Essential Anonymous Author (Ki Tisa)

Essential Anonymous Author (Ki Tisa)

The cult of individuality and personality, which promotes painters and poets only to promote itself, is really a business. The greater the genius of the personage, the greater the profit. -George Grosz

Last week’s Torah reading, the Torah reading of Tetzave, is notorious for not mentioning the name of Moses throughout the reading portion. It’s an unusual phenomenon, given the fact that Moses is the intermediary throughout these commands. Readers have become accustomed to the mantra-like repetition throughout much of the Five Books of Moses of the verse “And God spoke to Moses saying.” However, in Tetzave, this ubiquitous phrase, as well as Moses’ very name is conspicuously absent.

There is a Midrash that explains a possible reason, traced back to this week’s reading. The nation of Israel famously forces Aaron to construct the Golden Calf which they then proceed to worship, against God’s freshly delivered Ten Commandments. God threatens to destroy the Jewish nation in punishment. Moses intercedes, begs God for mercy, and in an unusual argument, he tells God to erase his name from God’s book. God responds that he won’t erase Moses’ name, but rather that of those who have sinned so blatantly against God.

The Midrash explains that the absence of Moses’ name from last week’s reading is a small reminder or even punishment for Moses’ suggestion that his name be erased.

The Chidushei HaRim on Exodus 32:32 has a completely different explanation for why Moses’ name isn’t mentioned in the portion of Tetzave. He states that when one toils in studying the Torah, in unlocking its secrets, in transmitting Torah to others, then indeed, a person merits that the Torah lesson should be repeated in their name, that the agent of transmission should be remembered by name. However, there is an entirely different level of Torah transmission. There is the level when a person is willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good. When Moses stood up to God to protect the Jewish nation from His wrath, when Moses was willing to be erased from the Book that he was so integral in its transmission, then Moses ascended to the level of not just being a transmitter of the Torah, but of being part and parcel of the Torah.

In a sense, Moses, by his sacrifice, became so integral to the Torah that his individuality was subsumed by the Torah, and he ceased for that period of time to exist independent of the Torah. His integration with the Torah was so profound that his name became unnecessary. For those verses and chapters where he’s not named, he was one with the Torah, so it became extraneous to name him.

May we find ways to learn, transmit and attach ourselves to the Torah, at all levels.

Shabbat Shalom,



To the Ariel family of the Kadima-Zoran community in Israel for being blessed with growing the largest strawberry in the world:

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