When The Ship Goes Down

Do you pay extra for a name brand? Some do, personally, I don’t. If the no name brand is of the same quality as the name brand, I am quite happy with it. The name is for others. The brand is for me. Sometimes the no name brand is even better than the name brand and that leads us to our Parshah.

This is the only Torah portion, from his birth until his passing, from which Moses’ name is omitted. The commentaries tell us that this was in punishment for his determined stance with G-d when Jews worshiped the golden calf. G-d wanted to destroy the generation and bring the next generation to Israel, but Moses said, “forgive them, or erase my name from your Torah.”[1] When a man like Moses speaks, it has an effect. Although they were forgiven, Moses’ name was omitted from this one Torah portion.[2]

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On the face of it, this no name portion is a punishment for Moses’ brazen challenge. Although G-d didn’t hold it against Moses, after all Moses was advocating for G-d’s children, it was still wrong. Akin to a captain that chooses to go down with his ship though he has a life boat. We understand the sentiment, but we can’t condone it. Suicide is still suicide. Moses was the captain, the people were his ship, and though G-d promised him another ship, Moses threatened to go down with this one. It is understandable, but not condonable. How can you put your ship above G-d’s Torah?



The Bond

But when you delve into this issue a little more carefully, you discover that this was not a negative. This was not Moses’ worst moment. Ion fact, this was his finest moment for which he was rewarded.

Let’s use an analogy from marriage. The pillar of a family is the love between husband and wife. They married for love and built a family because they loved each other. When the love is challenged and wears thin, the life blood of the family is at risk. Many make the tragic mistake of thinking that they are married only for love and if the marriage is loveless, they want a divorce.

In the beginning stages of a marriage this might make sense. But after decades, husband and wife have come to bond, and divorce is no longer as simple. The couple divorces and instead of happiness, they find misery. They come to discover, that their bond had grown beyond their love. Without love, they still had each other, but without each other, they have nothing. When the other becomes a part of you, you can’t live without them. Dissolving such a marriage can’t be constructive because dissolving the marriage is a quasi dissolution of self.

This realization can draw ex husband and wife back together. In fact, it can refuel their love because if the bond is intrinsic, the love is a spontaneous result. Of course it is best if they reach this realization before the divorce. This way, they can discover their bond without experiencing the misery.

In the analog, the husband is G-d, the wife is the Jew and the Torah is the love. You would think that the role of the Jew is to obey the laws of the Torah and without the Torah there is no bond between Jew and G-d. In truth, the role of the Torah is to express G-d’s innate bond with the Jew.

Beyond Love

When Moses took his stand on behalf of Israel, he was acting like a marriage counselor, cajoling husband and wife to acknowledge the intrinsic nature of their bond before throwing it all away.

The massive betrayal had dissipated the love for the moment, but this bond wasn't about the love. It was about the intrinsic connection. Nothing, not even the Torah, can untwine G-d from the Jew.  G-d didn’t chose the Jew because He needed someone for His Torah, He gave us His Torah because He loves us. Don’t go for a divorce, said Moses. The bond between you and your children is so pervasive, that neither could be happy with a divorce.

They breached the Torah, true. Therapy would be necessary for reconciliation. But don’t throw away your children for your Torah. It is isn’t worth it. If you divorce now, you will be miserable later. Without your children, you will be forlorn. As our sages put it, even since the exile, G-d cries daily, “What made a father exile his children and woe to children exiled from their father’s table.”[3]

If you do this G-d, erase my name from your Torah. The Torah is meant to cement the love between G-d and His children. If it tears the children from their father, I want no part of it. Without your children, of what value is your Torah even to you?

No Name Brand

Seeing that Moses understood the intrinsic bond between G-d and the Jews, seeing that He understood the pain that such a decree would entail, hearing Moses plead on behalf of the nation, did the trick. Not only did G-d forgive the Jews, He rewarded Moses. The reward was a no name portion in the Torah.

Names are for others, they help others reach you. When you are alone, you don’t need a name. The name brand is only important if you want others to be impressed by your choice. For yourself, the no name brand is just as good. In fact, sometimes its even better than the name brand.

For the first eight days of my life, I had no name and I was just fine. Others struggled with how to refer to me. Some called me baby, others called me, him and others called me, it. But I had no problem. My name is the door bell with which you draw my attention. But inside the house, I need no doorbell. That is where the real me, the no name me, resides.

You can explain why husband and wife are together. They love each other, they compliment each other, they share joint custody of their children, these are the names, the words that describe their relationship. The essence of their relationship is beyond explanation. They are together because they are. They are united because they are. This is the no name brand and its much better.

When G-d gave us the Torah it appeared that the Torah was the reason for our relationship. He loved us because we would study His Torah and obey His commandments. Moses reminded G-d that our relationship is a no name brand. It is because it is, which is why it can survive even a grievous sin. For this, Moses was rewarded a no name Parshah. A portion, that speaks not to the name, but to the essence of Moses. A leader that valued his people ahead of his legacy.

Hidden Message

Hebrew letters double as numerals, thus every Hebrew name has a numeric value. The name of this Parshah, Tetzaveh, has a numeric equivalent of 501. Shem, the Hebrew word for name, is 500.[4] The message is that this no name Parshah is higher than the brand name ones. Perhaps this is also why this Parshah has 101, words. One word more, than the most complete number.[5]



[1] Genesis 32:32.

[2] Baal Haturim in the beginning of this Parsha.

[3] Babylonian Talmud, Barachos 3a.

[4] Note that the numeric value of Asher, a name synonymous with the highest form of delight (Osher), is also 501.

[5] This essay is based on Kli Yakar Genesis 27:20 as elucidated in many places including Liokutei Sichos v. 21 p. 173, v. 26 p. 204. Toras Menachem v. 23 p. 31


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