Parashat Tetzaveh begins with the daily mitzvah given to Aaron and his sons to fill the menorah in the Mishkan with pure olive oil. God commands, “Thou shalt command the children of Israel to use pure olive oil to light the lamps.” Aaron must set this light to burn continuously in the Sanctuary. This sign will serve as a light for God for all generations. The Menorah serves as a symbol of God’s presence and our eternal faith in Him; this light also symbolizes the Torah, which the Jewish people must always keep lit, illuminating the world: their vocation.
God also describes to Moses the special garments that must be used by the Kohanim during the service, woven and adorned with materials donated by the people. However, Moses’ name is not once mentioned in Parashat Tetzaveh. If we look from Moses’ birth to the end of the Torah, this is the only Parashah in which his name is not mentioned. Was it just an oversight? How could the greatest of the prophets have his name forgotten?
It was Moses himself who wanted it that way: the sages explain that it was in response to Moses’ appeal to God, when the people sinned with the Golden Calf: “Forgive them or erase me from Your book”. Although the people were forgiven, Moses’ request was fulfilled through the omission of his name in this parashah. This shows us that speech is powerful: through what we speak we can hurt people and cause mortal wounds in them. The Talmud warns us that a person should not speak ill of himself, because if we do so, others can do so too. So let our speech be used to bless and not hurt.
But let’s go back to the absence of Moses’ name: the name is not mentioned, but we know that God is addressing him “you” – as in this Parashah – there is no doubt that he is the main human character in the narrative. He is more than his name. According to the Midrash, Moses had ten names! And God also has many names. When we think, speak, and pray, we address God in different ways and often use different names, but we all understand that none of these names defines God; they are just a simple way of identifying God in one of his aspects, but we all know that He is not limited by any name.
God knows us by name, but much more by our actions. If it were only for the name I would be lost, after all Nayon Nigel is not something easy to remember, but God knows the hearts of us all. He knows what each one has inside; He sees us not with human eyes, but with the eyes of love. One’s name is not one’s essential identity. We are all much more than a name!
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. By what name(s) do you call God? Which is most meaningful for you and why? 2. Have you experienced God calling you by name? How has this experience been for you?
Bibliography: McKenzie, J.L. Dictionary of the Bible (New York: 1965); Gross, Fernando. “O ciclo de leituras da Torah na Sinagoga: judaismo e cristianismo. (São Paulo: Loyola, 2014).
This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Nayon Nigel Cezar, NDS, Israel, Bat Kol Contributor