The Temple Institute: Temple Talk: Adar 7/March 7, 2006

"And G-d spoke to Moses." (Exodus 32:1)

How many times do we read that phrase in the Torah? How many times is the name Moshe (Moses) mentioned? Literally hundreds. In fact, from the moment that his birth is recorded at the beginning of the book of Shmot (Exodus), right up to the mention of his passing in parashat V'zot Habracha, at the conclusion of the book of Deuteronomy, his name can be found in every single weekly Torah reading - minus one: this week's parasha, Tetzaveh, (Exodus 27:20 - 30:10). This Torah portion, which includes the details of the priestly garments, does not mention the name of Moshe even once. His name is such a natural part of the Divine transmission of commandments and such a ubiquitous part of the Torah narrative, that its omission in this week's parasha demands explanation.

The answer to the mystery can be found in the Torah portion of Ki Tisa, to be read in two weeks time, which describes the grievous sin of the golden calf. Moses, realizing the enormity of the transgression, goes before the Holy One, Blessed Be He, and says the following: "Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them a god of gold. Yet now, if You will, forgive their sin; but if not, blot me, I pray You, out of Your book, which You have written." (Exodus 32:31,32) This selfless plea on behalf of his people, so characteristic of Moses' attribute of true humility, remains an unsurpassable expression of leadership. And so G-d did as Moshe insisted, for the words of the righteous are not uttered in vain. Such words are powerful, and make a permanent impression. The people were forgiven, and as a testimony to Moshe's selfless stand on their behalf, his name does not appear, even once, in this week's parashat Tetzave.

But one question remains: why Tetzaveh? Why is this the week in which his name is missing? This very day provides the answer, for the key lies in the portion's proximity to Adar 7th, the day, both of Moshe's birth, and of his death, (for the years of the righteous are complete - "the number of your days I will fulfill" (Ex. 23:26)). This modest "omission" speaks volumes about the character of the man called by Jews of every generation, Moshe rabbeinu - Moses our master.

Purim is approaching! On this day we celebrate the downfall of the wicked Haman, eat, drink, exchange gifts of food, give tzedaka - charity - to the poor, and blot out the memory of Amalek. Why is this day considered by our sages to be one of the greatest of all the Jewish holidays? Why is it likened to Yom Hakippurim, the holiest of days? How can a day of fasting and prayer be compared to a day of feasting and merriment? In the Holy Temple, on Yom Kippur, and only on Yom Kippur, the High Priest (Cohen Gadol) uttered the holy ineffable name of G-d. The celebration of Purim centers around the reading of the scroll of Esther. Why is Esther the only book of all 24 books of the Tanach in which G-d's name does not appear? In fact, G-d's presence is completely hidden throughout the events that transpire as the Purim story unfolds. The secret of Purim is the revelation that what appears at times as fact is little more than fiction, and what we may perceive as truth, is but a web of lies. G-d's hiddeness can be seen everywhere. His silence roars like thunder. Also hidden from view is the true historical context of the Purim tale: the struggle to complete the rebuilding of the Second Temple, and the ultimate triumph of the righteous Mordechai and the Jewish nation, over the wicked Haman, scion of the evil seed of Amalek.

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