Exodus 27:20 – 30:1
Why is this portion different from all other portions?
The word Teztaveh means “you will command,” and we do not see it often in Torah. Rather, when God wants Moses to pass along a command to the people, the text usually reads something like: “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying …” The use of the word Tetzaveh removes the need to specifically name Moses; it is in the first person, rather than in the third person. Even more, there is no mention of Moses anywhere in the portion!
The Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Elijah ben Shlomo Zalman (1720-1797), taught that the portion is usually read on or near the 7th of Adar, the anniversary of Moses’ death. Moses’ name is omitted either to presage the date of his death, or to serve as a reminder to all of us who came after. Others suggest a connection to what Moses will eventually say to God during the Golden Calf incident. At the top of Mount Sinai Moses asks God the bear the iniquity of the people rather than punish them, and then goes so far as to seemingly cross a line. He challenges God directly, saying: “… and if not, wipe me out, pray, from Your book which You have written.” (Ex. 32:32) According to this interpretation God grants Moses’ wish in advance; Heaven can turn down no request by the righteous, even if it is a curse rather than a blessing.
For me, however, the most compelling answer comes from Rabbi Elye Hayyim Meisel, the rabbi of Lodz (1821-1912). As a general rule, he was always ready to help raise large sums of money for various institutions, but he refused to get involved with distributing the funds. When asked why, he replied:
The only parashah in which Moses’ name is not mentioned is Tetzaveh. In the previous parashah, Terumah, where the Torah deals with the collecting of money, Moses’ name is mentioned many times, but afterwards, when it comes to distributing the money, he is not mentioned even once. Moses did not want his name to be mentioned in order to avoid any suspicion.
This is a beautiful teaching, and it merits serious consideration. For those who want to take a little extra time with his message, I would like to leave you with just one more question: “suspicion of what?”
Hi there! I am the senior rabbi at Temple Beth Ami in Rockville, Maryland, where I have served since 2016.
(c) copyright 2018 by Rabbi Gary Pokras