Parsha Potpourri: Parshas Tetzaveh


V’atah Tetzaveh (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 (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!

Shivas yamim yilb’shem HaKohen tachtav mibanav asher yavo el Ohel Moed l’shares baKodesh (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, this has unfortunately changed due to the assault of the reform and communist movements on traditional religious 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.

V’asisa Mizbeach miktar ketores atzei shitim ta’aseh oso (30:1)

After instructing Moshe regarding all of the garments worn by the Kohanim and the procedure to inaugurate Aharon and his sons to serve as Kohanim, Hashem commanded Moshe to build a golden Altar for the Mishkan, on which incense was offered twice daily. In Parshas Terumah (27:1-8), the Torah details the requirements and laws governing the copper Altar upon which all other animal offerings were brought. Why was it necessary to build an additional Altar in the Mishkan upon which to offer incense? What unique role did it serve in effecting atonement which could not be achieved through the more traditional sacrifices offered on the copper Altar?

The Kli Yakar explains that when a person sins, it causes spiritual damage to both his body and his soul. The copper Altar discussed in last week’s parsha atoned for the impurities caused to one’s body through his sins. By offering animals on this Altar, atonement was effected for the physical, animalistic body that sinned. This is alluded to by the fact that the copper Altar was three cubits tall, which is the height of the physical body of an average person (Eiruvin 48a).

However, the offering of a mundane animal cannot atone for the damage caused by sin to the lofty, eternal soul. This is the purpose of the golden Altar detailed in Parshas Tetzaveh. The incense that was burned on it twice daily created smoke and a fragrant aroma that ascended heavenward, similar to the neshama, which is also described (Shir HaShirim 3:6) as possessing a sweet aroma due to its good deeds.

A number of the laws and details of the incense and the Altar upon which it was offered symbolically reflect this concept. The incense Altar was one cubit long by one cubit wide, symbolizing with its singular measurements that it atones for the soul, which is unique in its spiritual purpose. It was covered with gold to hint to the tremendous reward awaiting the neshama in the World to Come.

The incense was offered in the morning and in the evening, corresponding to the morning of a person’s life when he is born and his neshama begins to shine like the sun, and to the end of one’s life when his soul departs and his sun sets. The incense service was performed at the time of the cleaning of the Menorah in the morning and the lighting of its candles in the evening, as the neshama is compared to a light (Mishlei 20:27). In the morning, the Menorah is cleaned, symbolizing the importance of improving one’s soul through good deeds and keeping it clean during one’s youth. In the evening, the flames of the Menorah are kindled, symbolizing the time that one’s soul goes up like a flame to return to its Maker. The afternoon incense service atones for the soul so that it should leave the world as pure as when it entered.

Rav Moshe Shternbuch adds that the Gemora in Berachos (43b) teaches that the sense of smell, which enjoys the fragrant aroma of the incense, is associated with the soul. He also suggests that the Kli Yakar’s explanation can help us understand why the Gemora in Yoma (21a) teaches that the Kohen who brings the incense offering becomes rich. Because he disregards his mundane needs to focus on rectifying his spiritual blemishes, Hashem rewards him with physical wealth.

Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1)     Rashi writes (27:20) that the commandment to kindle the Menorah is fulfilled through lighting it until the flame is able to continue burning on its own. In Parshas Beha’aloscha, the Torah repeats this command (Bamidbar 8:2). In addition to repeating the explanation given here, Rashi adds that this teaches that there was a step in front of the Menorah on which the Kohen would stand in order to kindle it. Why didn’t Rashi give this additional interpretation in our parsha instead of waiting to give it much later? (Peninei Kedem)

2)     The Gemora in Yoma (9b) teaches that the first Temple was destroyed for the sins of idolatry, murder, and forbidden relationships. As the Gemora in Zevachim (88b) teaches that the Ephod (28:6-12) atoned for the sin of idolatry, how could the Beis HaMikdash be destroyed for a sin for which the Ephod effected atonement? (Maharsha Zevachim 88b, Melo HaOmer, M’rafsin Igri)

3)     The Gemora in Taanis (2a) teaches that there are three “keys” which are uniquely Hashem’s and which aren’t given over to intermediaries to execute: conception, resurrection of the dead, and rain. Where is this idea hinted to in the Torah? (Peninim MiShulchan HaGra)

4)     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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