Biblical Figures Exemplifying True Leadership

What does it take to be a Jewish leader?

Parshat Titzaveh usually falls out the shabbot before Purim.  What is the connection between the two? How does Titzaveh help prepare us for Purim?

Parshat Titzaveh is the only parsha in the Torah (from Moshe’s birth in P’ Shemot until death in P’ V’zot Habracha) in which Moshe Rabbenu’s name is not mentioned once.  On the most basic level, Titzaveh deals with the בגדי כהונה – the Priestly garments, an area of worship left for Moshe’s brother, Aharon Hacohen.  When Moshe was first selected to be the leader of Bnai Yisrael he was meant to also be the high priest.  However, when Moshe responded to Hashem’s original call for leadership by saying, “send, I pray You, by the hand of him whom You will send” (Shemot 4:13), he lost the priesthood to Aharon. (Sefer Panayach Raza)

On a deeper level, the Baal HaTurim relates the omission of Moshe’s name to a statement he makes after the episode of the Golden Calf.  As a result of the Jewish People’s sinful behavior, G-d reacts by telling Moshe that He will eradicate Bnai Yisrael.  Moshe Rabbenu then responds, if You cannot bare their sin then “erase me now from Your book which You have written.” (Shemot 33:32)  While Hashem does forgive the sin of the people, Moshe’s name is erased from the Torah in one parsha – Parshat Titzaveh.

In a terribly uncomfortable situation, Moshe Rabbenu demonstrated true commitment and loyalty to the nation he was leading.  Unable to comprehend a reality in which he existed without his people, Moshe Rabbenu suspended his entire being so that Bnai Yisrael could perpetuate.  The fact that he was left out of one section of the Torah is a reflection of Moshe’s greatness.

About nine hundred years later a Jewess was also called on to suspend her personal security for the needs of the nation.  Queen Esther, at first, was unmoved by the Jewish People’s lethal predicament.  She even instructed her Uncle, Mordechia, to remove his sackcloth.  Mordechia reacted by telling Esther, do not evade the plight of your people by hiding in the palace.  If you (Esther) “run away” from this death sentence, the Jewish People will be saved from another source and you and your family will “be lost.”

Esther answers her Uncle’s call to action with impressive swiftness and shrewdness.  She immediately rallies the Jewish People in 3 days of repentance, fasting and prayer.  Esther devises and carries out a brilliant plan, attacking the weakness of King Achashverosh.  Most of all, she places her own life in jeopardy numerous times to save Am Yisrael from Haman.  Queen Esther internalized the importance of complete self sacrifice for the survival her people.  The selfless dedication that she demonstrated in a dire situation proved to be a major component in the salvation of the Jewish People.

Moshe Rabbenu during a period of revealed miracles and Queen Esther during a period of “concealment” teach us a powerful lesson of mesirut nefesh or self abnegation. The two stories fall out at one point in the Jewish calendar.  The parsha which lacks Moshe Rabbenu’s name prepares us to understand the remarkable efforts of Esther in the Purim story.  These were righteous Jews from our past; our job is to learn from their example and apply it in the present.

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