Moshe’s revealed name represents his source in alma de’iskasya, the hidden worlds. Yet, even this name is not mentioned in Parshas Tetzaveh, and only the milui of Moshe—the hidden element of a name that is hidden to begin with—is present. What does this mean?
A Jew—The Most Precious Entity of All
Let’s return to Moshe’s request that if Hashem would not forgive the Jewish nation, his name should be erased from the Torah.
Now, Moshe’s entire being was Torah, and he sacrificed his life for it (which is why the Torah carries his name—“Remember the Torah of Moshe My servant”). Despite this, Moshe was ready to have his name erased from the Torah, all for the sake of his fellow Jews. This was because however precious the Torah was to him, the Jews were even more precious.
We see this idea with Hashem Himself. The Midrash states: “Two things preceded the world: Torah and the Jewish people, but we don’t know which one came first.” The Midrash concludes that the Jews came first, as evidenced from the fact that the Torah states, “Speak to Bnei Yisroel”; “Command Bnei Yisroel.” This demonstrates that Jews are even higher than the Torah, as the Torah exists only for their sake, to assist the Jews in reaching their ultimate state of perfection.
Of course, Moshe’s zeal was focused on the Torah, but Bnei Yisroel were even more precious. When he witnessed the chet ha’eigel, the utter antithesis of the Torah, he was ready to have his name erased from the Torah, so long as Bnei Yisroel would remain intact.
Now, does Moshe’s plea that his name be erased mean that his own existence was to come to an end? Quite the contrary: pleading with Hashem to rescue Bnei Yisroel was what Moshe truly stood for, as his true essence was Bnei Yisroel.
In other words, it was only Moshe’s revealed name that was erased. His hidden name, however—what he was truly all about, namely, his connection with the Jewish nation—was very much there, as that was the impetus for his request to save the Jewish nation (physically, and spiritually as well, when they would ultimately do teshuvah).
Furthermore, the parshah is called Ve’atah Tetzaveh, “And you shall command.” Although Moshe’s name is not present, VeAtah—Moshe’s essence—is there.
This idea likewise applies to ispashtusa de’Moshe, the extension of Moshe in every generation. We do not begin to understand how dearly a true Shepherd of Israel cherishes every single Jew. The leader of the generation sets aside every lofty facet of his life to save a fellow Jew, both physically and spiritually.
A Vort from Reb Levik
As the rov of Yekaterinoslav under the Communist regime, Reb Levi Yitzchak always sought ways of encouraging his fellow Jews. On Friday evening he would address his community, sharing with them words of Kabbalah and Chassidus, and by day he would speak about subjects that were also accessible to the less learned townsmen, nurturing their self-esteem as Jews and raising their spirits.
The Rebbe once repeated an explanation his father gave during one such occasion. The above-quoted possuk appears to be incomplete: “And now if You forgive their sin, and if not, erase me from Your book that You have written.” Rashi understands this possuk to mean, “And now if You forgive their sin, [good]; and if not…” However, the word “good” does not appear in the possuk.
Reb Levi Yitzchak explained the possuk as follows: When Hashem considered the possibility of destroying the Jewish People (chas veshalom), He told Moshe, “I will make you a great nation.” Since Hashem had promised to the Avos that their offspring would multiply, He could not destroy the Jews unless His promise to the Avos would be fulfilled via Moshe. When Moshe heard this, he thought: My existence is what is enabling Hashem to consider the possibility of destroying the Jewish nation. If that is the case, “Whether You forgive their sin or not, erase me from Your book!” Such an existence cannot remain!
I once heard that vort from a person who was present at the time. The way he repeated it, Reb Levi Yitzchak described Moshe as berating himself: “If my existence can lead to such a prospect, be ashamed of your existence!”
All the above helps us realize that no matter where in the higher realms the Rebbe is now found, he continues to hold every Jew precious and arouse mercy for each one of us, both physically and spiritually.
For further study, see Likkutei Sichos, vol. 21, pp. 173ff. Ibid., vol. 26, pp. 204ff. Sefer Hasichos 5749, vol. 1, p. 299, footnote.