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Parshas Tetzaveh - Vol. 11, Issue 20
Compiled by Oizer Alport
The Baal HaTurim points out that from the birth of Moshe in Parshas Shemos until his death in Parshas V'Zos HaBeracha, this week's parsha is the only one (except for a few parshios in Sefer Devorim, in which Moshe speaks in the first-person) in which his name isn't mentioned a single time. 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 wouldn't forgive them, his name should also be erased from the entire Torah.
Although Hashem ultimately accepted Moshe's prayers and forgave the Jewish people, the Gemora teaches (Makkos 11a) that a conditional curse of a righteous person will be fulfilled even if the stipulation itself doesn't come to pass. Hashem partially implemented Moshe's request by removing his name from one entire parsha. This explanation still begs the question. Why was Moshe's name specifically left out of this week's parsha as opposed to any other?
The Vilna Gaon notes that the yahrtzeit of Moshe, 7 Adar, traditionally falls during the week of Parshas Tetzaveh. In order to hint that it was at this time that Moshe was taken away from the Jewish people, the Torah purposely removed his name from this parsha. The Oznayim L'Torah contrasts this with the non-Jewish approach of establishing holidays on the day their leader was born or died. We, on the other hand, recognize that as great as Moshe was, he was still human. The date of his death isn't even explicit in the Torah, and during the week when he passed away, he isn't even mentioned in the parsha.
Alternatively, Rav Zev Leff explains that Rashi writes (4:14) that Moshe was originally intended to serve as the Kohen Gadol, but the position was taken away from him and transferred to his brother Aharon as a punishment. Parshas Tetzaveh deals almost exclusively with the unique garments and inauguration procedure for the Kohen Gadol. One might have thought that Moshe was bitter at being reminded of the loss of what could have been his and would want to compensate by at least having his name mentioned repeatedly. To demonstrate that Moshe was genuinely happy about his brother's appointment, his name isn't mentioned a single time in the parsha which should have revolved around him, as he willingly stepped aside to allow Aharon his moment in the spotlight. Finally, Rav Ovadiah Yosef suggests that the word Sifrecha (Your book), from which Moshe requested to be removed, can also be read as Sefer-Chof - the 20th portion in the Torah, which is Tetzaveh.
Rav Yitzchok Hutner once related that while studying in the Slabodka yeshiva in Europe, he often heard America referred to as the "Goldeneh Medinah," but living in the poverty that was rampant in Eastern Europe at that time, he couldn't even begin to imagine the wealth and excess being referred to. Even upon arriving on America's shores, he and all of the immigrants with whom he associated continued living under very simple and modest conditions. Hearing those around him complain about the difficulty involved in finding a job that paid a reasonable salary and allowed a person to observe his religious traditions, Rav Hutner remained cynical about the reports that America was a country where money was the most precious commodity and dollars rolled down the streets.
One day that all changed. It was the week of Parshas Tetzaveh. Rav Hutner was walking outside when he observed two young Jewish boys playing ball in front of their house. The older of the two was regaling his younger brother with all that he had learned in yeshiva about the lofty position of the Kohen Gadol: his special garments designed to invoke glory and splendor, the offerings he was able to bring daily in the Beis HaMikdash, and his unique role in effecting atonement for the entire nation on an annual basis. The younger boy listened with interest and fascination, envisioning the action transpiring before his very eyes. He paused to take it all in and digest it before asking, "Tell me, how much was his annual salary?" Sadly, Rav Hutner realized that he had finally been welcomed to the Goldeneh Medinah, where the emphasis on the pursuit of the mighty dollar takes precedence over spiritual goals and aspirations.
Parshas Tetzaveh introduces us to the special vestments worn by the Kohanim when serving in the Mishkan. Among the eight unique garments worn by the Kohen Gadol was a breastplate known as the Choshen, which contained precious stones on which the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were engraved. Rashi writes (Shemos 4:14) that in the merit of Aharon rejoicing in his heart upon hearing that his younger brother Moshe was appointed to lead the Jewish people and redeem them from slavery in Egypt, instead of feeling envious and hurt, he was rewarded with the breastplate which was placed on his heart. As Hashem metes out reward and punishment מדה כנגד מדה - measure-for-measure - in what way was the privilege of wearing the Choshen considered an appropriate remuneration for Aharon's conduct?
The Derashos HaRan (Derush 3) explains the connection between Aharon's actions and his reward based on the fact that the Choshen contained within it the Urim V'Tumim, a parchment on which one or more of Hashem's Divine Names were written. Rashi writes (28:30) that the Kohen Gadol was able to query the Urim V'Tumim regarding urgent questions of national importance, and he received answers from Hashem in the form of the letters of the tribes that were engraved on it either lighting up or protruding. This enabled the Jewish people to receive Divine guidance on critical issues, such as whether they should go to war.
The Ran notes that this ability to consult Hashem and receive replies was essentially a minor form of prophecy, which is not typically associated with the job description of the Kohen Gadol, whose primary focus and responsibility was the Divine Service that took place in the Mishkan. If the Jewish people needed Divine communication, there were prophets whose function was to receive messages from Hashem and relay them to the nation. Moreover, the Urim V'Tumim wasn't even one of the eight essential vestments worn by the Kohen Gadol, as evidenced by the fact that that it was hidden away during the period of the second Temple, yet the Kohen Gadol still donned the other eight garments and served during this time, something that would be forbidden if any of the other mandatory garments was unavailable. How did this seemingly tangential function become assumed by the Kohen Gadol?
The Ran explains that the Kohen Gadol's additional role is due to the fact that when Hashem selected Aharon's younger brother Moshe to serve as His prophet, Aharon's response was not one of jealousy and resentment, but rather one of genuine happiness as he went out to greet his brother with true joy in his heart. As a result, Hashem declared that the appropriate reward was for Aharon to wear the Choshen and the Urim V'Tumin contained therein on his heart, which enabled him to also receive a level of prophecy, thereby elevating him to serve a function of vital national import.
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) Rashi writes (27:21) that the Sages determined the amount of oil needed for the Menorah to burn from the night until the morning even during the lengthy winter nights. This amount of oil was placed in the Menorah every night of the year even though there would be leftover oil on the shorter nights, as extra oil didn't pose any problem. Why would the Rabbis design the process for lighting the Menorah in a manner which would produce so much unnecessary waste? (Daas Z'keinim, Paneiach Raza, Rashi Shabbos 22b and Zevachim 11b, Ayeles HaShachar)
2) Of all of the items that Hashem created during twilight on Erev Shabbos at the end of the week of Creation, which of them was needed for the garments of the Kohanim? (Avos 5:6, Sotah 48b)
3) If female Kohanim would be permitted to serve in the Beis HaMikdash, would they be permitted to wear the garments of the Kohanim, or would doing so violate the prohibition (Devorim 22:5) against wearing men's clothing? (Gilyonei HaShas and Ha'aros Al Kiddushin 36b)
4) What object or item was located in the courtyard of the Mishkan, but is not explicitly mentioned anywhere in Parshas Terumah or Tetzaveh? (Peninim MiShulchan Gevoha)
5) The Torah commands us (29:38-42) to offer the Korban Tamid (Continual-offering) twice daily. Although we are presently unable to do so, which other mitzvah that we do twice daily is considered equally valuable by Hashem? (Yalkut Shimoni 835)
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