Where is Moshe Rabeinu?

Shabbat Kodesh parashat Tetzave

This week’s Parsha, Tetzaveh is the only reading in the Torah—from the first Parshah in the second book Shemot, (Exodus, in which he is born) until the end of the book Bamidbar (Numbers) —where the name of Moshe Rabeinu  is not mentioned.   Tetzaveh’s opening words are

וְאַתָּ֞ה תְּצַוֶּ֣ה

– V’atah tetzaveh—“And you shall command.” The “you” is Moshe, and Hashem is telling him what to instruct the people. But the verse only says “you”—no name, no “Moshe.” Why?

Some argue that Moshe Rabeinu’s Yahrzeit, 7 Adar, almost always occurs in this week, and the absence of his name is an appropriate symbol for this date. Others suggest that it is as a result of Moshe Rabeinu’s own words after the golden calf incident.  The people had sinned, and Hashem was going to wipe them out and start over again with Moshe and his own dynasty. Moshe Rabeinu however defended his errant flock, arguing for their forgiveness. And if Hashem did not grant his request? He used some very strong words there. 

מְחֵנִי נָא מִסִּפְרְךָ

“Mecheini na misifrecha”—erase me from Your book that You have written!” Moshe Rabeinu himself said that his name should be erased from the Torah if Hashem would not forgive his people. So, even though Hashem did forgive them, the words of a wholly righteous person, a tzaddik are eternal and leave an impression. The effect of those words, therefore, was that somewhere in the book, in the Torah, his name would be erased. It would be missing where he normally should have appeared. Thus it is that in the week when we remember his passing, Moshe’s name is gone.

What was behind Moshe Rabeinu’s request that his name should be erased if Hashem did not forgive Am Yisrael? 

Perhaps, we should look into the meaning of his name!

We know that his name was given to Moshe Rabeinu by no other than Pharoh’sdaughter, who pulled him out of the water  “I have named him Moshe, because I pulled him out.”  Here comes a twist to the name. If she named him after she pulled him, he should have been named “Nimshe” (the one who was passively pulled out) and not Moshe – which refers to the active puller?   With this name however, Pharaoh’s daughter suggested, “Just as I have pulled him out, likewise he will pull others out. He will get Am Yisrael out of Egypt. He will help others escape and pull them out of troubles. Although I pulled him from the water, it was only so that he could help pull out others!

Now it becomes clear. Moshe Rabeinu does not play with “Kavod” (glory, honor, respect, distinction) when he asks Hashem to remove his name. He simply states that if he was not able to “pull out” his people – his name becomes redundant – as he is no more able to perform his life mission. And the most appropriate place in the Torah to commemorate this, is indeed at the week of Moshe Rabeinu’s Yahrzeit

But we do not have to have the name “Moshe”, or be as great as Moshe Rabeinuwas, in order to remember how important is the ability to “pull out” others when they are in need. 

Best wishes, Shabbat Shalom and Purim sameach!

Rabbi Chaim Michael Biberfeld