The Midrash teaches that Moshe Rabbeinu wanted to be Kohen Gadol, despite his position as facilitator of the Torah to Klal Yisrael. Imagine being the conduit through which our nation received the Torah. Yet, Moshe apparently wanted more; he sought the Kehunah Gedolah, High Priesthood. Hashem told Moshe, “I gave you the Torah. It was mine, and I gave it to you.” This was supposed to placate Moshe. How? Moshe did not deny his lofty plateau as the nation’s quintessential Rebbe; he wanted the Kehunah Gedolah – also!
In his Shemen HaTov, Horav Zev Weinberger, Shlita, quotes the Talmud in Sotah 21a, which cites the pasuk in Mishlei 6:23, Ki ner mitzvah v’Torah or, “For candle is a mitzvah and Torah is light.” Apparently, the light of Torah is more powerful than the light emanating from a mitzvah. The Talmud observes that an aveirah, sin, has the power to extinguish the light created by a mitzvah. Torah, however, cannot be extinguished by an aveirah. Furthermore, a mitzvah serves as protection for a person only while he is performing the mitzvah. Torah has the power to protect the individual even when one is not studying.
We derive from this that the spiritual plateau achieved by one who studies Torah is more exalted than one who performs a mitzvah. Torah study is pre-eminent and greater than any other
spiritual endeavor. Moshe represented Torah since, after all, Hashem gave the Torah to the Jewish People via the medium of Moshe. Aharon represents the light of a mitzvah. Moshe argued that if he were to be Kohen Gadol and the Rabban shel kol Yisrael, Rebbe of the entire nation, the level of Kehunah would be so exalted that no sin would have the power to abrogate it. Indeed, in his commentary to Parashas Pikudei, Sforno writes that the reason the Mishkan, unlike Shlomo Hamelech’s Bais Hamikdash, never fell into the hands of our enemies is that Moshe constructed the Mishkan. Moshe’s edifice would endure forever. Had he been the Kohen Gadol, however, that institution would have survived the test of time and the vicissitudes of life.
Rav Weinberger observes that the Mishkan and Bigdei Kehunah, Priestly Vestments, were all one step removed from Moshe and Klal Yisrael following the Giving of the Torah. This is very much like the comparison the Midrash makes to a king who became angry with his queen. Despite divorcing her, he continued to send her jewelry and trinkets with which to adorn and beautify herself. Otherwise, there was very little chance that she would once again find favor in his eyes. After their committing the sin of the Golden Calf, Hashem instructed them to construct the Mishkan, Mizbayach, Bigdei Kehunah – all in order to return to Hashem’s favor once again. Moshe’s spiritual level transcends even this. The sin of the Golden Calf had no effect on his level. Thus, he argued for the Kehunah Gedolah, so that the effects of the chet ha’eigel, sin of the Golden Calf, would be limited.
In his commentary to the beginning of the parsha, the Baal HaTurim notes that this parsha is the only parshah in the Torah, since Moshe’s birth, in which his name is not mentioned. He attributes this to Moshe’s declaration, Mecheini na miSifrecha, “Erase me (my name) from Your Book.” Parashas Tetzaveh most often falls out around the seventh of Adar, which is Moshe’s yahrtzeit. Since he demanded his name be erased, and the words of a tzaddik, righteous person, may not be ignored, Moshe’s name was “erased” from one parsha. What more appropriate parsha than the one which coincides with his yahrtzeit?
Applying the above distinction between Torah and mitzvah, Moshe was alluding to Hashem, “If You will ‘carry’ their sin [Golden Calf] – (which means that Hashem would expunge the sin as if it did not occur), then I can continue to be their leader. If not (if the sin of the Golden Calf remains in its glaring reality; if the Jewish People will thus descend from the spiritual level acquired during the Giving of the Torah), then I can no longer be their leader. Erase me from Your Book.” They were no longer on the madregah, spiritual level, of Torah; they were now on the level of mitzvah, which was reserved for Aharon. Moshe’s name no longer applies in Parashas Tetzaveh, since this parsha addresses the function of Aharon and the Kohanim.
Rav Weinberger takes this idea one step further, as he delineates between the function of Kohen and Navi, Prophet. Indeed, we find nowhere a set of vestments specifically endemic to the Navi; the Kohen, however, does have special holy vestments. Another distinction applies to each individual mission. The Kohen is involved in today – addressing the needs of the nation in the “here” and “now.” The Navi speaks to the future, foreshadowing what will be, what the nation should do to circumvent what might occur as a consequence of the present behavior. In other words, the Kohen is limited in his spiritual venue; the Navi is not. The common denominator between them is the talmid chacham, Torah scholar.
Chacham adif m’Navi, “The Torah scholar is greater than the prophet.” On the one hand, the Torah scholar is limited; on the other hand, he is capable of arousing himself to an elevated and expanded spiritual realm which indicates unlimited potential. After all is said and done, we observe a clear distinction between Moshe and Aharon, with each representing two different facets of service to Hashem. Moshe personifies Torah; he is the one who brought the Torah down from Heaven to earth. Aharon personifies mitzvah observance, which, in effect, elevates earth, bringing it up to Heaven. Each served as a conduit, a connection between Heaven and earth. Moshe brought Heaven down; Aharon sanctified and elevated earth.