Rabbi David Hoffman
Leading With Absence
With the first words of our parashah, we see the shadow, but not the body, of a man.
"V'ata tetzavvah et b'nai yisrael" (Exod. 27:20): "And you shall instruct the children of Israel" in the production of oil for the menorah to be used in the Tabernacle.
Only two verses later we read:
"V'ata hakrev eilekha et aharon ahiekha v'et banav eto" (28:1): "And you shall bring forward Aaron your brother and his sons . . . to serve Me [God] as priests."
Then again in two verses,
"V'ata tedaber el khol hakhmei lev" (28:3): "And you shall instruct all who are skillful" to make the sacral vestments for Aaron the high priest.
Instead of the familiar language of introduction-"And God said to Moses . . . " we find the repeated use of the pronoun you (ata). These uses of the generic atah, one following on the heels of another, call our attention to the name that is not called: Moshe. Indeed, this language introduces a remarkable aspect of our Torah portion. From Moshe's birth until the end of the Torah, this is the only parashah where Moshe's name is never mentioned. Moshe is the principal actor in the undertakings of this reading, and yet his name is never explicitly invoked.
The language of V'ata (and you) is noteworthy and suggestive for a number of reasons. In truth, the pronoun ata is not needed for the sentence. The Torah could easily communicate the same idea with more economical language, employing the command form, tzav-"command the Children of Israel" (see, for example, Leviticus 6:2). This construction does not require the use of a pronoun at all. However, the Torah chooses to address Moshe through the pronoun, indicating his involvement in implementing these instructions, yet also creating a symbolic distance between him and the Children of Israel. He is there, yet he is not fully there.
Secondly, the absence of Moshe's name in these opening sentences is underscored by the presence of Aaron's name. In the same verses that repeat three times in staccato fashion: "V'ata (and you) . . . " (Exod. 27:20-28:3), Aaron's name is mentioned 6 times; by the end of the parashah, Aaron's name appears on 30 occasions. Moshe recedes in this parashah, while Aaron and his sons, who function as the people's priests, step into the spotlight. Strikingly, it is Moshe's very actions-which are performed not from his identity as "Moshe" but from the faceless "you," (ata)-that enable Aaron and his sons to assume their place in the public eye: Moshe's primary tasks in this parashah are to appoint and install his brother as high priest and his sons as priests and to furnish them with the proper vestments for their service.
There is a reading of these events that explains that Moshe was passed over for the high priesthood as punishment. Because Moshe was initially unwilling to assume the role of God's agent at the Burning Bush, God chose Aaron to be appointed high priest (see, for example, Tanhuma Shemini 3). Moshe did not "step up," as it were, to God's request and, therefore, our parashah, with the choice of Aaron as high priest and the absence of Moshe's name, serves as punishment for his unwillingness to answer the call of God.
But I submit that we need not understand this parashah in these terms. Rather, the Torah presents an important lesson of leadership. Moshe has courageously led the Children of Israel.
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for additional insights on this week's parsha and others, visit The JTS Torah Commentary archive: http://www.jtsa.edu
May Their Memories Be For a Blessing
2/6/2014 (6 Adar I)
2/8/2014 (8 Adar I) Wesley Brown
2/9/2014 (9 Adar I)
2/10/2014 (10 Adar I)
2/12/2014 (12 Adar I) Theodore Jacob Levine
2/13/2014 (13 Adar I)
Sol Reichberg Taub
2/14/2014 (14 Adar I)
2/16/2014 (16 Adar I)
2/17/2014 (17 Adar I)
2/18/2014 (18 Adar I)
2/20/2014 (20 Adar I)
Doris Barahal Tron
2/22/2014 (22 Adar I)
2/26/2014 (26 Adar I)
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Friday, February 7th
6 p.m. Kabbalat Shabbat/Maariv, Chapel
Saturday, February 8th
9 a.m. Services, Sanctuary
10 a.m. Supervised Youth Activities, Room 3 for ages 12 and under.
We gratefully acknowledge the following families for sponsoring Kiddush Lunch this week: Rosenbergs, Knoppow/Sapersteins, Levy/Elrom, Wolfs, Citron/Lupovitch, Renee & Jay Kozlowski, Abramsons, Bergers, Febers and Orels.
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To the family of William "Bill" Wolok who died February 6th. Bill will be greatly missed by our morning minyan regulars, and all of our members who always enjoyed his company and humor. Our condolences to Bill's wife Edie and to their entire family. May Bill's memory always be for a blessing.
Purim is just around the corner.
B'nai israel will be participating in a collaborative Purim Celebration with congregations Beth Ahm, B'nai Moshe and Adat Shalom. A flyer with all of the activities being planned will be out soon! Please e-mail Karen Rosenberg
if your 12 and older teens would like to help plan and work at the Purim Carnival. First carnival meeting is Sunday, February 9th at B'nai Moshe. Adults of our teens are needed as well for planning and staffing assistance.
INTERCONGREGATIONAL MEN'S CLUB DINNER
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2014
6 P.M. APPETIZERS AND COCKTAILS, 6:45 P.M. DINNER
ADAT SHALOM SYNAGOGUE
Featuring Charlie Langton, Legal Analyst for Fox Detroit and WWJ. $54.00/person. Please contact Ralph Woronoff (248-487-2600 or Joe Lebovic (313-949-9921) for more information.
JTS GUEST SPEAKER FEBRUARY 19TH
7:30 P.M., TKA/BI SANCTUARY
Upcoming Youth and Family Activities
FAMILY CAMP 2014 MARCH 21st-23rd
Family Night at Minyan, one Sunday/month.
Bring your family to help make minyan at 5 p.m. and enjoy pizza dinner in the social hall following services. MARK YOUR CALENDAR: 3/9 (we will assemble Mishloach Manot for BI seniors), 4/27, 6/1
Upcoming Shabbat Youth Activities
SHABBAT CHILDREN'S WORKSHOP DATES for youth ages 7-12. 30 minutes of tefilla and parsha fun.
11-11:45 a.m., ROOM 9
MARCH 1ST, APRIL 5th, MAY 3 (10:30 A.M.)
JUNE 7 YOUTH SHABBAT
SHABBAT TEEN ACTIVITIES
D'VAR TORAH COCOA CAFE for ages 13-17, 11:00-11:45 a.m., Social Hall
Listen to the D'var Torah in the main sanctuary, then give your take over cocoa and cider. Kiddush lunch following, with Spirited singing and Birkat Hamazon led by teens.
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MARCH 1ST, APRIL 5TH, MAY 3RD
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12 Constance Victor
14 Jeffrey Eisman
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17 Leia Serlin
20 Colton Graub
22 Seymour Manello
25 Sheila Kurland
25 Sharon Rosen
26 Aaron Orel
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"Reflections on the Siddur," with Dr. Mitch Parker
Saturdays, 11-11:45 a.m.
February 8 and 22 March 8 and 22
April 12 and 26 May 10 and 24 June 7 and 21
Mitch will focus on Ashrei, Aleinu, the Kaddish, Adon Olam, Yigdal, Hallel and Birkat Hamazon.
Class meets in the lower level, Room 9.
Lunch and Learn Series
with Hillel Buechler, Ramah Fellow
First Tuesday of every month
Next session: 12:15 p.m., March 4th
Meet at Barnes and Noble on Orchard Lake Road Bring your own lunch. There is no charge to attend. Future Dates: March 4th, Apr8th. Please e-mail Hillel Buechler if you plan to attend.
Shabbat Shiur Series
Shabbat Afternoons, last Saturday of the month following lunch and prior to minha. Shiur (class) will meet in the chapel. All our welcome. There is no charge to attend.
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Refuah Sh'leimah/Wishing a Speedy Recovery.
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Upcoming TKA/BI Joint Opportunities
SOUTH OAKLAND SHELTER
HOUSING OF GUESTS AT TKA/BI,
MARCH 23-30, 2014
TKA will once again be housing guests for one week from South Oakland Shelter. There are many ways to get involved and help. Everyone's help is needed!
B'nai Israel Synagogue is affiliated with USCJ, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.