Why Is Moshe’s Name Missing?

V’Atah Tetzaveh (Shemos 27:20)

The Baal HaTurim points out that from the birth of Moshe in Parashas Shemos until his death in Parashas V’Zos Habrachah, this week’s parashah is the only one (except for a few parshiyos in Sefer Devarim in which Moshe speaks in the first-person) in which his name isn’t mentioned a single time. He explains that this is because in next week’s parashah, Moshe beseeched Hashem to forgive the Jewish people for the Sin of the Golden Calf. He requested (32:32) that if Hashem wouldn’t forgive them, then his name should also be erased from the entire Torah.

Although Hashem ultimately accepted Moshe’s prayers and forgave the Jewish people, the Gemara teaches (Makkos 11a) that a conditional curse of a righteous person will be fulfilled even if the stipulation itself does not come to pass. Hashem partially implemented Moshe’s request by removing his name from one entire parashah. This explanation still doesn’t answer the question, though. Why was Moshe’s name specifically left out of this week’s parashah as opposed to any other?

The Vilna Gaon notes that the yahrtzeit of Moshe, 7 Adar, traditionally falls during the week of Parashas Tetzaveh. In order to hint that it was at this time that Moshe was taken away from the Jewish people, the Torah purposely removed his name from this parashah.

The Oznayim L’Torah contrasts this with the non-Jewish approach of establishing holidays on the day they believe their leader was born or died. We, on the other hand, recognize that as great as Moshe was, at the end of the day he was also human. The date of his death isn’t even explicit in the Torah, and during the time that he passed away, he isn’t even mentioned in the weekly parashah.

Alternatively, Harav Zev Leff explains that Rashi writes (4:14) that Moshe was originally intended to serve as the Kohen Gadol, but the position was taken away from him and transferred to his brother Aharon as a punishment. Parashas Tetzaveh deals almost exclusively with the unique garments and inauguration procedure for the Kohen Gadol.

One might have thought that Moshe would be bitter at being reminded of the loss of what could have been his, and would want to compensate by at least having his name mentioned repeatedly. To demonstrate that Moshe was genuinely happy about his brother’s appointment, his name isn’t mentioned a single time in the parashah that should have revolved around him, as he willingly stepped aside to allow Aharon his moment in the spotlight.

Finally, Maran Harav Ovadiah Yosef, zt”l, suggests that the word sifrecha (Your book), from which Moshe requested to be removed, can also be read as sefer-chof — the 20th portion in the Torah, which is Tetzaveh.

Q: Hashem told Moshe (Shemos 28:3) to instruct the wise-hearted people to make garments for Aharon to sanctify him in order to serve Hashem. Does this mean that the garments of the Kohen had to be made lishmah — specifically for this purpose — or could they be used even if they weren’t made with this specific intention?

A: The Ramban writes that the garments of the Kohanim needed to be made specifically for this purpose. The Minchas Chinuch cites a dispute in the Yerushalmi (Yoma 3:6) about this requirement. Based on the Rambam’s ruling regarding a related dispute, he deduces that the Rambam disagrees with the Ramban.

Q: Which item mentioned in Parashas Tetzaveh was written by Hashem?

A: The Chida writes that he found in a sefer called Likutei Rav Betzalel that the names of the 12 tribes that were written on the stones of the Kohen Gadol’s Choshen and Ephod were not written by a human, but by Hashem Himself. However, the Chida notes that this is difficult to reconcile with the statement of the Gemara that the names of the tribes were miraculously engraved by the shamir worm.

Q: Which object mentioned in Parashas Tetzaveh is an essential component of the Kohen Gadol’s vestments, yet there is no actual commandment to make it, nor is its construction recorded in the Torah?

A: The Ramban points out that although Hashem commanded Moshe to place the Urim v’Tumim, a parchment on which Hashem’s Ineffable Name was written, inside the Kohen Gadol’s Choshen (Breastplate), nowhere did he receive an explicit commandment to make it, nor is its assembly mentioned in Parashas Pekudei together with the other priestly vestments. He explains that the Urim v’Tumim was so holy that its secrets were known only to Moshe, and the craftsmen were unable to be involved in its construction. Instead, it was either produced directly by Hashem or by Moshe, who subsequently placed it inside the Choshen prior to Aharon’s investiture as Kohen Gadol (Vayikra 8:8).

Q: At the end of Parashas Tetzaveh, Hashem commands Moshe to build a golden Altar for the Mishkan on which incense was offered every day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon (30:7-8). Which of the two daily incense offerings smelled better, and why?

A: Rabbeinu Bachya writes that the incense that was offered in the afternoon smelled better. The Ichud b’Chidud quotes Hagaon Harav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, who explains that the aroma of the afternoon incense is enhanced by the smell of all the other offerings that were offered throughout the day, which are not present in the scent of the morning incense offering.

Originally from Kansas City, Rabbi Ozer Alport graduated from Harvard, learned in Mir Yerushalayim for five years, and now lives in Brooklyn, where he learns in Yeshivas Beis Yosef, is the author of the recently-published sefer Parsha Potpourri, and gives weekly shiurim. To send comments to the author or to receive his Divrei Torah weekly, please email oalport@Hamodia.com.