Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Tetzave
To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicatedin the memory of

Tzvi Yoel Ben Moshe HaLevi

Parshat Tetzaveh


Rabbi Macy A. Gordon

12 Shvat, 5763
The casual reader of this week’s Torah portion might not notice that a significant name is absent. The opening phrase, "And you, command the Children of Israel…" is obviously addressed to Moses, but his name is not mentioned; not at the opening nor anywhere else in the portion. From the birth of Moses until his death, there is no other portion where he is "missing". This is especially ironic, since the yahrzeit of our great teacher Moses, the 7th of Adar, always occurs in the calendar of this week. This coincidence serves to underscore a historical tragedy in the life of Moses.

By all standards of drama, Moses was a tragic figure. He was raised among strangers. He had to flee his birthplace as a fugitive though he had stood up for justice. His marriage was a troubled one, and his children are barely mentioned in the Torah. What are the accomplishments that a man of Moses’ stature might have wanted in life? After all he didn’t seek greatness or leadership, all of that having been thrust upon him by G-d. He might have wanted at the very least, to see the fulfillment of his life’s work, to bring Israel safely to the Promised Land and enter it with them. Perhaps he might have wanted to see his children follow in his path and succeed him, to have the pleasure in them that is characteristic of Jewish parents. Tragically, he was denied both in his lifetime. His posterity is missing from Jewish history. His brother Aaron’s descendants are widely known in Jewish history and the community, the kohanim. Who can claim to be a descendant of Moses?

Equally tragic, he was denied the joy of entering the Promised Land, though he pleaded and beseeched G-d for that favor. It was just not to be. To spend a whole life aiming for Israel and to die before accomplishing it. That is a tragedy born of irony. Moses who transmitted the mitzvoth, all Jewish values, to a people for all generations, was denied the opportunity to actually fulfill any of the many mitzvoth which apply only in the Land of Israel, foremost among which is that of actually taking possession of the Land of Israel, living there, and settling the Land.

And how shall we look at a generation in history that has the ability to succeed where Moses failed? That has the opportunity of entering and building the Holy Land if it would only be willing to do so? Moses so desired to enter Israel, longed for it, and shared that love and longing with all future generations of the Children of Israel. Can we prove ourselves worthy of his yearnings?

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