Reb Yoel Kahn: Selflessness of the Shepherds of Israel

Due to the overwhelming response and demand from the community, Reb Yoel Kahn agreed to present a weekly webcast on topics that are timely and relevant. This week’s topic is titled ‘The Selflessness of the Shepherds of Israel‘.

Reb Yoel Kahn, known to his thousands of students as “Reb Yoel,” serves as the head mashpia at the Central Tomchei Temimim Yeshivah in 770. For over forty years he served as the chief ‘chozer’ (transcriber) of all the Rebbe’s sichos and ma’amorim. He is also the editor-in-chief of Sefer HoErchim Chabad, an encyclopedia of Chabad Chassidus.

In response to the growing thirst of Anash for Chassidus guidance in day-to-day life, Reb Yoel has agreed to the request of Merkaz Anash to begin a series of short video talks on Yomei d’Pagra and special topics.

The video was facilitated by Beis Hamedrash L’shluchim, a branch of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch

When Moshe is Hidden

Parshas Tetzaveh is the only parsha in which Moshe Rabbeinu’s name is not mentioned.

Chumash Bereishis deals with the period before his birth. Chumash Devarim opens by saying, “These are the words that Moshe spoke,” so this covers the whole of that Chumash. We are speaking of all the other parshiyos: from Parshas Shmos through Sefer Bamidbar, Parshas Tetzaveh is the only parsha in which Moshe Rabbeinu’s name is not mentioned. Early sources ask: How could this be?

One answer is that after the sin of the eigel hazahav, the Golden Calf, Moshe Rabbeinu pleaded with Hashem that he should forgive bnei Yisroel, and added: “And if You do not, erase me from Your book that You have written.” That “curse” over himself was fulfilled by erasure of his name from one parsha.And why should that be precisely Parshas Tetzaveh? One answer is that since Parshas Tetzaveh always falls near Zayin Adar, the passing of Moshe Rabbeinu, this parsha alludes to his words, “Erase me from Your book that You have written.”

Here we are struck by a paradox. On the one hand we are told that Moshe Rabbeinu’s name is not mentioned here, but on the other hand, it is stated in seforim that his name is hinted at, thoughbehe’elem, in a hidden manner.

What does this he’elem mean? The Rebbe cites as follows: Every letter appears in two forms: the letter itself, and its milui, which means its filling, so to speak. For example: אלף, the name of the first letter, comprises first the letter alef, and then the letters that fill out that name – in this case, lamed and pei.They are its milui, and they are hidden in the alef. Here, likewise: The name משה is spelled mem-shin-hei. The milui of the letter מ (spelled מם) is ם, whose gematria is 40; the milui of the letter ש (spelledשין) is י and ן, whose gematria, 60, brings us to 100; the milui of the letter hei (spelled הא) is א, whosegematria is 1.

So what is the gematria of the hidden aspect of Moshe? For there is a visible Moshe, and there is a hidden Moshe – the milui of Moshe, which is those implied letters: mem, yud-nun, and alef. True, the visible Moshe does not appear in this parsha. But how many pesukim are there in Parshas Tetzaveh?101 pesukim. And that allusion is the hidden aspect of Moshe. The Rebbe cites this from the Megaleh AmukosWhat is signified by the fact that the hidden name does not appear, while the hidden name does appear?

More Hidden Than Hidden

A more pointed question: What is the revealed name of Moshe? Paroh’s daughter called him Moshe, “because I drew him (meshisihu) out of the water.” In this context, what is so significant about water? And is this fact sufficient reason for him to be called Moshe throughout the Torah, and by all Yidden until the end of all generations?! True, she drew him out of the river. But let us see: What does it all mean? What is the difference between the sea and the dry land? It is written that all the creatures that exist on the dry land exist likewise in the sea. The difference is that those on land are visible; the others are hidden by the sea.

Kabbala and Chassidus explain: Dry land is a code word for alma de’isgalya, the lower world, the lower state of being, which is revealed; the sea is a code word for alma de’iskasya, the higher state of being, which is hidden from mortal sight. Moshe Rabbeinu was drawn from the water. Unlike regularneshamos, which derive from the lower, revealed world, his neshama was drawn from a spiritual level that is hidden, and higher.

And hence the name Moshe.

What is meant when we say that Moshe’s revealed name does not appear in the parsha, but only his hidden name? After all, even his revealed name derives from alma de’iskasya, the hidden world, and even that name does not appear in the Torah. What does this signify?

The Rebbe explains: As was said earlier, the reason Moshe’s name does not appear is that he himself had said, “And if not, erase me from Your book that You have written,” from the Torah – and his entire being was Torah. As the Gemara teaches, “Because he sacrificed himself for it, it carries his name,” as in the possuk, “Remember Toras Moshe, the Torah of Moshe, My servant.” Nevertheless, he said, “Erase me from Your book that You have written.” Why? For the sake of his fellow Yidden, for as precious as the Torah was to him, his fellow Yidden were even more precious.

In this he echoed the Eibershter Himself. The Midrash says: “Two things preceded the world – the Torah and the Jewish people, but we don’t know which of them came first.” The Midrash continues: “Yisroel came first, because it is written, ‘Speak to bnei Yisroel,’ and ‘Command bnei Yisroel.’ ” This shows that Yidden came first: they are even higher than the Torah, which exists only for their sake. The ultimate goal is that Yidden should attain their highest shleimus – and that is why the Torah exists. Thus, just as it is with the Eibershter, so was it with Moshe Rabbeinu.

Obviously, his zeal focused on the Torah, and the Torah was his entire life, but to him, Yidden were even more precious. When he witnessed the sin of the eigel hazahav, which was the utter antithesis of the Torah, he pleaded: “Erase me!” – so long as bnei Yisroel would be preserved intact.

The Essence of Moshe: Bnei Yisroel

Now, does this plea mean that his own existence was to come to an end?! Quite the contrary: that plea embodies his entire essence. As we see, he said, “Erase me,” only in order to save his fellow Yidden. That is what expressed his entire essence.

In other words, what was erased was his revealed name. For what purpose? In order to save the Yiddenbegashmiyus, and also, when they would ultimately do teshuva, they would be saved beruchniyus as well. That was his entire purpose, his entire being – and that is his hidden aspect.

Taking this further, the Rebbe says: The whole parsha is called VeAtah Tetzaveh – “And you shall command.” What does this word VeAtah add? Moshe’s name is not present throughout the parsha.What is present? VeAtah – “your very self.” Not his name, but Moshe himself, his essence.

This likewise applies to ispashtusa de Moshe, the extension of Moshe in every generation, the tzaddikof every generation. We have no inkling of how dearly a true Shepherd of Israel cherishes every single Jew. We have no inkling of how utterly he sets aside every lofty facet of his life to save a fellow Jew, both in gashmiyus and in ruchniyus. As we have seen, Yisroel precedes the Torah, which was given in order that a Yid should maximize himself to the utmost.

Reb Levik’s Sensitivity

We have spoken about how dearly a Shepherd of Israel loves every fellow Jew. For an example of this, let us look again at the above-quoted possuk. Rashi understands its incomplete wording as follows: “If You forgive their sin, [well and good]; and if not, erase me from Your book that You have written.” However, the bracketed phrase “[well and good]” does not appear in the possuk.

Reb Levi Yitzchak, the Rebbe’s father, understood the possuk as follows: When the possibility of (chas veshalom) destroying the Jewish People was first considered Above, the Eibershter told Moshe, “I will make of you a great nation.” Why should He do that? Because to destroy the Jewish People was not an option. After all, Hashem had sworn to the Avos that their offspring would be as numerous as the stars of the sky. The alternative could thus be that He would turn Moshe’s descendants into a great nation. So Moshe thought: A situation that can cause the possibility of destruction to be considered Above must never happen. So he answered Hashem: “Whether You forgive their sin, or whether You do not,erase me from Your book that You have written.”

The Rebbe once cited this teaching of his father’s, in the course of a sicha. I once heard that vort from a person who was present at the time. Let me repeat it as I heard it.

Reb Levi Yitzchak, as the rov of Yekaterinoslav under the Communist regime,

always sought ways and means of encouraging Yidden and lending them strength, and reminding them all of their worth as individual Yidden. On Friday evening he used to address his kehilla on Kabbala andChassidus, and by day he would speak on subjects that were also accessible to the less learned townsmen, nurturing their self-esteem as Yidden and raising their spirits.

On one such occasion Reb Levi Yitzchak said: When Moshe Rabbeinu heard the option that Hashem offered him, he asked himself: What kind of a being am I? Realizing that his own continued existence could possibly lead to the destruction of the Jewish People, he told himself: “You and your existence! Be ashamed of your existence!” – because that option for survival must never happen. So he answered G-d, “Erase me from Your book!” That vort I heard from someone who was present when it was first delivered.

Such a vort makes one realize: No matter which lofty levels the Rebbe is now ascending to, in the greatest heights of Gan Eden or wherever (I can’t exactly say where), now, too, “Just as then he stood and fulfilled his duty, so too now he stands and fulfills his duty.”  Now, too, he refines every Yid, and arouses compassion on every Yid, both in gashmiyus, so that every Yid will fulfill himself by living according to the Torah.


  • 1. dovid wrote:

    yasher koach, reb yoel mamesh mchaya di leben…

    i look forward every week to hear this webcast…

  • 2. thank you wrote:

    i am a simple woman and i enjoy listening to him , it gives me chayoes to go into shabbos and go in to a new week!!

  • 3. Citizen Berel wrote:

    I have sent the last 3 English transcripts to a close Litivisher friend of mine.

    He’s never seen anything like them.

  • 4. K wrote:

    If the opening of Parshas Dvorim covers the whole of that chumash (““These are the words that Moshe spoke”), then the opening of Parshas Truma (“And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying”) also covers all of Truma and Tzaveh, since it is one long dibur from HKB”H to Moshe that spans both parshas..


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