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Your Essence – Everything That Makes You, You

By: Atara Starr

I would like to share the following thoughts in memory of Ori Ansbacher HY”D.

Parshat  Tetzaveh is the only Parsha since the birth of Moshe until the end of Sefer Devarim where there is no mention of Moshe’s name.

The Baal HaTurim notes that this is a result of Moshe’s famous words:

מחני נא מספרך אשר כתבת״[1], “erase me from your book that you have written”

as he begs for the forgiveness of Hashem on Bnei Yisrael’s behalf after the sin of the Golden Calf. Even though Hashem does forgive Bnei Yisrael after חטא העגל, the sin of the Golden Calf, says the Baal HaTurim: קללת חכם אפילו על תנאי באה, the curse of a wise man, even if conditional, comes true - and Moshe’s words do come true in this week’s parsha.

It is important to note that just because Moshe’s name does not appear in the parsha, it doesn’t mean that he is not present. On the contrary! Our parsha starts with the command: ״ואתה תצוה״, “and YOU command”. Even though it doesn’t mention Moshe by name we all know that it is really Moshe that is being referred to here. The Kli Yakar states that the language of “You” comes to tell us that Moshe is meant to command Bnei Yisrael ״ממהות עצמיותך״, from his essence which, if anything, is even greater than his name!

Why would Hashem choose to fulfill Moshe’s request to be erased from the Torah in such a way that his “disappearance” is really alluding to his essence and his depths? We must also ask: why now!? What does Moshe wanting to be erased from the Torah have to do with the contents of Parshat Tetzaveh, all inyanim related to the development of the mishkan?

R’ Menachem Mendel Schneerson[2] in his sichos shares a deeper understanding of Moshe Rabbeinu’s request to be removed from the Torah. When Moshe said the words מחני נא מספרך according to Rashi he had fully intended on being erased from כל התורה כולה, from the entire Torah. Says the Lubavitcher Rebbe: Moshe’s entire being is connected to the Torah and the Torah is connected to him. The thought alone of being erased from Torah, let alone voicing those thoughts and meaning them, pained Moshe to his core - to his essence.

How could Moshe willingly offer to give up the core of his existence? And for what? For the sinners of Klal Yisrael who tried to serve a golden calf so soon after hearing from God themselves not to serve avodah zara!? Could it really be worth it?

In order to answer these questions we must understand Moshe’s relationship with his nation. Says Rashi[3]: משה הוא ישראל וישראל הם משה – Moshe is Israel and Israel is Moshe. Moshe’s essence is also so deeply connected to his people to the point that they can not be separated. The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that when Bnei Yisrael sinned at Har Sinai and experienced a decline in their spirituality, Moshe experienced that same sense of decline within himself. There is no way whatsoever that Moshe could be included in the events that took place below the mountain while he was studying with God! And yet, he cared so deeply for his nation that he felt so deeply for them and experienced their pain and their failures as if they were his own.  The connection that Moshe feels with Am Yisrael is even greater than his connection to the Torah.

The fact that Moshe is willing to give up his entire self (aka the Torah), for the sake of Am Yisrael shows the tremendous mesirut nefesh for Klal Yisrael, and more specifically for every single Jew no matter what his or her connection to Torah may be - even the greatest sinners of the generation. When Moshe makes the request to be removed from Torah what he is really requesting is that if there is no place for the teshuva of this nation in the Torah, then remove me from Torah as well for I stand with Bnei Yisrael. My connection to them runs deeper.

With this understanding we can return to our parsha. Hashem commands Moshe: ואתה תצוה “and you command”.  You - meaning your essence - everything that makes you you.  תצוה: says the Rebbe: מלשון צוותא וחבור, simply translated - as a commandment that brings about connection[4].  Only Moshe, in his true essence with so much love for Am Yisrael can truly connect all of his people, even the sinners, through his commandment.

The parsha continues with Moshe educating Aharon and his sons about their duties:

ואתה הקרב אליך את אהרן אחיך ואת בניו אתו מתוך בני ישראל לכהנו לי אהרן נדב ואביהוא אלעזר ואיתמר בני אהרן. ועשית בגדי קדש לאהרן אחיך לכבוד ולתפארת…[5]

You shall bring forward your brother Aharon, with his sons, from among the Israelites, to serve Me as priests: Aharon, Nadav and Abihu, Eleazer and Itamar, the sons of Aharon. Make me sacral vestments for your brother Aharon, for dignity and adornment…

Moshe plays no role in the kehuna and yet he still appears as the main player in the commandments to Aharon and his sons: and you bring, and you make etc. Aharon’s essence was one of kedusha, one who was intrinsically connected to the mishkan. By nature, therefore, he could only truly connect to those true עובדי ה׳, servants of God, who also connected to the mishkan. But with the involvement of Moshe(‘s essence) - ואתה הקריב וגו׳, Aharon would learn to reach all of Am Yisrael through his avodah in the mishkan.

It is in this week’s parsha that Moshe’s name is removed, not as a punishment, rather as the greatest insight into the depths of his soul to show us his eternal connection to his fellow Jews and his ability to reunite Am Yisrael post חטא העגל, the Golden Calf, no matter what their individual connection to Torah may be. Moshe demonstrates a mesirut nefesh for his people that Aharon must learn from and even more so, that we must learn from. Moshe has redefined ואהבת לרעך כמוך - Love thy neighbor as thyself. “כמוך” is our true self, our deepest self. Moshe teaches us to love our fellow Jews as much as, and even more than, the essence of who we are as individuals.

This past week we experienced a great loss to Am Yisrael. I want to share just a few of Noa Ansbacher’s words about her daughter Ori a”h:

It’s important for us that the world know who Ori was. Ori was a child of light, who added so much light to the world. She cured broken hearts wherever she went, be it with her girlfriends, the boys and girls she worked with in her national volunteer service, even with people she did not know....

I ask from those who are listening to us and for those whom our words are entering their hearts, to do one small thing to add light to the world — one act of kindness — and maybe we will preserve Ori’s soul in the world and maybe we will have some comfort by adding light to the world.

Let us draw inspiration from Ori to do our best to spread more light and through the study of this week’s parsha may we be zoche to  learn from the depths of Moshe Rabbeinu’s soul about what  it really means to be moser nefesh for our fellow Jew.


[1] כי תשא לב:לב

[2] אוצר ליקוטי שיחות פרשת תצוה: חסידות בפרשה

[3] חוקת כא:כא

[4]This is the same language as  מצוה -  mitzvot are commandments that are meant to help us connect to HaKadosh Baruch Hu and to ourselves.

[5] שמות כח: א,ב


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