What’s Higher Than Moshe
Sichos in English

Shabbos Parshas Tetzaveh; 9th Day of Adar, 5751
1. This week’s Torah portion begins with the command to light the menora: "And you shall command the children of Israel and they shall bring you pure olive oil for the light to keep a lamp burning constantly. It [i.e., the menora] should be prepared in the Tent of Meeting...from the evening until the morning."

These verses raise several questions: a) Generally, the Torah uses the expressions, "command the children of Israel," "speak to the children of Israel," and the like, when conveying a command. What is the intent behind the expression, "and you shall command the children of Israel," which appears to imply that Moshe himself should be the originator of the command? b) Why must the oil be brought to Moshe when the menora was to be lit by Aharon? c) On the surface, the verse should say "oil to illuminate," not "oil for the light." d) First, the verse speaks about the light (ma’or) in Hebrew and then it mentions lamp (ner). e) The first verse speaks of keeping "a lamp burning constantly," while the second mentions it burning from the evening until the morning." f) The expression to keep burning" ("l’haalos," literally "to raise up,") is not usual. Seemingly, the verse should have said, "to kindle the light."

There is also a problem at the conclusion of the Torah portion, which describes the fashioning of the incense altar. On the surface it would have been more appropriate to mention this together with all the other vessels of the Sanctuary in Parshas Truma. Based on the principle that "the beginning is rooted in the end," there is a connection between the two points. Understanding the opening verse of the Torah portion will lead to understanding why the description of the incense altar was mentioned in this week’s parsha.

The above difficulties can be resolved within the context of another concept. Parshas Tetzaveh possesses a unique dimension, being the only parsha in the Torah from the time Moshe was born onward in which Moshe’s name is not mentioned. Our Rabbis explain that the reason for this omission is that Moshe had asked G-d, were He not to forgive the Jewish people for the sin of the Golden Calf, to "blot me out of Your book which You have written." Since the curse of a wise man will be fulfilled even when it was uttered conditionally [and the condition is not met]," it was in this parsha that Moshe’s "curse" was fulfilled. Although the Torah is associated with Moshe’s name, as the prophet declares, "remember the Torah of Moshe, My servant," and Moshe’s name is constantly mentioned, e.g., "and G-d spoke to Moshe," "and G-d said to Moshe," in this parsha, Moshe’s name is omitted.

The omission of Moshe’s name appears to have negative connotations. Nevertheless, since everything is controlled by G-d, Who is the essence of good, and it is the nature of the good to do good," we can assume that even the fulfillment of Moshe’s request to be blotted out from the Torah contains a positive dimension. Indeed, we are forced to say that it reflects a particularly elevated level.

Although Moshe’s name is not mentioned in Parshas Tetzaveh, the words, "and you shall command," refer to him. Furthermore, "and you" refers to the essence of Moshe’s being, a level higher than that communicated by his name. For a person’s name is not the essence of his being; it is an added dimension to his being allowing him to relate to others. Why does a person have a name? So that others can call him. By himself, he has no need for a name. Before a person is given a name, his essence exists. Even after the name is given, it represents an additional dimension, something other than the person’s essence. "And You," on the other hand, reflects the essence of a person’s being, the dimension that is totally at one with the essence of G-d. Although the name Moshe reflects a very high level, it is merely a name, an addition to the essence of Moshe Rabbeinu’s being. In contrast, "and you" refers to the essence of his being, the dimension transcending all names, the dimension that relates to G-d’s essence. Thus, by using the expression "and you" rather than Moshe’s name, the Torah reveals a higher and deeper dimension of his being.

But if "and you" represents a revelation of a higher dimension of Moshe’s being, how can we possibly say that his request to be "blotted out" of the Torah is fulfilled in Parshas Tetzaveh?

This difficulty can be explained as follows: The essence is above all revelation, not only revelation to others, but also, revelation to oneself. It cannot by revealed in one’s thoughts or feelings. The rationale for this is that every revelation has a particular medium of expression which defines – and thus limits – it. Since the essence is truly unlimited, there can be no medium that reveals it.

Although the essence does not come into revelation, it means that the essence never descends into the limits of the mediums of revelation. It does not mean that the essence never expresses itself. On the contrary, because it is the essence, it transcends both concealment and revelation and therefore, expresses itself – not within the usual mediums and limits of revelation, but as it is – on its essential level.

Based on the above, we can appreciate how, by referring to him with the expression "and you," G-d "blotted Moshe out" of the Torah. Since "and you" refers to the essence, a level that transcends all revelation and names, Moshe – i.e., the existence of Moshe within the context of limitation – is blotted out; it is only the essence of his being that is expressed. And it is through the mitzva of the menora referred to in this verse that this quality is revealed.

This concept allows the resolution of the difficulties mentioned above. However, there is a need to explain one further concept: Lighting the menora is representative of the totality of a Jew’s service. He must kindle "the lamp of G-d, which is the soul of man" with the "light of Torah and the candle of a mitzva." In this manner, his soul will shine with this light, true light, which will illuminate a person’s soul and body and his portion in the world at large, shedding light on people around him. This light will illuminate the entire world, showing how the world is connected with G-dliness, how it is a dwelling for Him, blessed be He.

The potential to carry out this service comes from Moshe Rabbeinu, as implied by the expressions, "and you shall command," "and they shall bring to you." As explained above, "and you" refers to Moshe Rabbeinu’s essence. "Tetzaveh" (command) relates to the word "tzavsa" (connect). When the essence of Moshe connects to the children of Israel, the potential is granted to illuminate the world. Furthermore, the oil is brought "for the light," i.e., we reveal the source of light and revelation, including the ultimate source, G-d’s essence.

This is made possible by being "crushed," i.e., the service of bittul, "my soul will be as dust to all." This grants the potential to "open my heart for Your Torah," for a person to become one with the source of light present within the Torah, G-d’s essence.

This grants the potential "to keep a lamp burning constantly," for light to shine at all times, even within the context of the limitations of this world – time and space. (The latter concept is alluded to by the phrase "from the evening to the morning.")

This concept is relevant to every Jew, because every Jew possesses a spark of Moshe Rabbeinu. Thus, "and you" can refer to the essence of each Jew’s individual soul, the dimension transcending revelation and concealment, and is united with G-d’s essence. This potential, which can also be openly expressed, generates the possibility to carry out our service in all situations.

Based on the above, we can interpret the verses cited previously as follows: "and you" teaches that each person must carry out this service himself. It is not sufficient that he appoint an agent; he must be personally involved. Furthermore, that involvement must relate to the essence of his being, "and you.

Tetzaveh refers to the concept of connection, establishing a bond with one’s worldly environment. A person cannot live with his head in the heavens, preoccupied only with spiritual matters. He must involve himself with his environment. Since the essence of his being is involved in his service, the fact that he establishes a connection with his material environment will not be a hindrance; he will be able to express the highest levels of service on the lowest material plane.

This must be communicated to "the children of Israel," i.e., a person cannot remain content with his own service. Instead, he must reach out to others in the spirit of "And you shall love your fellow man as yourself." This will allow a person "to take to you," to bring everything with which he comes in contact into connection with the essence of his being.

This service involves "olive oil," i.e., taking olives, a bitter food, and transforming it into a positive quality. A person should not content himself with activities that are pleasant and sweet. Instead, he must involve himself with the material aspects of the world, which must be transformed. Through his service, he produces "pure" oil, transforming even these lowly elements and refining them.

This transformation is made possible because one is "crushed," i.e., one’s nature is dominated by the service of bittul, mentioned previously. Through this service one reaches "the light," the very source of light as described above. In addition this service will "keep a lamp burning constantly." In particular, "l’haalos," translated as, "to keep burning," means to elevate. The above service elevates all the elements of our lowly world. "Ner" (lamp) is also significant, for it is numerically equivalent to 250, the number of the limbs of the body plus our two hands. These are the mediums through which a Jew elevates the materiality of this world. This service continues "constantly," and moreover, it is carried out "from the evening until the morning," i.e., it is drawn down into the limits of time. This all comes of a result of the fundamental connection with the level "and you," the essence of a Jew, a potential which transcends all definition.

2. The above concepts also relate to the description of the incense altar in the conclusion of the parsha. One of the reasons why the incense altar is described at the conclusion of Parshas Tetzaveh and not together with the other vessels of the Sanctuary in Parshas Truma is that the incense offering represents a unique service of a more elevated nature than the other services of the Sanctuary. Its place in the Torah at the conclusion of Parshas Tetzaveh parallels its place in the order of the offerings in the Sanctuary, where it was the last of the offerings brought each day. It is last because it reflects the ultimate intent and the perfection of our service.

Ketores (incense) also means "connection," reflecting the connection with G-d established through this sacrifice. In this vein, the Zohar uses the phrase, "b’chad ketira esketrina" (with one bond, I have connected myself). Thus, it reflects a process of essential connection parallel to that explained above in connection with the verse, "and you shall command."

To elaborate: The primary service in the Sanctuary and later, in the Beis HaMikdash, was the offering of sacrifices. The Hebrew word for sacrifice, korban, is related to the word karov (close), i.e., the sacrifices were a process of drawing close to G-d.

The ketores, however, represents a deeper bond. Not only is one close to G-d, one establishes a bond of oneness with Him. Since the soul is invested within the body, there is room to think that oneness with G-d is not an imperative – that although one should approach Him, there is no need to rise totally above the limits of our material world.

The potential to establish such a bond of oneness stems from the service of "and you shall command" described above, the connection with the essence of the soul. As long as we are speaking about a limited dimension of the soul – i.e., any of the five names used to described it – a person’s entire existence will not be bound to G-d. When the connection is established with the essence of the soul, it pervades and permeates every aspect of one’s being, including even one’s material existence.

This is reflected in the ultimate expression of the ketores, the incense offering of Yom Kippur, the day on which the Jewish people in the material world "resemble the ministering angels." On this day, the essence of the soul is revealed within the body.

In microcosm, this level is reflected in the essential connection established through prayer each day, as reflected in the Baal Shem Tov’s statement that "it is an act of great Divine kindness that a person continues to exist after prayer."

3. The above concepts can be connected to the uniqueness of the present date, the ninth of Adar. On that day, the Rebbe Rayatz arrived in America with the intent of establishing his permanent dwelling there, and establishing America as the center for the service of "spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus outward." This reflects the connection between the essential light, "the wellsprings of Chassidus," with the lowest of all levels. Indeed, this date marked the beginning of the primary efforts to spread Chassidus and Yiddishkeit in the outer reaches of the world at large.

The potential for this service is generated by the Moshe Rabbeinu of the generation, the Rebbe Rayatz, whose utter bittul (the level of "crushed" mentioned above) establishes a connection with the essence of the light.

In particular, the present year, the 51st anniversary of the Rebbe Rayatz’s arrival, is significant. We have already completed the first year in the second Jubilee cycle. Reaching this landmark calls for an intensification of our efforts and activities to carry out the service begun on the ninth of Adar. Despite all the activity carried out until now, until the Redemption actually comes and this world is revealed as G-d’s dwelling, the place where His essence is expressed, more activity is required. Each person must do his part in this effort, as reflected in the Rambam’s statement that a person should always see himself as equally balanced between good and evil, and the world as equally balanced between good and evil; and with one good deed, he can bring salvation to himself and to the entire world.


Even the fulfillment of Moshe’s request to be blotted out from the Torah contains a positive dimension...





Since the essence of his being is involved in his service, the fact that he establishes a connection with his material environment will not be a hindrance.


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