Parsha Tetzaveh is the only one in the Torah after the birth of Moses that does not mention his name. The Baal HaTurim attributes this to Moses’ plea to God on behalf of the Jewish people after the sin of the golden calf: “Now, if You will forgive their sin [well and good]; But if not, erase me now from Your book, which You have written.” The words of a tzaddik (saintly and wise individual) have power, and when Moses told God to erase him from the Torah, God did so by erasing Moses from Parsha Tetzaveh.
This seems like a punishment, which is odd because when Moshe made that plea to God, it was coming from a place of great humility. Moses was willing to sacrifice himself to bring God’s mercy upon the Jewish people. In fact, his tactic worked and the people were saved. So why is Moses being punished?
Rabbi Yissocher Frand explains that the omission of Moshe’s name from Parsha Tetzaveh is not a punishment but rather a tribute to the most humble man who ever lived. Since every other parsha contains Moses’ name, the absence of it in Tetzaveh is felt. Rabbi Frand characterizes it as a “silent testimony” to Moses. But why is Tetzaveh the parsha where Moses’ name is absent? Rabbi Frand again invokes Moses’ humility. The parsha is about the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) and his clothing. Moses’ brother Aaron was the Kohen Gadol, and Moshe didn’t want to steal the limelight from his older brother.
Image: “Moses with the Ten Commandments” by Rembrandt, 1659 (detail)