Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Tetzave
To dedicate this lesson

The Mystery of the Missing Moshe

The position of Kohen Gadol is arguably the highest in the nation, for he alone could access the Urim V’Tumim & receive Hashem’s verdict for the nation on Yom Kippur.

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Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Adar I 8 5782
"And YOU shall command Bnei Yisrael…"

Notice that, curiously, the subject is left out of this opening sentence of our Sedra. Chazal explain: This is because Moshe's name does not appear anywhere in this Parsha, the only Sedra (from the time Moshe is born) that does not contain his name. This is a response to Moshe's plea to Hashem to "erase me from Your book" (32:32) if the Jewish People are not forgiven. Once Moshe had uttered these words, they had to be fulfilled. But why was this specific Parsha chosen to exclude Moshe?

Tetzave is all about the Kohen Gadol; the clothes he wore, the pomp & ceremony which accompanied his sacred service in the Mishkan. The position of Kohen Gadol is arguably the highest in the nation, for he alone could access the Urim V’Tumim & receive Hashem’s verdict for the nation on Yom Kippur.

While Ahron, Moshe’s brother, becomes Kohen Gadol, Moshe was actually the first Kohen Gadol! No doubt he would have liked to continue in this holy post, which brought a human being so close to G-d. Moshe already had the status of King & Navi; becoming Kohen Gadol would have completed the ultimate spiritual Triple Crown!

And yet, Hashem chooses Ahron, despite (or perhaps because of?) his role in the Golden Calf incident - a sin in which Moshe was guiltless - to be Kohen Gadol.

I suggest this is why Moshe stayed away davka from this Sedra; he wanted to give his brother center stage, a complete, total spotlight with no distraction at all. This is yet another example of the unparalleled humility & self sacrifice which defined Moshe’s greatness as a leader & a human being. Similarly, Moshe’s name will appear but once in the Hagada, though he is clearly its central figure.

But does this mean Moshe is forgotten? Of course not! He’s even more beloved & noteworthy by his very absence! He flees fame, but fame pursues him.

The story is told of a South African native with the unusual name of "Amazing." All his life, this modest, unassuming person felt embarrassed by his name, & so when he died, he asked that his tombstone omit his name & simply read:

"Here lies a good man, who never said a bad word, never hurt or cheated anyone. He raised a wonderful family, always wore a smile & loved each and every person he met."

And all the people who would pass by that stone in the cemetery would stop, read it, smile & say, "Amazing!!"
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