Parashat Tesaveh: Is Moshe Mentioned in Parashat Tesaveh?
When studying the weekly Torah portion, we are generally accustomed to analyzing what’s written – the text, the events described, the words that are used, the sequence of presentation, and so on. When it comes to Parashat Tesaveh, however, a lot of attention is given also to what is NOT in the Parasha. Many of our commentators noted the conspicuous absence of Moshe’s name from Parashat Tesaveh, a feature that they found surprising. Ever since the story of Moshe’s birth in Parashat Shemot, he obviously plays a central role and is mentioned in every other Parasha. Moreover, in the opening verse of the Parasha, where God introduces a new set of commands, we expect to find the standard introduction of "Vayedaber Hashem El Moshe Lemor" ("God spoke to Moshe, saying"). Instead, the Parasha begins with the word "Ve’ata" – "And you" – as though specifically omitting Moshe’s name.
The common explanation for the absence of Moshe’s name is that this was the fulfillment of a statement made by Moshe after the sin of the golden calf. God threatened to annihilate Am Yisrael, Heaven forbid, in the wake of that grave incident, and to create a new nation from Moshe. But Moshe pleaded on the nation’s behalf, and insisted that if God refused to forgive the nation for their sin, "then erase me, if You please, from Your book" (Shemot 32:32). Meaning, Moshe did not want to form a new nation if God annihilated Beneh Yisrael. God accepted Moshe’s prayer and spared Beneh Yisrael, but the words of a Sadik have such power that they are fulfilled even if they are spoken on condition. Thus, Moshe’s demand to be "erased" from God’s book had to be fulfilled – and thus his name was omitted from one Parasha, Parashat Tesaveh.
Different theories have been suggested for why specifically Parashat Tesaveh was selected as the Parasha from which Moshe’s name would be "erased." One explanation is that Parashat Tesaveh is read around the time of 7 Adar, the Yartzheit of Moshe Rabbenu, and it is therefore an appropriate context for "erasing" his name. Others note that Moshe requested that His name be erased "Mi’sifrecha" ("from Your book"), which may be read as "Mi’sefer Chaf" – "from the twentieth book." Parashat Tesaveh is the twentieth Parasha in the Torah, and Moshe’s statement was thus fulfilled through his omission from this Parasha.
But there is also another reason why Moshe’s name was omitted specifically from this Parasha. Moshe’s name consists of three letters – "Mem," "Shin, "Heh." The name of the letter "Mem" is spelled "Mem," "Mem"; the name of the letter "Shin" is spelled "Shin," "Yod," "Nun"; and the name of the letter "Heh" is spelled "Heh" "Alef." If we combine all the secondary letters, meaning, all these letters besides the three letters that actually form Moshe’s name, we arrive at a total numerical value of 101. ("Mem" is 40, "Yod" and "Nun" are together 60, and "Alef" is 1.) This is also the numerical value of "Michael," the name of the angel of kindness. Moshe had within him the qualities of this special angel. This is expressed after the sin of the golden calf, when God announced that He would send an angel to accompany the nation to Eretz Yisrael, rather than accompany them Himself (33:2). Moshe begged God to rescind this decree, and God agreed. The angel God wanted to send was Michael, and Moshe was therefore able to avert this decree because he himself had the quality of Michael. He was able to demand that Michael not be sent to the nation because he was like Michael. The angel Michael therefore came to join Beneh Yisrael only later, after Moshe’s death, just before Beneh Yisrael began their conquest of the land (see Yehoshua 5:13-15).
Our Sages also teach us that Michael is the angel of memory. Thus, for example, the Gemara (Hagiga 9) states, "One who reviews his material 100 times is not the same as someone who reviews his material 101 times." The angel of forgetfulness is the Satan himself, who is known by the letters "Samech" "Mem" – which have a combined numerical value of 100. If a person studies his material only 100 times, he is still under the power of Satan, who makes him forget his Torah knowledge. But once a student learns the material 101 times, he comes under the power of Michael – whose name has the numerical value of 101 – and this allows him to retain his knowledge. Moshe was the one who brought us the Torah, and it was therefore crucial for him to have this quality of retention, the quality of Michael, within him.
In many editions of the Humash, the number of verses in each Parasha is mentioned after the Parasha, along with a "Siman" – a word that alludes to this number. At the end of Parashat Tesaveh, it is written that there are 101 verses in this Parasha, and the "Siman" is Michael – which has the numerical value of 101. Thus, Moshe’s name indeed is in this Parasha, albeit in a subtle form. God had to omit Moshe’s name from a Parasha to fulfill his request of "Erase me from Your book," but even so, He did it in a way that Moshe’s name would not be absent entirely. Moshe Rabbenu was so beloved to God that even when his name had to be omitted, it was omitted from a Parasha that alludes to Moshe in a different way – by containing 101 verses, alluding to Moshe’s special "angelic" quality, his resemblance to the angel Michael.