The Vilna Gaon wonders why the omission of Moses comes just in the sidra read in the week of his Yahrzeit, 7 Adar. It may be to symbolise the fact that even when his name is not mentioned, his memory is secure in the heart of every Jew.
But the problem is that the Torah is not the work of some later generation, reflecting on the events and personalities of the past. It is Torat Moshe, the Torah of Moses. So it cannot be history that decided to omit Moses’ name, but Moses himself. True, Moses was writing at God’s dictation, and the Almighty had foreknowledge of the date Moses would die.
But possibly there is something within the sidra itself which impelled God and Moses to feel comfortable about the omission. And the clue may be the opening words, which command the institution of the ner tamid – the Eternal Light. The people had to bring the oil for the lamp. Other things Moses had to do personally but the oil had to be the people’s contribution. The people had to be the light-kindlers.
Light, in Jewish tradition, is Torah: “The commandment is a lamp, the Torah is a light”. As the people had to make the effort to ensure there was light, so the people have to make the effort to ensure that there will be Torah.
Unless the people played their part, Moses would have been a leader without followers, a teacher without students, a general without troops. Unless a community clamours for explanation and guidance, and drinks eagerly their mentors’ waters of Torah, the best rabbi in the world will be unable to keep Judaism going on his own.
Moses may have left his own name out of the sidra about the Eternal Light in order to illustrate this lesson.