VeAfilu BeHastarah by Matthew Wexler


Parashat Tetzaveh is famously known as the only Parashah in which Moshe’s name is absent (aside from Parshiyot Eikev, Re’eih, Shofetim, Ki Teitzei and Netzavim) from the time that he was born. The traditional explanation for Moshe’s absence is given by the Ba’al HaTurim (Shemot 27:20 s.v. VeAtah Tetzaveh) who states that because Moshe says in Parashat Ki Tisa following the Cheit HaEigel, “Mecheini Na MiSifrecha Asher Katavta,” “Erase me now from Your book that You have written” (Shemot 32:32), Hashem did not allow Moshe’s name to be mentioned in the previous Parashah, Tetzaveh.                

In Parashat Ki Tisa, due to Moshe’s delayed return from Har Sinai, Bnei Yisrael were worried that they had lost their leader and requested from Aharon to establish a new leader, which resulted in the construction of the Eigel HaZahav (see Ramban Shemot 32:1 s.v. Asher Yeilchu Lefaneinu). In Moshe’s fight to save Bnei Yisrael from Hashem’s wrath, he offers his name to be erased from the Torah, completely removing the Torah’s record of his impact on Bnei Yisrael. Hashem fulfills this wish to an extent by erasing Moshe’s name from Parashat Tetzaveh and, in doing so, attempts to teach Bnei Yisrael that they can serve Him fully without any direct intermediary. It is for this reason that Tetzaveh begins with the instruction to Bnei Yisrael to take, “Shemen Zayit Zach Katit LaMaor LeHa’alot Neir Tamid,” “pure olive oil, pressed for illumination, to kindle a lamp continually” (Shemot 27:20). Shlomo HaMelech writes, “Ki Neir Mitzvah VeTorah Or,” “For the Mitzvah is a lamp and the Torah is a light” (Mishlei 6:23). It is specifically in this Parashah, in Moshe’s absence, where Hashem instructs Bnei Yisrael regarding the Menorah, its lamps and its continuous illumination. Hashem is teaching Bnei Yisrael that in the absence of Moshe—their leader and guide—they can still serve Hashem through his Mitzvot and Torah.

Another notable absence of a major character in Tanach is Hashem from Megillat Ester. Megillat Ester has become known as the Sefer HaGalut—the book of Exile—as it occurs entirely outside of Eretz Yisrael. The Gemara (Chulin 139b) asks for a hint to Ester in the Torah and answers that it can be found in the Pasuk, “VaAnochi Hasteir Astir Panai, ” “And I will surely conceal My face” (Devarim 31:18). Yoyli Klein states in the name of Rabi Nachman: “DeRebbe Zugt, ‘VeAfile BeHastureh SheBesoych HaHustureh BeVadai Gam Shum Nimtzu Hashaym Yisburaych,’” “The Rebbe says, ‘Even in a concealment within a concealment, Hashem, may He be blessed, can surely be found’” (Likutei Moharan 56:4). As the Gemara suggests, this is the essence of Purim. We must try to find Hashem even when we’re in Galut and it seems as if He cannot be found. Although it may be difficult to see Him, Hashem never abandons us.  Masechet Megillah highlights examples of hints towards Hashem’s name throughout Megillat Ester in a concealed fashion. Just as we must peer closely to see His name in the Megillah, we must similarly peer closely throughout our hardships in life to see that He is still present.

It is no coincidence that the reading of the Megillah on Purim  usually coincides with the week in which Parashat Tetzaveh is read. The absence of Moshe and Hashem are intrinsically connected (as their names suggest: Moshe is Hashem spelled backwards [VeNahafochu]) and serve to teach us a lesson regarding our overall outlook on Torah and our connection to Hashem. The Gemara (Shabbat 88a) states that at Har Sinai, Hashem overturned the mountain upon Bnei Yisrael and threatened them with death if they did not accept the Torah. Even so, Bnei Yisrael accepted the Torah once again when the story of Purim occurred. The Netivot Shalom (known as the Nesivos Shalom or Slonimer Rebbe) states that Bnei Yisrael did not merely reaccept the Torah during the Purim story; their acceptance was qualitatively different than when they originally accepted it at Har Sinai, since the acceptance during Purim was by their own free will and out of love, rather than fear. He explains that the Jews were trying to show that although they were enslaved to Achashverosh in a sense, they still understood that Hashem was with them and that he would save them. No matter how dark it was or how concealed Hashem seemed, the Jews during Purim saw that the light of the Torah would be constant and would reveal to them that Hashem still cared for them. Through Moshe’s absence in Tetzaveh and Hashem’s absence in the Megillah, Hashem is teaching us that our belief in Him and constant service towards him should not be contingent upon leaders, intermediaries, or good times. We must constantly serve Hashem despite His absence or the absence of our leaders, and through the Neir Tamid that He has given us, we must never lose our hope in Him.

Costly Damage to Property in the Course of Celebration by Gavriel Epstein

Purim—The Holiday of Emunat Chachamim by Rabbi Sariel Malitzky