Where’s Waldo? by Yakir Forman


Nowhere, actually. Parashat Tetzaveh is famously the only Parashah in the middle three Sefarim of the Torah to contain no mention whatsoever of Moshe’s name. What does this signify?

Moshe’s name is found in every Parashah in the center Sefarim of the Torah because of its appearance in the introductory Pasuk to every section, “VaYedabeir Hashem El Moshe Leimor,” “Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying” (e.g. BeMidbar 6:1), or a variant of that phrase (e.g. BeMidbar 19:1). On the most basic level, the omission of Moshe’s name from Parashat Tetzaveh can be understood to be because the entire Parashah is a continuation of Parashat Terumah, which opens with the standard introductory Pasuk (Shemot 25:1). Since Hashem is continuing His instructions regarding the Mishkan from last week’s Parashah, there is no need to reintroduce Parashat Tetzaveh – Parashiyot Terumah and Tetzaveh are one long speech.

Even this basic observation reveals a profound truth about the Mishkan. While the Mishkan is made up of several Keilim (described in Parashiyot Terumah and Tetzaveh), they are all described in one speech and are under one introductory heading. Unlike other Mitzvot, the components of the Mishkan are all integrated. Similarly, a synagogue, today’s reflection of the Mishkan, should strive to be one integrated unit with common goals, even if its members might be diverse individuals.

On a deeper level, perhaps Moshe’s name does not appear in the section about the Mishkan (except in the introductory Pasuk of Parashat Terumah) to stress that the Kedushah of the Mishkan is independent of Moshe, even though he is the spiritual leader of Bnei Yisrael. The Torah asserts this idea in a number of ways. For example, Hashem commands Moshe to let others build the Mishkan (Shemot 31:1-11). Furthermore, Hashem states that that the purpose of Bnei Yisrael building the Mishkan is “VeShachanti BeTocham,” “I will dwell among them (Bnei Yisrael)” (25:8), focusing on an intimate Shechinah experience for the people of Bnei Yisrael, without an intermediary such as Moshe Rabbeinu. Many Meforshim (such as Rashi to Shemot 31:18) believe the command to build the Mishkan takes place after Cheit HaEigel. If so, the Mishkan is the perfect response to the mistake that caused Cheit HaEigel. Regarding Cheit HaEigel, Bnei Yisrael become worried that Moshe is not coming down. They are too focused on the spiritual importance of Moshe, leading them to create a substitute. The Mishkan, with a Kedushah independent of Moshe’s, tries to wean them away from this attitude.

The Ba’al HaTurim presents a beautiful hint to this idea of the Mishkan’s independence from Moshe. He writes (Shemot 27:20) that Moshe’s name is absent from Parashat Tetzaveh as a fulfillment of Moshe’s statement to Hashem, “Mecheini Na MiSifrecha Asher Katavta,” “Erase me now from Your book that You have written” (32:32). To understand this hint, we must understand the context of that Pasuk. After Moshe has already had some success in praying for Hashem to forgive Bnei Yisrael for Cheit HaEigel (32:11-14), he returns to Hashem (32:31) with a plea that is hard to understand. He implores Hashem to forgive Bnei Yisrael. Moshe then says that if Hashem does not forgive, He should erase Moshe from His book. Rashi (32:32 s.v. MiSifrecha) explains that Moshe is afraid that if he appears in the Torah, future readers will think he was not worthy enough to pray for the Jews’ forgiveness. This means that if Bnei Yisrael fail to attain forgiveness, Moshe does not want his attempts to reverse them, or even his modest success (32:14), to be mentioned. Rather, he wants only the driving forces behind Bnei Yisrael’s failure to be mentioned. Thus, when asking for “erasure from the book,” Moshe is pleading that readers understand that he is not a driving force behind what happens in the book. We learn from Rashi that the definition of “erasing someone from the book” is a recognition that this person is not a driving force behind what happens in the book.

With this understanding of “erasure from the book,” we can understand Hashem’s cryptic response: “Mi Asher Chata Li Emchenu MiSifri,” “Whoever has sinned against Me, I shall erase him from My book” (Shemot 32:33). Hashem is saying that it will be Moshe, not the sinners, who will be the driving force behind Bnei Yisrael’s future. This is in line with Rashi’s view (32:34 s.v. U’VeYom Pokdi) that Hashem’s response to Moshe is essentially positive.

By erasing Moshe’s name from Parashat Tetzaveh, Hashem shows that Moshe, though he certainly has a role in creating the Mishkan, is not the driving force behind the Kedushah of the Mishkan. Rather, the Mishkan’s Kedushah is created by less prominent individuals, such as the Kohanim, who are mentioned extensively in Parashat Tetzaveh. Similarly, even though we may not be the spiritual leaders of our generation, each and every one of us has the ability to build a Mishkan.

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