Office of the Chief Rabbi

D’var Torah: Parashat Tetzaveh

In this week’s D’var Torah, the Chief Rabbi explains, “Legacy has nothing to do with your name and everything to do with your impact.”

The most important name is missing from the book of names.

This week, in Parashat Tetzaveh, Moshe Rabbeinu is the central figure of the building and the furnishing of the Mishkan – the sanctuary in the wilderness. Yet remarkably, his name does not appear in the entire parasha. Usually, paragraphs begin, “Vayedaber Hashem el Moshe lemor” – “the Lord spoke to Moses saying” etc… But in this week’s parasha, passages commence, “Ve’ata” – and you – “ve’ata Tetzaveh” – you must command – and so on. Clearly Hashem goes out of his way to omit the name of Moshe. Parashat Tetzaveh is always read close to the yartzheit, the anniversary of the death of Moshe, on the 7th of Adar, which took place just a few days ago. So at the time when we mourn the loss of Moshe, his name is absent.

I believe that there is a profound message for us relating to the centrality of names. You see when it comes to legacy, there are some who presume that all depends on the preservation of their name on the lips of others. For as long as people are mentioning and quoting that name, then the legacy remains alive. But that is a mistake. Legacy has nothing to do with names. It has everything to do with impact. Through the seeds that we sow during our lifetime, the harvest can be reaped for all time. That is true legacy and we learn it from another biblical character – Noach.

You know, if one were to ask, who is the father of all mankind? People would say, well that’s an easy questions to answer – it was Adam. But actually I believe there’s a better answer – it was Noach.

After the flood, when life on earth started again, in a far more productive and responsible manner, it was Noach who set the tone for the generations to come. Yet Noach’s name is not readily on our lips.

The reason is evident at the beginning of parashat Noach. There, the Torah declares, “Eileh Toldot Noach” – these are the generations of Noach. “Noach Ish Tzaddik Tamim Hayah Bedorotav et HaElokim Hit’haleich Noach” – Noach was a righteous person, he was perfect in his generations. Noach walked with God.

Where are his generations? Only his good deeds are mentioned. Rashi explains, “Lelamedcha she’ikar toldotehem shel tzadikim ma’asim tovim” – to teach you that the primary descendants of good people are their deeds. Those good deeds of Noach sustained the world and are with us to inspire us to this day.

We may not mention Noach by name but that’s not what matters – it is the impact upon our lives that is with us.

And that is exactly the case with regard to Moshe Rabbeinu and this week’s parasha of Tetzaveh. The name of Moshe may be absent but the Torah that he taught, the values that he imparted, they are with us to this day and that is the essence of legacy. Let us all therefore guarantee that our legacy will remain in this world forever – by living a life of good deeds and setting a fine example to one and all.

Shabbat Shalom.