Parashat Tetzaveh

Moses's Absence

Parashat Tetzaveh foreshadows the connection the Children of Israel will have with God after the death of Moses.

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Dependent on Moses

However, the people have shown that they are overly, even unhealthily dependent upon Moses and his role in connecting them to Hashem. In an unhealthy leader-follower relationship, which is analogous to an unhealthy parent-child relationship, the parent-figure does not allow the child-figure to develop independently, so the "child" cannot cope with separation. 

Therefore, as explained by R. Yehudah Leon Ashkenazi Manitou, Moses practices self-abnegation to the extent that when listening to the Torah from him, the Children of Israel know that, even while they are receiving "the Torah of Moses" (Malachi 3:22), they are hearing the "Torah of Hashem" (Psalms 19:8). This requires a delicate balance. By the 7th of Adar, the day he departs this world, Moses has achieved the title, the "man of God" (Deuteronomy 33:1; also, Joshua 14:6, Psalms 90:1)--the prophet who sublimates his identity to teach the word of Hashem.

Thus, in Parashat Tetzaveh, which focuses on the operation of the Mishkan that will unite the people with Hashem, and which is read close to the 7th of Adar, Moses's name is submerged. In the 40 years since the sin of the golden calf, Moses Rabbeinu (Moses our Teacher) will have succeeded in imparting to the people of Israel the great lesson--how to survive his death. Then, the Children of Israel will be sufficiently adult that they will be able to accept the separation, and mourn, and move on.

Parashat Tetzaveh, where "Moses" becomes ve'atah, foreshadows the time when the quintessential leader named Moses will no longer be, but his essence will always persist.

Moses serves as a role model for all teachers of Torah. In the Talmud, R. Zeira was known as "the little man with the singed thighs," ever since he was burned by an oven. We are told (Tractate Sanhedrin 37a) that R. Zeira would pray for the salvation of some ruffians who lived in his neighborhood. He prayed for them constantly, even though the other Sages had long given up on them.

After R. Zeira died, the ruffians said: "Until now, the little man with the singed thighs would ask Hashem to have mercy on us. Now, who will pray on our behalf?" So, they made up their own minds and repented. R. Zeira's death provided them with their greatest lesson, and they finally learned to take responsibility for themselves.

When we listen to our Torah teachers, we hear beyond their own voices--we hear the voice of Hashem.

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Rabbi Avraham Fischer

Avraham Fischer is a rabbi at Darche Noam Institutions.