Adapted from
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XV, p. 34ff;
Vol. XVI p. 204ff; Vol. XXI, p. 173ff;
Sefer Maamarim Melukat, Vol. VI, p. 129ff

A Leader’s Commitment

Leadership involves self-sacrifice. Everyone understands that to receive you have to give, but true leadership is above this type of barter. A genuine leader rises above self-concern entirely. He identifies totally with his people and their purpose, and is willing to give up everything for them.

Moshe Rabbeinu epitomized this type of leadership. When G‑d told him that He would destroy the Jewish people because of the sin of the Golden Calf, Moshe responded:1 “If You would, forgive their sin. And if not, please obliterate me from the book You have written.”

By making this statement, Moshe offered to sacrifice more than his life; he was willing to give up even his soul. “The book You have written” refers to the entire Torah.2 Although Moshe is identified with the Torah,3 “he dedicated his soul for it,”4 he was, nevertheless, willing to sacrifice his connection with the Torah for the sake of Jewish people.

Why? Because Moshe is one with the Jewish people. “Moshe is Israel, and Israel is Moshe.”5 However deep his connection with the Torah, Moshe’s connection with the Jewish people was deeper.6

This bond connects Moshe to every single Jew, regardless of his level of Divine service.7 For whom was Moshe willing to sacrifice everything? For all the Jews, including those who had been party to the worship of the Golden Calf. Regardless of what they had done, Moshe’s commitment to them remained unchanged. Since that connection stemmed from the essence of his being and touched the essence of their being their conduct, however far removed from the spirit of Moshe’s teachings, could not sever the bond between them.

Three Prototypes of Righteous Conduct

Our Sages compare three righteous men:8 Noach, Avraham, and Moshe. Noach was himself totally righteous, but showed little concern for the people around him. He spent 120 years building an ark to arouse the people’s curiosity, and would tell them of the need to repent if they asked.9 But nothing more. He didn’t seek to influence his neighbors to change their conduct, nor did he pray that G‑d avert the coming of the Flood.10

Avraham, by contrast, sought to improve the people among whom he lived. On the verse:11 “He proclaimed there the name of G‑d, eternal L-rd,” our Sages comment:12 “Do not read vayikra ‘he proclaimed,’ but vayakri ‘he made others proclaim.’ ” Avraham publicized G‑d’s presence and motivated others to call on Him. Moreover, when G‑d told Avraham that He was going to destroy Sodom, Avraham prayed for the city, even challenging G‑d:13 “Will You wipe out the righteous and the wicked?… It would be sacrilege for You… to kill the righteous with the wicked…. Shall not the whole world’s Judge act justly?”

Moshe, however, showed an even more encompassing commitment. Avraham’s prayer was for “the righteous.” Moshe, by contrast, prayed for the Jews after the worship of the Golden Calf. As leader of his people, his commitment extended to every Jew, even to those whose conduct stood in direct opposition to his own values. It was for the sake of these people that Moshe asked G‑d to relent: “If not, please obliterate me from the book.”

Deeper than a Name

Our Sages state:14 “A curse uttered by a wise man, even when conditional, becomes manifest.” On that basis, our Rabbis explain15 that even though G‑d accepted Moshe’s prayer for the Jews, the malediction he pronounced on himself had an effect. Moshe’s name is mentioned in every Torah reading from Parshas Shmos (which describes his birth) until the Book of Deuteronomy which conveys his farewell addresses with one exception: Parshas Tetzaveh. In this reading, Moshe’s name in keeping with his request was stricken out.

This does not, however, mean that Moshe is not associated with Parshas Tetzaveh. On the contrary, a name reflects merely that dimension of a person which relates to others. The essence of a person, who he really is, is above his name. Parshas Tetzaveh does not mention Moshe’s name, but communicates an aspect of his being which cannot be expressed in a name.

Moshe’s self-sacrifice for the Jewish people stemmed from the essence of his being. It is this fact which Parshas Tetzaveh brings to our attention.

Interrelated Bonds

These concepts are reflected in the opening phrase of the Torah reading:16 VeAtah tetzaveh es bnai Yisrael, “And you shall command the children of Israel.” Tetzaveh, translated as “command,” relates to the word tzavsa, which means “connection.” The verse charges “you,” the very essence of Moshe,17 to connect with every Jew.

The connection displayed by Moshe echoes within the Jews themselves, joining our entire people even those on the lowest levels together as one entity. Simultaneously, our connection with Moshe links the Jewish people to the Or Ein Sof, G‑d’s infinite light.18 Moshe serves as a “shepherd of faith,”19 sustaining and nurturing the Jewish people’s faith in G‑d by prompting the expression of the essential bond we share with Him.20

The two descriptions of the bonds evoked by Moshe are interrelated. By revealing the G‑dly potential which every Jew possesses, Moshe established bonds among the Jewish people. For it is only by highlighting a shared spiritual resource that true unity can be established.21

So that an Eternal Light Will Shine

The above concepts relate not only to the name, but also to the content of the Torah reading. Although the reading focuses on the priesthood and Aharon’s service, Moshe’s influence was necessary to lift Aharon’s service to a level it could not reach on its own.

This is reflected in the continuation of the charge to Moshe:22 “And they shall bring you clear olive oil, crushed for the lamp.” One might ask: why should the oil be brought to Moshe? It was Aharon who kindled the menorah.

The answer is found in the continuation of the verse, “to raise an eternal light.” Aharon has the potential to kindle Divine service and inspire people with light and warmth, but for the flame to burn as “an eternal light,” “from evening until morning,”23 Moshe’s influence is necessary. For it is Moshe that enables every Jew to tap his innermost spiritual resources and maintain a constant commitment.

For similar reasons, as the Torah reading continues to relate, the investiture of Aharon and his sons was performed by Moshe. For the seven days of the initiation of the altar, Moshe served as a priest. His service set the standard for Aharon’s subsequent efforts.24

The Agent of Redemption

With regard to Moshe, our Sages state:25 “He is the first redeemer, and will be the ultimate redeemer.” Redemption is the natural result of the arousal of the essential connection of man to G‑d and man to man. Our Sages explain26 that the redemption from Egypt could have been the ultimate redemption. Had the Jews’ sins not prevented Moshe from leading the people directly into Eretz Yisrael, there never would have been another exile.27

Similarly, in subsequent generations, it is the men who act as “extensions of Moshe Rabbeinu” who infuse the yearning for redemption among our people, uniting us in the desire for Mashiach’s coming. These efforts serve as an “eternal light,” guiding our people and mankind as a whole to the ultimate goal.