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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
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Present, Yet Anonymous

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Rav Copperman noted that this low-key approach was meant to highlight that the focus for Moshe Rabbeinu was purely on the mission he was called to perform and the degree to which he succeeded or failed in that mission. The Torah doesn’t necessarily care about his lineage, but rather, ultimately, whether Moshe’s talents and potential would be actualized in service to the Jewish people.  Perhaps it was important to Moshe to feel as though he was playing a role in facilitating the Geula, or in Kabbalas HaTorah or in the Mesorah, but it was never about Moshe being front and center and dominating the narrative. Moshe’s somewhat anonymous beginning highlights the demand on us to never overly focus on any one individual’s accomplishments, but on the larger themes of contributions to a cause that transcends the individual.

If this is the case then we can resolve some of the issues we have raised previously. We understand that if Moshe were to enter the Mishkan at the very moment that it was completed, when the Shechinah had descended, then the Mishkan and the Shechinas haMishkan would become associated with Moshe Rabbeinu. Moshe inherently knew that he could help build and facilitate the Mishkan, but that at the most significant moment, when the Shechinah had descended, he needed to take a step back.YU-020714-Shin

This perhaps is what took place in Menachos as well. Initially, when Moshe was unfamiliar with the Talmudic discourse he became somewhat despondent by his lack of knowledge of some of the specific mechanisms of Torah Sh’Baal Peh. Once he heard the reference to halacha l’Moshe M’Sinai he was assuaged by the knowledge that he was able to help facilitate the Mesorah even if the halachic and Talmudic process had extended well beyond his vast contributions.

This brings us back to our original question:  Why is Moshe Rabbeinu’s name omitted specifically from Parshas Tetzaveh? Rav Zalman Sorotzkin in his Oznaim LaTorah suggests that when Chazal established the cycle of Krias haTorah they specifically arranged that Tetzaveh would fall out either the week before or after the seventh of Adar, the day of Moshe’s birth and death. Rav Sorotzkin notes that leaders of other religions invariably become the focal point of the religion’s beliefs and practices, and the leader’s day of birth or death becomes a critical day on the calendar. Not so with Moshe Rabbeinu, who understood that while he played a critical role in helping to facilitate the birth of the nation he was never the focal point – it was always about playing a role in a larger scheme.  Specifically during the period of time when Moshe Rabbeinu might become lionized and even deified, the Torah excludes his name from the parsha.

Moshe Rabbeinu‘s life continues to inspire us thousands of years after his death. The integrated characteristics of modesty and strength that allowed Moshe to become the paradigm of a strong leader, but one whose ego did not rule the day, is an eternal model that still resonates for anyone in a leadership role. Moshe’s life demonstrates that an individual of strength, confidence and conviction is able to step back, content to just try to fulfill ratzon Hashem. May we continue to strive, in every area of our life, to integrate the messages of Toras Moshe.

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About the Author: Rabbi Josh Blass serves as Mashgiach Ruchani at YU-affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary.


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One Response to “Present, Yet Anonymous”

  1. I never saw it like this before. Judaism could have easily have become a cult, like most other religions, if it weren't for his humility. After all he did, he wouldn't enter the city for a minor infraction, while most leaders (secular or religious) tend to think so highly of themselves that they spend their entire lives trying to leave a legacy so that their names are not forgotten, even when they commit worse infractions than he ever did. Good read, Rabbi. Most of it went over my head, but what little I get, I'm glad.

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One of the most striking features of this week’s parsha is the absence of Moshe Rabbeinu’s name, an omission which occurs only once from the beginning of Sefer Shemos until Moshe’s death at the end of Sefer Devraim.

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