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MOSES IS ABSENT

by Rabbi Shmuel Weiss
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer

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This week's Torah portion is unique. It is the only one - after the introduction of Moses at the beginning of the book of Exodus - where Moses' name does not appear even once. Why not?

Some commentators suggest that Moses' absence fulfills his earlier request to God to either forgive the Jewish people or "erase me from Your book," (Exodus 32:32); others suggest Moses humbly stepped aside in this week’s Torah portion in order to let Aaron enjoy center-stage in his new role as High Priest.

But here’s another thought. In most years, the reading of Parshat Tezaveh is coupled with Parshat Zachor. Zachor, of course, warns us of the eternal threat of Amalek, our arch-enemy who craves war against God and the Jew.

Moses always reacts instinctively in defense of the Jewish people. From killing the Egyptian to battling Pharoah to wiping out Moav or Midian, Moses unflinchingly defends us. Understanding that Amalek is an existential threat to our very survival, Moses, as it were, puts everything else on hold when Amalek descends; he "leaves" the first reading to fight this despicable, thoroughly evil foe in the second.

Moses absents himself from the regular Torah portion because there is a more pressing "engagement" - the need to engage Amalek in battle. Business as usual cannot go on while Amalek perpetrates his inhuman crimes. Yes, the Mishkan is a supremely important project; yes, there are laws to be given and disputes to be adjudicated. But it will all have to be put on hold until Amalek is destroyed. For if Amalek is allowed to have his way, then life as we know it will end. And without life, what good are the Mishkan and the mitzvot?

Moses is sending a powerful message to all who will listen, to all of us who today are confronting a modern Amalek. We are at war with a thoroughly evil people who blow themselves up in order to murder our children; whose modus vivendi is to see Jews die; who counter our noble love for life with an insatiable lust for bloodshed and death.

With such murderers, there is no compromise, no tolerance, no mercy and certainly no state of their own. Like Moses, we must re-order our priorities. We must lay down our pruning forks and raise up our arms and spirits to battle incessantly against the enemy until they, like their Amalek predecessors, are wiped off the face of this Earth. To do less is cruelty in the extreme.

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Rabbi Shmuel Weiss, a close friend of the Torah from Dixie family, is the director of the Jewish Outreach Center in Rana'ana, Israel.

You are invited to read more Parshat Tetzaveh articles.

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