Parashat Tetzaveh: Our Teacher

By Rabbi James Stone Goodman

You asked me why Moses our teacher

was not present in the story this week.

He is present, I said, but hidden –

or quiet, I said,

he is the you in the first line [Ex.27:20]

Now you shall command the children of Israel

then he recedes to where he lives

– the heart of the story

the quiet center.

For all the qualities we could remember him for –

we remember him for humility, you said.

Moses our teacher is an empty vessel, I said,

plenty of room for God.

He also leaves room for his students

he recedes so creativity can happen

there is no place empty of God

the vessel cannot be too empty

but it can be too full.

No room for God in a vessel too full,

you said.

So he does not come into the Land, I said,

and he does not preside over the sanctuary –

two activities of expressed leadership.

He presides elsewhere

the spiritual center –

none of our story could have happened

without him.

We know, you said,

the difference between

what is rooted

and what is derivative –

what is source

what is appearance –

what is heart

what is skin.

D’var Torah

Rabbi James Stone Goodman serves Congregation Neve Shalom and is a member of the St. Louis Rabbinical Association.