Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Parshas Tetzaveh

ואתה תצוה (27:20)

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 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 they believe their leader was born or died. We, on the other hand, recognize that as great as Moshe 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 that he passed away, he isn’t even mentioned in the weekly 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 and transferred to Aharon as a punishment. Our parsha deals almost exclusively with the 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 ספרך (Your book), from which Moshe requested to be removed, can also be read as ספר-ך – the 20th portion in the Torah, which is Tetzaveh!


ואתה תדבר אל כל חכמי לב אשר מלאתיו רוח חכמה ועשו את בגדי אהרן לקדשו לכהנו לי (28:3)

Parshas Tetzaveh introduces us to the unique garments that were worn by the Kohanim during the time that they served in the Temple. Because these vestments were so special and holy, they couldn’t simply be made by anybody who possessed the necessary skills and craftsmanship.

Hashem specifically instructed Moshe to command the wise of heart to make these special garments for Aharon and his sons. This is difficult to understand. We are accustomed to associating wisdom with the brain. Why does the Torah stress that their wisdom was found in their hearts?

Rav Leib Chasman explains that our understanding of wisdom is fundamentally flawed. From the Torah’s perspective, a wise person is not 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, the facts and theorems which he has stored in his head are essentially meaningless.

For example, an expert botanist who is intimately familiar with the scientific characteristics and medicinal properties of every plant and herb in the world, yet chooses to recommend and distribute poisonous plants instead of healing ones can hardly be defined as wise. He is more accurately compared to a donkey laden with a pile of thick tomes on the subject of botany. The knowledge that 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 evaluating wisdom lies in the ability to connect one’s mind, and the information stored therein, with his heart, which guides his actions. It is for this reason that Hashem stressed the importance of selecting the truly wise – the wise of heart.

This concept is illustrated by a well-known, if perhaps apocryphal, story which is told about one of the famous Greek philosophers. In between lessons, his students once encountered him in a section of town known for its immoral activities (what they were doing there hasn’t been established).

Unable to reconcile his behavior with the lofty philosophical teachings that he espoused during his lectures, his students pressed him for an explanation. The legendary philosopher answered them, “When class is in session, I am your great teacher, and I share my pearls of wisdom with you. At other times, I am not the philosopher with whom you are familiar.”

We live in a society which holds wisdom and its pursuers in high esteem. We benefit from this atmosphere which motivates us to pursue education and wisdom, as Judaism clearly places a high value on the importance of learning. Yet as we pursue our studies, it is important to be cognizant of the Torah’s message about the true definition of wisdom. Parshas Tetzaveh teaches us to take care that what we study penetrates our hearts and becomes part of us so that it guides our future actions and makes us truly wise


שבעת ימים ילבשם הכהן תחתיו מבניו אשר יבא אל אהל מועד לשרת בקדש (29:30)

A controversy once broke out when the Rav of a small town in Europe passed away. The leaders of the community wanted to appoint an outsider to take his place, while one of the Rav’s sons argued that he was suited for the position and deserved precedence as the inheritor of his deceased father. The two sides agreed to bring the dispute to the Chofetz Chaim for resolution.

The Chofetz Chaim began by agreeing that Jewish law recognizes that all religious positions, including Rabbinical appointments, are 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 Mashuach 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 was suited for the role is irrelevant to his son’s capacity to inherit and fill the position.

The Chofetz Chaim explained that it was once true that the function of the Rav of a community was purely religious in nature – to render legal rulings and to teach the people – and his children were legally entitled to be offered the position before other candidates were considered.

However, he continued, this has unfortunately changed due to the assault of various anti-religious movements on traditional 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 Gemora rules that the children are not entitled to automatic precedence in inheriting and filling the position of the deceased!


Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!

To receive the full version with answers email the author at parshapotpourri@optonline.net.



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) 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 (Devorim 22:5) against wearing men’s clothing? (Gilyonei HaShas and Ha’aros Al Kiddushin 36b)

3) Rashi writes (28:30) that the Kohen Gadol was able to ask questions to Hashem via the Urim V’Tumim which was inside of the Choshen. The letters forming the answer to his question either lit up or actually protruded. Did they all do so simultaneously, requiring the Kohen Gadol’s knowledge to properly arrange them, or did they sequentially spell out the answer for him? (Ramban, Maharsha Yoma 73b, Peninim MiShulchan HaGra, Ayeles HaShachar, Shiras Dovid)

4) The Brisker Rov asked the following riddle: “What was in the Courtyard of the Mishkan besides that which is mentioned in Parshas Terumah and Tetzaveh?” (Peninim MiShulchan Gevoha)

5) Why is the golden Altar upon which incense was offered (30:1) referred to as a מזבח, which comes from the word זבח (animal sacrifice), when no animals were ever offered on this altar as sacrifices? (Zohar HaKadosh Parshas Vayakhel 219a, Radak and Ibn Janach quoted in Shaarei Aharon, Ayeles HaShachar, Mishmar HaLevi Zevachim 2, Shiras Dovid)


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1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really great blog!

Just thought I'd point out that the pshat of Rav Zev Leff is actually in the Tur al hatorah.

Tue Feb 04, 12:00:00 PM  

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