Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

Parshas Tetzaveh

V'ata tetzaveh (27:20)

The Baal HaTurim notes that from the birth of Moshe Rabbeinu in Parshas Shemos until his death in the final parsha - V'Zos HaBracha - this week's parsha is the only one in which his name isn't mentioned even a single time (assuming that we consider Nitzavim and Vayeilech, which are generally read together, to be a single parsha). He explains that this is because in next week's parsha, Moshe beseeched Hashem to forgive the Jewish people for the sin of the golden calf. He requested (32:32) that if Hashem won't forgive them, then his name should also be erased from the entire Torah (macheini na mi'sifr'cha asher kasavta). Although Hashem ultimately accepted his prayers and forgave the Jewish people, we have a maxim that a conditional curse of a righteous person will be fulfilled even if the condition itself doesn't come to pass (in this case, Hashem's refusal to pardon their sin), so Hashem partially implemented his request by removing him from one entire parsha. However, it remains to be understood why his name was specifically left out of our parsha as opposed to any other? The Vilna Gaon points out that the yahrtzeit of Moshe Rabbeinu, 7 Adar, traditionally falls during the week of Parshas Tetzaveh, as it does this year. In order to hint that it was at this time that Moshe was taken away from us, the Torah purposely removed him from this parsha. The Oznayim L'Torah contrasts this with the non-Jewish approach of specifically establishing holidays on the day they believe their leader to have been born and died. We, on the other hand, recognize that great as Moshe Rabbeinu 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 when he passed away his name isn't even mentioned in the weekly parsha.

Others note that Rashi writes (4:14) that Moshe was originally intended to serve as Kohen Gadol, and the position was only transferred to his brother Aharon as a punishment to Moshe. Our parsha deals almost exclusively with the garments and inauguration procedure for the Kohen Gadol. One might have thought (as indeed some Rishonim explain) that Moshe was bitter at being reminded of the loss of what could have been his, and would therefore want to compensate by at least having his name mentioned repeatedly. To demonstrate that Moshe was just as genuinely happy at his brother's appointment as Aharon had been at the selection of Moshe (see Rashi 4:14), his name isn't mentioned a single time in the parsha which could have "been his," as he willingly stepped aside to allow Aharon his moment in the spotlight.

Finally, I once heard in the name of Rav Ovadiah Yosef that the word sifr'cha, from which Moshe requested to be removed, can also be read as sefer-chaf - the 20th portion in the Torah, which is Tetzaveh!


V'ata t'dabeir el kol choch'mei lev asher mileisiv ruach chochma (28:3)

Hashem instructs Moshe to command the wise of heart to make the garments for Aharon and his sons. Why does the Torah stress the wisdom in their hearts, when we are accustomed to thinking of wisdom as residing in the brain? Rav Leib Chasman explains that this understanding represents a fundamental flaw in human thinking. From the Torah's perspective, a wise person is not merely a Harvard professor who is able to intelligently discuss esoteric topics in difficult academic subjects. If his actions don't reflect his sophisticated intellectual knowledge (as most of the time they unfortunately don't), then the facts and theorems which he has stored in his head are essentially meaningless.

An expert botanist who is intimately familiar with the characteristics and medicinal properties of every single plant and herb in the world, yet nevertheless chooses to recommend and distribute poisonous instead of healing ones can hardly be defined as wise. He is more comparable to a donkey loaded up with a heavy pile of thick tomes on the subject, as the knowledge he has acquired in his brain remains for him an external load which has failed to penetrate into his heart. The Torah recognizes that the primary criterion for determining wisdom lies in the ability to connect one's mind, and the information one stored therein, with his heart, which so often guides and determines his actions, and it is for this reason that Hashem stresses the importance of selecting the truly wise - the wise of heart.


V'haya al Aharon l'shareis v'nishma kolo b'vo'o el ha'Kodesh lifnei Hashem (28:35)

The Gemora in Pesachim (112a) relates that Rebbe Akiva once gave seven commands to his son Rav Yehoshua, among which was that he shouldn't enter his house suddenly and unexpectedly. In his commentary there, the Rashbam quotes a Medrash (Vayikra Rabba 21:8) which relates that whenever he approached his home, Rebbe Yochanan would intentionally make noise so as to alert whoever may be inside to his imminent arrival. Rebbe Yochanan explained his reason for doing so based on our verse, which states that the Kohen Gadol must have bells on the hem of his Me'il (Robe) in order that the sound announcing his entrance should be heard whenever he enters Hashem's Sanctuary. The Mishmeres Ariel questions how an individual person, even one as great as Rebbe Yochanan or Rebbe Akiva, could derive guidelines for proper conduct from the Torah's rules from the Kohen Gadol, who was subject to special stringencies due to the sanctity of the Beis HaMikdash in which he served?

He answers that the Gemora in Sotah (17a) states that if a husband and wife dwell together in peace and harmony, then they will merit that the Divine Presence will rest between them and fill their house with an atmosphere of Holiness. If so, we can understand that any man with a successful marriage must indeed recognize that the Shechina resides in his house and conduct himself just as the Kohen Gadol accordingly! It is related that somebody was once discussing an important issue with Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach on his way home. As they walked through the streets of Shaarei Chesed, Rav Shlomo Zalman suddenly paused and began straightening and cleaning his clothes. As they didn't appear disheveled to begin with, the man inquired as to the cause of Rav Shlomo Zalman's actions. The saintly Rabbi replied that he has been blessed for decades to live in peace and tranquility with his wonderful, loving wife, and they are therefore fortunate to feel Hashem as a regular presence in their home. As they were turning the block to approach his house, he felt compelled to make sure his appearance would be appropriate for the important Guest he was about to greet!


V'asisa tzitz zahav tahor u'fitachta alav pituchei chosam Kodesh L'Hashem (28:36)

The Gemora in Taanis (2a) derives from verses that there are three "keys" which are uniquely Hashem's and which aren't given over to intermediaries to execute: chaya, t'chiyas ha'meisim, matar - conception, resuscitation of the dead, and rain. The Vilna Gaon notes a beautiful allusion to this contained in our verse, which states that the opening up (pituchei) of chosam, which is an acronym for the aforementioned three items - chaya, t'chiya, matar - is Kodesh L'Hashem, exclusively performed by Hashem and no other!


Shivas yamim yilb'shem hakohen tachtav mibanav (29:30)

A controversy once broke out when the Rav of a small town in Europe passed away. The leaders of the community wished to appoint a new outsider to take his place, while some of the Rav's sons claimed that they were suited for the position and deserved precedence as the "inheritors" of their deceased father. They agreed to bring the dispute to the Chofetz Chaim for his resolution. He began by noting that it is indeed true that Jewish law recognizes that a Rabbinical appointment, like all religious positions, is subject to be inherited by the offspring of the deceased.

However, the Gemora in Yoma (72b) distinguishes between the son of the Kohen Gadol, who may inherit his father's purely religious position, and the son of the Kohen M'shuach Milchama (the Kohen who leads the Jews to battle), who may not. Because the latter position is uniquely intended for a man of war and is not purely a religious function, the fact that somebody's father was suited to the role is irrelevant to his capacity to inherit and fill the role. Similarly, it was true in the olden days that the function of the Rav was religious in nature - to render legal rulings and teach the people - and therefore his children were legally entitled to be offered his position before all other candidates were considered. However, all that has unfortunately changed due to the assault of the reform and communist movements on traditional religious standards and values. As a result, the role of the Rav has been transformed into that of a general leading his troops into a fierce battle, regarding which the aforementioned Gemora rules that the children are not entitled to automatic precedence in inheriting and filling the position of the deceased Rav!


Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1) It is the opinion of the Medrash Tanchuma (8), Rashi (31:18), and the Seforno (24:18, 25:9) that the sin of the golden calf recorded in Parshas Ki Sisa actually transpired prior to the commandments regarding the building of the Mishkan in last week's parsha and the making of the garments for the Kohanim in this week's parsha. The Tanna D'vei Eliyahu (17), Daas Z'keinim (25:2) and Ramban (35:1) disagree and maintain that these parshios are written in the order in which they occurred chronologically. However, prior to the Cheit HaEgel, the Divine Service was done by the first-born from each family and not by the Kohanim, who only merited to serve in the Mishkan as a result of their piety during the Cheit HaEgel (Rashi 32:29, Bamidbar 3:12). If so, how can our parsha, which according to the latter opinion was said before the sin of the golden calf, refer to the service in the Mishkan as being performed by Aharon and his sons when at that time it was still done by the first-borns? (Chazon Ish Orach Chaim 125:7)

2) In his commentary on Masechta Shabbos (21b), the Ran writes that because the miracle of Chanuka occurred through the menorah in the Beis HaMikdash, the Rabbis applied the stringency of its laws to the menorahs we light on Chanuka and forbade the use of their light for any purpose. How can this be reconciled with the Medrash Tanchuma (3) which recounts that the menorah in the Temple miraculously lit up every single courtyard in Yerushalayim, allowing the people to work using its light? (M'rafsin Igri)

3) If female Kohanim would be permitted to serve in the Beis HaMikdash, would they be allowed to wear the garments of the Kohanim, or would doing so violate the prohibition against wearing a beged ish (men's clothing)? (Tosefos Kiddushin 36b, Gilyonei HaShas and Haaros (Rav Elyashiv) there)

4) Rashi writes (28:30) that the Kohen Gadol was able to ask questions of the Urim V'Tumim which was inside of the Choshen, to which he would receive answers from Hashem. Did the letters all light up or protrude simultaneously, requiring his knowledge to properly rearrange them, or did they sequentially spell out the answer for him? (Ramban, Maharsha Yoma 73b, Peninim MiShulchan HaGra, Rav Saadyah Gaon quoted in Shiras Dovid)

5) One Shabbos morning, on Parshas Tetzaveh, after davening had concluded, the Brisker Rav turned to those in his minyan and asked the following riddle: "What else was there in the Courtyard of the Mishkan besides that which is explicitly mentioned in the Parshios of the Mishkan?" (Peninim MiShulchan Gevoha - hint: see Rashi 29:4; for another possible answer see Rashi 27:5)

6) Hashem instructs Moshe (30:1) to make the golden altar upon which incense was brought daily. Why is it referred to as a miz'beach (altar), which comes from the word zevach (sacrifices), when no animals were ever brought on this altar as sacrifices? (Radak and Ibn Janach in Shaarei Aharon)

7) Before the performance of a mitzvah, we are accustomed to making a blessing thanking Hashem for commanding us regarding that specific mitzvah. Why is no such blessing recited before fulfilling the Torah obligation to remember what Amalek did to our ancestors by reading about those events from a Torah scroll once annually?

2006 by Oizer Alport. Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute as long as credit is given. To receive weekly via email or to send comments or suggestions, write to

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel