Torah Thought for the Week

The Missing Moses


A seemingly dubious distinction belongs to this week’s Parshah, Tetzaveh (Exodus 27:20–30:10). It is the only reading in the Torah — from the first Parshah of the book of Exodus (in which he is born) until the end of the book of Numbers — where the name of Moses is not mentioned. Tetzaveh’s opening words are V’atah tetzaveh—“And you shall command.” The “you” is Moses, and G‑d is telling him what to instruct the Jewish people. But the verse only says “you”— no name, no “Moses.”


Some explain that the day of Moses’ passing, 7 Adar, almost always occurs in this week, and the absence of his name is an appropriate symbol of his demise. Others suggest that it is as a result of Moses’ own words. Remember the golden calf episode? The people had sinned, and G‑d was going to wipe them out and start over again with Moses and his own dynasty. Moses defended his errant flock before the Almighty, arguing for their forgiveness. And if not? Well, Moses used some very strong words there. “Mecheini na misifrecha — erase me from Your book that You have written!” Moses himself said that his name should be erased from the Torah if G‑d would not forgive His people. So, even though G‑d did forgive them, the words of a tzaddik (perfectly righteous person) are eternal and leave an impression. The effect of those words, therefore, was that somewhere in the book, in the Torah, his name would be erased. Moses would be missing where he normally should have appeared. Thus it is that in the week when we remember his passing, Moses’ name is gone.

Sign Up for E-News

So say a variety of commentaries. But, characteristically, the chassidic commentaries, reflecting the inner dimension of Torah, go a step further —a nd deeper. What’s in a name? they ask. Who needs a name? Does a person require a name for himself? Not really; he knows who he is. So, a name is essentially for other people to be able to attract his attention, so they can call him, address him, etc. In other words, a name is only an external handle, a vehicle for others to identify or describe a person; but it is all outside of the person himself and peripheral to his own true, inner identity. Names are secondary to the essence of an individual. The essence of every person, who he or she really is, is beyond any name, beyond any title.

So, why is Moses’ name not mentioned? Because he said “Erase me” after the golden calf? Because he spoke with chutzpah before the Almighty? You think it is a punishment? Not at all, says the Rebbe. On the contrary, this was perhaps the greatest moment in the life of our greatest spiritual leader.

What would we imagine to be Moses’ finest hour? Receiving the Torah? Leading the Jews to the Exodus? Splitting the sea? Would you be shocked if I told you it is none of the above? Indeed, Moses’ finest, most glorious, absolutely greatest moment on earth was when he stood his ground before G‑d, pleading for his people, fighting for their forgiveness. His most brilliant, shining hour was when he put his own life and future on the line and said: “G‑d, if they go, I go! If You refuse to forgive these sinners, then erase my name from Your holy Torah!” It was through Moses’ total commitment towards his people that the faithful shepherd saved his flock from extinction. And G‑d Himself was pleased with His chosen shepherd’s words, and acceded to his request.

So the absence of Moses’ name this week, far from being a negative, carries with it a profound blessing. It does not say the name Moses, but v’atah — “and you.” A name is only a name, but here G‑d talks to Moses in the second person directly. You. And the you represents something far deeper than a mere name; it is the you symbolizing the spiritual essence of Moses. And what is that essence? His unflinching commitment to his people, come what may—even if it be at his own expense.

This is the very soul of Moses, the faithful shepherd. The you that goes beyond the superficial, and beyond what any name could possibly encapsulate. It represents the deepest core of his neshamah, deeper than any appellation or detailed description could hope to portray.

Moses’ name may be missing, but his spiritual presence is felt in a way that no name could ever do justice to. May all our leaders take note and be inspired.


The Union County Torah Center - Chabad is a Jewish educational outreach center and synagogue serving Union County with Shabbat & Holiday services, Hebrew School & youth programs &  Adult Education. The center is not membership oriented and is open to the public. 

Rabbi Levi Block can be reached at

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Driver Escapes Icy River After Car Goes Off GSP Near Clark/Cranford Border

March 21, 2018

CLARK, NJ — A car went off the road and into the river on the northbound Garden State Parkway between the Clark and Cranford exits during Wednesday night’s snow storm.

According to Clark’s chief of police, Pedro Matos, the car’s driver managed to escape the water — divers went into the river and determined the car to be empty. The sole occupant was ...

Mayor Brindle’s Update, Feb. 13

March 14, 2018

The following are highlights from the update that Mayor Shelley Brindle gave at Tuesday night’s town council meeting.

Last week’s back to back nor’easters left a wave of destruction that Westfield hasn’t experienced since Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Three thousand homes lost power. Over 40 roads were closed due to downed wires and/or trees. Our police responded to ...

Upcoming Events


Fri, March 23, 12:00 PM

Resolve, Scotch Plains

Free Teen Anxiety Group (Ages 14-17) at Resolve


Sat, March 24, 10:00 AM


March for Our Lives - Westfield

Government Law & Justice

Sat, March 24, 10:00 AM

Burent Middle School , Union

Union County Wide - March for Our Lives

Government Law & Justice

Westfield Police Blotter: More Than $2K Worth of Items Reported Stolen from Business, & More

March 21, 2018

March 11, 2018 6:42 p.m.

Marion Bethea, age 56, of Roselle, was arrested on the strength of an outstanding warrant for her arrest from Columbia Municipal Court in the amount of $500 pursuant to a motor vehicle stop. Subject was processed and released on recognizance.


March 16, 2018 11:16 a.m.

Blas Barquin, age 34, of Cranford, NJ, was arrested on the strength of an outstanding ...

All Are Invited to Learn More about Youth & Family Counseling Service

March 21, 2018

Youth & Family Counseling Service (YFCS) has been helping area residents coping with mental illness, substance abuse and behavioral health issues since 1918. As a celebration of 100 years of service, all are invited to a gathering on Sunday, April 8, from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Community Room of The Pointe at Garwood.

Started 100 years ago as the Mission of Help by St. Paul’s ...

'Trying' explores age, youth and points of history in poignant production

‘Trying’ explores youth, age and points of history in poignant production

By Liz Keill

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The George Street Playhouse presents an engrossing, two-character play based on the real life of Francis Biddle, former Attorney General.

Biddle, a Harvard educated lawyer, served under Franklin Roosevelt and later Harry Truman during the Nuremberg Tribunal. His ...

Can I Change My Partner?

March 21, 2018

Couples oftentimes look to change the “other.” “If only” the other would make these changes, or do as I say, our relationship would be great. We tend to focus on the other. We tend to focus on changing the other. We tend to focus on the other’s negative behavior. Couples like to report what their spouse/partner is doing and how they are ...

16 Homes Sold Last Week in Westfield, Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Mountainside & Cranford

Sixteen homes sold last week, March 11 to March 18, 2018, in Westfield, Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Mountainside and Cranford:*


TOWN        ADDRESS                  STYLE           RMS    ...

Charitable Spirit Alive and Well in Westfield Public Schools

Students, staff and parents in Westfield Public Schools continue the district’s long tradition of helping others both in and outside of the community, with a number of students recently recognized for their efforts.

Fifteen Westfield High School juniors and sophomores were honored by the Community Food Bank of New Jersey for collecting more than 5,000 pounds of food items for families in ...


AtlantiCast: Episode 13

On this episode of AtlantiCast, new clinical studies in the fields of cardiology and immunotherapy, national and statewide recognitions for Atlantic Health System medical centers and the inaugural AtlantiCast Collab Challenge!


The Day After

Some years ago, the United Nations held the International Summit on Sustainable Development, here in Johannesburg. The Summit was a great success. One wonders, though, whether all the wonderful decisions and resolutions that were adopted were ever implemented. In other words, were they themselves sustainable?

Good ideas and worthwhile projects are suggested regularly. The question is, do they ...


Kathleen Marie Christian (nee Helmstetter), age 73 of Surf City, NJ, passed away peacefully at home ...
Read more

Suspended Hillsborough HS Athletic Director Charged with Theft

March 19, 2018

HILLSBOROUGH, NJ — Suspended Hillsborough High School Athletic Director Michael Fanizzi has been arrested and charged with the theft of $10,704 in athletic event receipts over a four-year period from 2013-2017, according to Somerset County Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson.

Fanizzi, 53, a resident of Conover Way in Hillsborough who had been athletics director for 14 years, had been ...