Parshas Tetzaveh: The Hidden Presence

This week’s Parsha, Tetzaveh, tells us all about the Kohanim. It describes their garments, which they must wear whenever they are in the Sanctuary, and the offerings which they are to burn on the altar. Just like last week’s Sedra, Terumah, it goes into great detail when it describes the priestly garments- both those worn by the ‘regular’ Kohanim and also those worn only by the Kohen Gadol, or high priest. Additionally, it tells us about the seven day initiation into the priesthood of Aharon and his four sons, once again at length. But admist all this detail about the ephod and the choshen, and the breeches and the tunic, something- or rather someone- is conspicuously absent…

There is no mention of Moshe Rabbenu in this week’s Parsha. None at all. His brother, Aharon, features prominently, and so do the clothes worn in the Sanctuary. Every fine detail seems to be in the Sedra- so why isn’t Moshe Rabbenu there? The Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, explained the reason for Moshe’s ‘absence’ in that it is not an absence at all; ”While Moses’ name does not appear in the Parshah of Tetzaveh, Moses himself is very much present: the entire Parshah consists of G‑d’s words to Moses! Indeed, the Parshah’s first word is ve’atah, “and you”—the “you” being the person of Moses. Indeed, the word “you” connotes its subject’s very self, while a person’s name is a more superficial “handle” on his personality. This means that Moses is more present in our Parshah—that is, present in a deeper, more essential way—than any mention of his name could possibly express.”

Just because Moshe is not present on the surface, this doesn’t mean that he is absent. What is revealed to the naked eye in this week’s Parsha is merely the tip of the iceberg. As always, there’s much more to it than can be immediately seen. The Rebbe continues, ”Because Moses was prepared to forgo mention of his name in the Torah for the sake of his people, he merited that his quintessential self—the level of self that cannot be captured by any name or designation—be eternalized by the Torah”. The message here is an obvious one. Selflessness, modesty, and the rejection of fame are heavily rewarded. Humility- a trait which is very much associated with Moshe Rabbenu- isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s not free of personal benefit, and as well as helping us grow, G-d rewards us for it in due time.

As the Rebbe concludes ”It is this level of Moses’ self that is expressed by his “nameless” presence in the Parshah of Tetzaveh”, we are suddenly reminded of a very different, but also very important text, which we read around this time of year; Megillas Esther. This year, Shabbes Parshas Tetzaveh comes directly before Purim, so naturally the comparison springs to mind. But no matter when the festival falls, the link is there. Why? Because Megillas Esther doesn’t mention G-d’s Name- not even once. The miracles which we read about in the Megillah are all portayed as ‘natural’ occurences, or acts of bravery- and, as the commentators teach us, these are the most amazing kinds of miracles. The fact G-d’s Name isn’t mention provides us with another valuable lesson; we need to dig deeper to find kedushah, Holiness, in places where there doesn’t seem to be any. Because no matter where you are, G-d is there. You just need to know how to look.

Whether you’re reading Parshas Tetzaveh or Megillas Esther, the message remains the same. Don’t stick to the surface. Delve deeper- both when you are studying the Torah, and spreading kedushah through the performance of mitzvos- and never forget that just because something isn’t in plain sight, that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Wishing all my readers a gut Shabbes and a freilichen Purim!

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