Parshas Tetzaveh; Moshe Rabbenu Putting Himself on the Line

The kohanim lit the menorah in the Sanctuary every evening and cleaned it out every morning, replacing the wicks and putting fresh olive oil into the cups. Photo Credit:

This week`s parsha, Titsaveh, opens with the words, “V`Atoh titsaveh..,”–”And you shall command…” The words “and you” are puzzling.

Who is “you”, and why is “you” not identified?

You, of course, is a reference to Moshe Rabbenu, and for the very first time since his birth, his name does not appear in the parsha. Rather, HaShem refers to him by the anonymous “You.” But in this anonymity, Moshe speaks with great force and gives us a glimpse of his majesty.

Following the sin of the golden calf, Moshe pleaded “Forgive their sins, but if not, erase me from Your Book…”, and with those words, he put himself on the line and was prepared to sacrifice his own life for his beloved people.

But what sort of defense is this plea? How did Moshe hope that the erasure of his name from G-d`s Book would save his nation? One`s calling, one`s mission is to be found in one`s name. Therefore, Moshe reasoned, “If they committed such evil, it must be my fault–I must have failed as a teacher. Hence, erase my name.” Just as a parent pleads on behalf of his wayward child, “He`s really a very good boy. It`s all my fault. I wasn`t the parent I should have been..”, so Moshe Rabbenu in his unflagging love, accepted responsibility for the sins of the nation. G-d forgave the people, but Moshe`s name was omitted from the parsha.

This omission is difficult to understand. After all, why should Moshe be penalized for his self sacrifice? In reality, he is not. In his absence, the greatness of his person is revealed more powerfully than ever before, for we are reminded that he was prepared to lay down his life for our sake. And more, it is always during this parsha that we commemorate Moshe Rabbenu`s yahrzeit which falls on Zayen Adar, the seventh day of Adar. It is on this day that Moshe was born and it is on this day that he died. Thus, forever and ever, when we come to this parsha and realize that Moshe`s name is missing, we also realize that it is the yahrzeit of our beloved Rebbe Moshe Rabbenu, the holy teacher of all Israel.



Everything in the Tabernacle has a deeper meaning. For example, the menorah represents the sacred light of the Torah and therefore, everything about it is significant–the method of its kindling and the material to be used, as well as its placement. The Torah instructs us to place the menorah “outside of the Partition that is near the Testimonial Tablets” (Exodus 27:21), teaching us that the light of the menorah which reminds us of the eternal light of the Torah must guide us not only when we are in the confines of the sanctuary immersed in study and prayer, but even when we are “outside that Partition.” That light of the Torah must direct our lives, in our homes, in our workplace, or wherever life may take us.

The material -oil used for the lighting of the menorah must be pure olive oil, free of sediment, meaning that our Torah study must be accompanied by purity of heart and commitment. Furthermore, when lighting the menorah, we must be certain that the flame burns brightly, meaning that when we teach Torah, we must impart the lesson in such a way that the student fully understands its teachings.

We live in such menacing times–we have so much stress to contend with. Every day the world becomes more frightening. If ever we needed that pure light of Torah to energize us, give us hope and guide us, it is today. Let us make a commitment to illuminate our minds, hearts and souls with the eternal light of Sinai.



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