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   by Jacob Solomon

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When Moses would come inside the Tent of Meeting to speak with Him (G-d), he would hear the Voice speaking to him from the ark cover upon the ark of the testimony. Thus He would speak to him (7:89, translated according to Rashi).

Both Rashi and Ibn Ezra imply that it was G-d who did the speaking to Moses. G-d would speak to him 'directly, in a clear vision, and not in riddles' (12:8). In such a way, G-d revealed His Will to Moses. As the Torah concludes: 'No other prophet ever rose in Israel like Moses who knew G-d face to face' (Deut. 34:10).

However, Rabbeinu Bachya (1263-1340) interprets the final two words - vayedaber eilav - literally 'and He spoke to him', in the opposite vein. It was not G-d who did the speaking to Moses, but Moses who spoke to G-d. It was a dialogue. Unlike other prophets, Moses felt comfortably at ease when conversing with G-d 'as a man speaks to his friend' (Ex. 33:12). Thus Moses had the exclusive privilege of 'paying a visit' to G-d in the place where the Presence was most intense whenever he wished.

So did Job: in very different circumstances, and with very different results. G-d implied that Job had the right to question Him on why his he should suffer so painfully. As Job says to G-d: 'Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and You shall answer me. My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes' (Job 44:4-6).

Thus Moses' entry to G-d was based on the deepness of his prophecy - spiritual depth of a lifetime's work which brought him close to the source. Job's entry was based on theodicy - his demanding to know why G-d had treated him in such a manner when he directed his whole life to His service.

Prophecy - contact with G-d - exists on different levels. Despite G-d's Presence 'filling the entire world' (Isaiah 6:3), Moses had to go out of his way to communicate with G-d - to the Tent of Meeting. Job had to make somewhat greater efforts - a period of intense physical and spiritual suffering.

The same phenomenon is very much with us today. An intelligent and enquiring young person can be born in Israel, have a Jewish education, and yet feel somewhat 'I'm not quite sure what all this about and whether it's me or not. There's surely more to life than just being one of the chevra'. Typically after the military service, he joins his currently non-religious friends for some post-army time on the Indian sub-continent. There he 'get in' with one of the spiritual groups, senses and communicates with G-d, and feels the first genuine spiritual awakening of his life. He then comes home and re-enters Jewish circles with a commitment based not merely on social pressure and the prizes conformity awards, but firmly rooted in the Source.

He had to make that journey. He had to go out of his way. That was his path, and he followed it. Even though it led him to what was next to him all the time.

Similarly many Hasidic masters spent time in hitbodedut - communing with the creation in unspoilt forests and mountains, far away from the diversions of civilization, to hear the 'still small voice' (c.f. Kings I 19:12-13) of G-d.

Others dedicate their lives contacting the Source by being involved with written works and traditions coming from the Source: in intense Torah study. They tell you that it creates the spiritual sensitivity which lets them feel the Presence actually emanating from the holy texts…

That is one of the messages of Shavuot. It does not commemorate the giving the Torah - it is not 'chag matan torateinu' but involves the 'z'man matan torateinu' - the time for the receiving the Torah. It is on each person to devote that time in quest for an ever deepening connection with The Source…

For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at and on the material on the Haftara at .

Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.

Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site:

Also by Jacob Solomon:
From the Prophets on the Haftara

Test Yourself - Questions and Answers


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