Shemot 27:19-20,28:1-41 (Robert Alter, trans.)
“As for you [ וְאַתָּ֞ה], you shall command the Israelites, that they take you clear oil … And you [ וְאַתָּ֞ה], bring you forward Aaron your brother and his sons with him from the midst of the Israelites to be priests to Me — Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, the sons of Aaron. And you shall make sacred garments for Aaron your brother for glory and splendor. And you, speak to every wise-hearted person whom I have filled with a spirit of wisdom, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him, to be priest to Me. … And you shall take two carnelian stones and engrave on them the names of Israel’s sons. … And you shall set the two stones on the shoulder-pieces of the ephod as remembrance stones for Israel’s sons, and Aaron shall carry their names before the LORD on his two shoulders as a remembrance. And you shall make a filigree of gold. … And you shall make a a breastplate of judgment …
And you shall dress them, Aaron your brother and his sons with him, and you shall anoint them, and you shall install and consecrate them, they they serve Me as priests.”
The redundant pronoun in ve-atta, “and as for you,” substitutes for the more usual imperative form, tzav–“Instruct” or the simple future form, tetzaveh–“You shall instruct” Such an insistent, abrupt focus on Moses has aroused much discussion among the tradtional commentators on the Torah. … The unusual form, ve-atta, “and as for you …” becomes more insistent– and perhaps more challenging [as it is repeated] … Moses is placed at the epicenter of God’s address: initiating his brother, Aaron, into his dynastic role as High Priest … paradoxically, Moses is to assume a direct responsibility in an area that is not specifically his own … Implicitly, enigmatically, it is Moses who represents the dynamic out of which the priestly function takes its vital force.
the larger context of the enigma reveals an additional complication. This Parsha, which is concerned with the priesthood, its function, and inaugural processes, contains not one mention of Moses’ name. This is, in fact, the only Parsha in the last four books of the Torah that does not explicitly mention Moses or include Moses as narrator. … The paradox is compelling: absence and presence, anonymity and insistent naming. … notice that the Parsha is almost always read during the week in which the date traditionally associated with Moses’ birth and death occurs: the seventh of Adar.
Shemot Rabbah 37:4 (Avivah Zornberg, trans.)
And as for you, you shall bring forward your brother Aaron …” (28:1). It is written, “If your Torah had not been my plaything, I should have perished in poverty” (Ps 119:92). When God told Moses, “As for you, you shall bring forward your brother Aaron …” He did him an injury. God said, “I had possession of the Torah, and I gave it to you: if it were not for the Torah I should have lost My world!” This is like a wise man who married his relative and after ten years together, when she had not borne children, he said to her, “Seek me a wife!” He said to her, “I could marry without your permission, but I seek your cooperation.” So said God to Moses, “I could have made your brother High Priest without informing you, but I wish you to be great over him.”
How does Moses tolerance of God’s injury to his honor make him great? What does Moses receive? What does it mean for the Torah to be a plaything and yet something that saves the world? How could God lose the world?
Whereever you find power of God, there you find His humility. This principle is written in the Torah, in the Prophets, and in the Scriptures. In the Torah it is written: “For the Lord your God is the supreme God and the supreme Lord,” which is followed by, “He does justice to the orphan and the widow.” (Deut 10:17-18) This is repeated in the prophets: “So says the exalted One, the sublime One who lives eternally …” which is followed by “Yet with the contrite and the lowly in spirit …” (Isa 57:15) And again in the Scriptures: “Extol HIm who rides the clouds, the Lord is His name …” which is followed by “the father of orphans, champion of widows …” (Ps 68:5-6)
[God’s strength and humility] informs the demand God makes of Moses in our midrash. Essentially, in requiring a humility that is another face of greatness, God looks to Moses for a genetic marker of tzelem elokim (the image of God), the godlike play of the lion and the lamb in one face. … Moses is to realize in himself an empathy for those who are stripped of power. It is loss, divestment of the priestly robes, that is to open up for him an alternative sensibility.
Tanchuma, Tetzaveh 1
Said R. Yudan: “When does a child become precious to his father? When he begins to speak. That is the meaning of the text: “Truly, Ephraim is a dear son to Me, a child of play” (Jer 31:20) What is a child that is dandled [played with]? Around the age of three or four, when he begins to speak and is playful in the presence of his father.”
In our midrash [Shemot Rabbah above], God clarifies the high seriousness of the issues, “If Your Torah had not been my plaything, I should have perished in my poverty”. These words are put into God’s mouth: “If it were not for My Torah, which I have given to you, I should have lost My world.” Or, perhaps, the world would have lost Him. The Torah, so enigmatically essential to the life of the world, is given to Moses: it is to be a “plaything” to him. this is the point on which hope and despair pivot. In losing one kind of connection with God, Moses is thrown into empty space. God asks him to play with the words of the Torah: that is, to accept distance and loneliness, and to recreate union in the fluid and changing interactions with His Torah. In this sense, play is entirely untrivial, God’s world depends upon it.
In delivering the Torah to Moses as a “plaything,” therefore, God is invoking the poet’s genius for continual reinvention of reality. This is language, not as fitting the world, but as strongly recreating it. … Such a playfulness is essential to the survival of God’s world.