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OK, let's see who is present in the narrative at this point. We see the names of Aaron and his sons Nadav, Avihu (my two favorite crispy critters, as you all know by now,) Eleazar, and Ithamar. Again Aaron's name. More about Aaron. Lots more Aaron. More Aaron than we know what to do with.
But one name is conspicuously absent in this parasha. Moshe. Where'd he go? Well, if we go back to the beginning of T'rumah, and consider that there is pretty much one continuous discourse by Gd to Moses from Exodus 25:1 to 30:10, we see that Moshe is indeed there, but silent and not mentioned. Why?
1. Well, there's the explanation of the Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Eliyahu Ben Shlomo Zalman, that this is prescient of Moshe's death, which, he says, occurred around the time of year Tetzaveh is usually read. Nice idea, but not where I'm headed.
2. There's always those historical-critical theories, Wellhausen's JEDP concept of multiple strands of authorship. That's not where I'm headed either.
We could consider some possible meanings: Gd reminding us that we wouldn't always have Moshe around to deal with things. Gd reminding us that these instructions aren't just for Moshe, but for all of us (although they seem mostly focused on Aharon, his sons, and the ordination of priests.) Perhaps it is Gd reminding us that no matter how important we think we are, we're not indispensable. Or Gd reminding us that all of us are important. All possibilities. But not the one that jumped out at me.
My idea is that Gd is telling us simply to "shut up and listen." That's one darn long oratory by Gd from the start of T'rumah to the end of Tetzaveh. But Moses says not a word. In this way, he sets a great example for us.
If I were to begin to describe my own faults, one that would leap to the front would be that I'm not a great listener. I often interrupt and can't seem to refrain from "putting in my oar." (If you're not a Savoyard, I hope the reference still makes sense.) If I had to stand around for that whole time, listening to that long set of instructions from Gd, I doubt I could have remained silent the whole time. "But...." I would have said, or "How can we...." or "hang on a second, you want us to what?" or "two rams? Why two? Wouldn't three be better?" or "a BLUE ephod cover? Blue? Do you know how hard it is to make BLUE?" or "hey, you gotta explain this Urim and Thummim thing to me." I suspect Gd would have grown so annoyed with my constant interruptions, I'd wind up suffering the fate that Nadav and Avihu would soon suffer.
But Moshe, he just stood there and listened. (Or maybe he was passive-aggressive, and he let his emotions out later? I can just picture it. He takes Aaron and Miriam aside and says to them: "My Gd, oops, excuse me for that, I thought I was gonna die of boredom from that speech! Could you believe it? Who does he think he is, Gd or something? Whoops, he is...well, NEVERMIND," and Moshe goes off muttering under his breath.)
I'm rationalizing. I'm trying to picture Moshe as imperfect as myself. Clearly Moshe had his faults. But being a bad listener was NOT one of them. (The one thing that gets him in dutch with Gd later on isn't a case of not listening, it's a case of not following the directions exactly right-doing more than told-hmmm-somewhat like Nadav and Avihu. There's a parallel I never caught before. Remind me when we get to Chukat.)
We live in a crazy, busy, fast-paced society. Sometimes, in order to feel like our voice is being heard, we feel like we have to speak out at the same time as others. And so we have all this babble. (Hmm, here's another parallel...) There's so much going on at once, we can't comprehend it all, can't remember it. If we don't speak out at the exact moment when it is in our mind, we'll forget it. So everybody is talking and no one is listening. No way to run a society.
Moshe, and, I presume, the whole of Israel, stood quietly and listened to God's entire discourse through T'rumah and Tetzaveh. It's an example we could do well to follow these days. For only through our own silence will we be truly able to hear what others are saying, and maybe, just maybe, we'll also be able to hear that still small voice. Unlike so many who have abandoned any hope that Gd still interacts with us, I still believe. Maybe if I, if we all, could just "shut up and listen" we might have that faith rewarded. Ken y'hi ratson. Ken y'hi ratsoneinu.
To each and every one of you, a quiet Shabbat of listening. A freilechen Purim!
© 2004 by Adrian A. Durlester
Some previous musings on this parasha
Tetzaveh 5763-House Guest
Tetzaveh 5762 (Redux 5760)-The Urim and Thummim Show
Tetzaveh 5761-Aharon's Bells
Tetzaveh 5758-Something Doesn't Smell Quite Right
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