There is an unusual feature to the portion of this week, Tetzaveh. Moshe’s name is not mentioned at all. One explanation is that after the sin of the Golden Calf, Moses pleads to God, “Now, if you would, please forgive their sin. If not, You can blot me out from the book that you have written.” You may ask, why is this episode being invoked when we haven’t even read about it yet? (It is read in Ki Tissa, next week.) This teaches us that the narrative of the Torah is not always in chronological order.
But, back to the absence of Moshe’s name in the Parsha. We can surmise that even though God forgave the people based on Moshe’s prayer, still his words were fulfilled and his name erased from one portion of the Torah. It seems that the words of a Tzaddik are powerful and not easily retracted. Another reason given is that Moshe’s Yahrtzeit, 7 Adar, falls this week, and the absence of his name is an appropriate symbol of his passing.
Chassidic sources ask us. “What’s in a name? Who needs a name? Does a person require a name of herself or himself?” They answer, perhaps we don’t really need a name. After all, we each know who we are. So, a name is for others to call us, address us. It’s only an external device, not relevant to someone’s inner worth or identity. The essence of every person is beyond any name or title.
So, why is Moshe’s name omitted? Because he asked for it? Because he spoke with chutzpah before God?
One response is that it should not be looked at as a punishment. Maybe it was Moshe’s finest hour. Since he put his name, his very identity on the line on behalf of his people, showing total commitment to his flock, his actions may have pleased God like nothing else he had ever done.
So, we can look at the Moshe-less Parsha as an ultimate compliment to Moshe. God does address him, but not by name. God speaks to him, Atah, You. God is speaking to Moshe directly in the second person singular. No one else has ever achieved such a closeness with God, an attribute cited later in the Torah, right before Moshe’s passing.
So, Moshe’s name may be absent, but his essence is front and center in Parshat Tetzavah.