Questioning faith in the parsha
February 12, 2011 / 8 Adar I, 5771
Modern Author: Joseph Epstein, Family Values
KOSHI: WHAT does Moses’ role in the establishment of Aaron as High Priest mean for their relationship/covenant?
CH 27 v.20 You shall further instruct the Israelites to bring clear oil of beaten olives for kindling lamps regularly. Aaron & his sons shall set them up
IBN EZRA… “You shall further instruct…” The point of the verse is that after Moses sets up the Tabernacle itself, Aaron and his legacy will be the one to bring light to the holy lamps…
RAMBAN… “v’Atah—you ” Throughout the passage, Moses is told “you shall make” in a verb that automatically means “you” without saying it emphatically. The sense is that Moses is responsible, and can have these things made by others. But when it specifies “you” with the pronoun, Moses is being told the task is his alone.
ABRAVANEL… This is not a commandment about lighting the lamps in the Sanctuary [which comes in Leviticus 24, in the appropriate place,] but a remark explaining to Moses why he must be the one to “bring forward Aaron and his sons”
CH 28 v.1 You shall bring forward your brother Aaron, with his sons, from among the Israelites…
RASHI… “And you—bring near to yourself Aaron, your brother…” After you complete the work of the Mish’kan, bring Aaron close.
ABRAVANEL… “Bring your brother…” Do you not realize, Moses, that there is no one else among all Israel as close to your level of prophecy? As 19:24 says: “Come back, together with Aaron, but let not the priests or the people break through.” No one suspected Moses of making this decision on his own, for if he had, he certainly would have chosen his own sons to succeed in the priesthood and not those of Aaron.
RAMBAN… Aaron was the one chosen to be High Priest, but Moses was to bring them forward—to offer them for office—because he, as priest to the priests, would teach them what to do. I alluded in my comment on 6:23 that Aaron was chosen as High Priest. It was in honor of Nachshon, whose sister he married. Though we cannot speak against Moses for marrying a Midianite woman. He was on the run, after all; who would have given him a Hebrew woman to marry? Moreover, Moses was too busy teaching the Israelites the commandments to take on the High Priesthood.
MIDRASH RABBAH… When Moses came down from Mt Sinai and beheld Israel engaged in that unspeakable act, he looked at Aaron who was beating the calf with a hammer. Thinking his brother was a partner in their crime, he was incensed. Whereupon the Holy One said to Moses: ‘I know his intention was for good.’…Thus he was commanded, “Bring your brother Aaron near…”
MIDRASH RABBAH… When God was about to appoint a supervisor over the work of the Tabernacle, He appointed Moses president over the judges and over the people; and so when the Holy One made ready to appoint the High Priest, Moses believed that he would be the one. But God said to him: ‘Go and appoint for Me a High Priest.’ Moses asked: ‘From which tribe shall I appoint him?’ The Divine replied: ‘From the Tribe of Levi…’ And as Moses thought, so beloved is my tribe, God continued, “ So bring forward your brother Aaron, with his sons…”
ALSHECH… Picture Moses’ enthusiasm and involvement with this historic venture—to provide a place for the Presence of God on earth. Contrast this with his extreme disappointment when the command came forth to appoint Bezalel and Oholiab to create the Mishkan and the Holy Ark…Then came the command for him to “bring forward Aaron and his sons” to officiate as Kohanim. Where was he in all of this?….To comfort Moses and redress the balance, the Holy One said: “V’Atah—You yourself…” As if to say, do not worry Moses, “vAtah…” it is really you behind all Israel. You have a greater share in all of this than anyone.
RISKIN…Why is Tetzaveh the only portion in which Moses’ name does not appear, even once?…The Midrashic answer suggests that Moses initiated his own absence. When the Israelites sinned at the golden calf, God’s anger reaches the breaking point and He makes Moses this offer: “Now leave Me alone as my anger shall blaze forth and I destroy them, and make of you a great nation.” [Ex 32:10] Others in his shoes might have taken up God’s offer, but Moses refuses to increase his own glory at the expense of his people… “Forgive them, I pray….if not, blot me out of Your Book as well.” [Ex 32:32] Moses’ selfless willingness for himself to be obliterated as long as his nation prevails, is eternalized by the fact that in one portion of Torah, the master Prophet’s name is ‘missing in action.’ But on an even deeper level, there is a further significance to the blotting out of Moses’ name…For this portion is all about the Priesthood, and—in fact—Tetzaveh is often called Parshat Kohanim—the Portion of the Priests….If the kohanim are supposed to symbolize selfless commitment to God and to the people, they cannot possibly have a better example than Moses, who was willing to have his name removed from Torah for the sake of his people’s future. If any act in Torah can be singled out for demonstrating pure love—for his brother and his people—with no strings attached, it is Moses’ readiness to sacrifice himself for their sake…