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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Tetzave

The Similarities Between Tetzaveh and Purim

There seems to be great similarities between this Torah reading and the reading of the book of Esther on Purim. Throughout the entire Torah, we find that the name of our great teacher Moshe (after his birth) is found in each weekly portion, with one lone exception. In Tetzaveh Moshe’s name never appears, even though we are aware that Moshe is the one who wrote this portion of the Torah and taught it to the Jewish people for all eternity. We are aware that Moshe is the hidden author, the director of events behind the scenes.
Rabbi Berel WeinAdar 10 5781
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In this year of 5781 here in Jerusalem, the Torah reading of Tetzaveh coincides with the day of Purim itself. There seems to be great similarities between this Torah reading and the reading of the book of Esther on Purim. Throughout the entire Torah, we find that the name of our great teacher Moshe (after his birth) is found in each weekly portion, with one lone exception. In Tetzaveh Moshe’s name never appears, even though we are aware that Moshe is the one who wrote this portion of the Torah and taught it to the Jewish people for all eternity. We are aware that Moshe is the hidden author, the director of events behind the scenes.

There are many comments by the scholars of Israel over the ages who try to explain why this is so. But for the purposes of this short essay, it is sufficient simply to realize that Moshe is the teacher of the Torah par excellence, who is hidden from us. As we will soon see, we are made aware of the value of people and ideas remaining hidden, and not always exposed to the light of human inspection and society. The ability of Moshe to remain hidden and the benefit of his anonymity, is one of the blessings of his noble character and humble greatness.

In the same vein, we also find that in the book of Esther the holy name of God is not there. There is no reference whatsoever made of the intercession and interference of Heaven in the events described in the written record of the story and miracle of Purim. The book of Esther reads as an exciting, completely rational and understandable story of political intrigue, of psychologically damaged individuals, unforeseen salvation and as an example of the twists and turns that make a mockery of human certainties and predictions.

Once again, there is an unseen and unmentioned director of events that is controlling the narrative of this story. Purim is the holiday that commemorates this concept. There is no flash of lightning nor roar of thunder, no volcanic eruptions or plagues of locusts that mark this miracle. Yet, it is obvious that when we piece the whole story together, the miracle of the event becomes obvious and revealed, no matter how hidden it was while it was being enacted (read the words of the Rabbis in the Al Hanisim prayer recited on Purim). Perhaps this is the reason why Purim is such a day of unmitigated joy because it represents the joy of thousands who have discovered and unraveled a mystery, the solution of which was not originally understood by many. It is the delight of the discovery of the hidden Director that fills us with both merriment and joy. When a hidden treasure is revealed, humans are usually overcome with a feeling of happiness and achievement.

The great Chasidic master of Kotzk continually maintained that truth is always hidden from public view. He said that if it were revealed, it would be criticized, reviled, and discounted, for we live in a false world, to use the phrase that the Talmud chose to describe human existence. Ultimate truth can only be found within one's own self, and it takes an enormous amount of effort and searching to find it. Only the hidden eventually proves to be true, accurate, and eternal.

Falsehoods are wherever we turn. It is not only ‘fake news’ that confounds us, but it is also that we live in an era where society is shaped by the opinions of others, with their human weaknesses. The Torah wishes to give us a direction as to where truth can be found. It hid the name of Moshe in this week's Torah reading, and hid the name of God, again, in the book of Esther.

If one wishes to find God he or she needs to search within one's own self. The same is true of understanding and appreciating the Torah that Moshe wrote, gave and taught us. The Torah shows us that we are not that distant from truth. But it cannot be found on the surface, but only within our own souls. So be it.
Rabbi Berel Wein
The rabbi of the "HANASI" congregation in Yerushalim, head of the Destiny foundation, former head of the OU, Rosh Yeshiva of 'sharai Tora" and rabbi of the "Beit Tora" congregation, Monsey, New York.
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