Our parsha centers around the kohanim and their related details. Interestingly, the midrash (Shemot Rabbah, 3:17) seems to imply that originally, Moshe was supposed to be the kohen gadol, but he lost that privilege to Aharon because he refused to accept Hashem’s mission to liberate Bnei Yisrael from Egypt: “[Really] you should have been the kohen and him (Aharon) the levi, but since you refuse [to listen to] My words, you shall be a levi and him (Aharon) a kohen.”
What’s Moshe’s reaction to the transfer?
In Tehillim it says, “how good and how pleasant is the dwelling of brothers, especially, in unity. Like the precious oil upon the head, running down upon the beard, the beard of Aharon…” The midrash (Shir Hashirim Rabbah, 1:10) clarifies that the reason why it mentions “beard” twice, is because this oil that ran down the beard of Aharon [when being anointed as kohen gadol], it was as if it ran down Moshe’s beard. The Etz Yosef says that this is to what the words “the dwelling of brothers, especially, in unity,” are referring.
Rav Chaim Shmulevitz explains that this idea shows us that the unity—the connection and achdut—between Moshe and Aharon was so intense, that Moshe actually felt as if he himself was being anointed with the oil. He felt as if it was running down his very own beard!
Rav Chaim uses this idea to explain the following two verses in the beginning of our parsha:
1. In regards to the oil for the menorah, Hashem tells Moshe, “Now you shall command Bnei Yisrael that they shall take to you pure olive oil…” What does it mean they should take the oil “to” Moshe?
2. In regards to the anointing of the Kohanim, Hashem tells Moshe, “Now you, bring near to yourself Aharon your brother, and his sons with him…” Again, what does it mean that Moshe should bring them near “to” himself?
Based on the above, Rav Chaim explains that when it says in the first pasuk that Bnei Yisrael should take the oil “to” Moshe, it could be understood to mean that they should take it “for” Moshe. Meaning, that this oil to be used for the menorah is for Moshe’s sake, the same way it’s for Aharon’s sake, since when Aharon lights the menorah with the oil, for Moshe, it’s as if he himself is lighting the menorah! In spirit, it’s “for” Moshe. Likewise, when the second pasuk says that Aharon and his sons should be brought near “to” Moshe, it could also be understood to mean “for” Moshe, for Moshe’s sake. Meaning, that when Moshe anoints Aharon as kohen, Moshe himself would feel as if he himself was being anointed as kohen! Hence, essentially, in spirit, they are brought “for” Moshe. (“Sichos Mussar,” Tetzaveh)
Getting back to Moshe’s reaction. Based on Rav Chaim’s idea, perhaps Moshe’s reaction upon Aharon being given the privilege of kohen gadol was one of utmost joy, since Moshe’s achdut with Aharon made it that he truly felt as if he himself carried this privilege. Aharon’s simcha and success, was Moshe’s simcha and success. We may glean from here an incredible level of achdut, where even though something may have been “coming to us” (like in Moshe’s case where he was seemingly originally destined to be kohen gadol), one can still be so happy for the other person who gets that success, to such a degree that one feels as if it’s his own success.
While Moshe’s presence is certainly in our parsha, it’s famously noted that his name is absent from our parsha. After the transgression with the Golden Calf (in next week’s parsha), Hashem threatened to “push the reset” and create a new nation from Moshe. But Moshe pleaded on Bnei Yisrael’s behalf: “if you would forgive their transgression [then good (Rashi)], and if not, erase me now from Your book [the entire Torah (Rashi)] that You have written.” Moshe’s plea was granted, but his words of “erase me now from Your book…” had some effect. His name is thus not present in our parsha.
Moshe was there for his people; He identified with the pains of his people. When they were in servitude, the midrash says that he would cry and say to his brethren, “Woe is me on account of you! If only I could die for your sake! …And he would lend a shoulder and assist each and every one of them” (Shemot Rabbah, 1:27). It’s perhaps no wonder that he’s willing to be erased from the Torah for their sake. If they’re out, I’m out.
But why is parshat Tetzaveh specifically chosen that he be left out, as opposed to a different parsha?
If Tetzaveh centers around kohanim—a privilege that Moshe seemingly lost, but yet in spirit and emotion completely identified with by Aharon, then perhaps we can suggest that there’s no need for Moshe’s name to be mentioned here. For if the parsha discusses Aharon and mentions him, Moshe’s achdut and ability to identify with Aharons privilege, was like it was his own privilege, like it was occuring to himself; and thus, in spirit, it’s as if his “name” too is mentioned, since his identity in terms of the Aharon’s kehuna was merged together with Aharon. It may then be appropriate to leave his name out specifically in this parsha.
This ability to identify with another Jew—whether in his pain or joy—could thus, perhaps, be the common denominator and connection between the inception of why Moshe’s name was to be left out of a parsha, and why specifically it be left out in Tetzaveh—the parsha right before his plea for Bnei Yisrael which brought about the “loss” of his name.
Another Jew’s pain was Moshe’s pain; another Jew’s joy was Moshe’s joy. To identify with another Jew’s experiences, is, perhaps, a level of achdut we should strive to reach.
Binyamin is a graduate of Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchok Elchanan, and of Wurzweiler School of Social Work.