Rabbi Dr. Meir Tamari
“‘And He called to Moshe’; this is not the same as in the case of Avraham.
There we read, ‘And the angel of the Lord called to Avraham’: the angel
calls and the word is spoken. Rabbi Avin said, ‘Hashem said I am the One
who calls and I am the One who speaks’” (Bamidbar Rabbah, chapter 1). What
advantage or merit is there to the caller, that it should be specified
that whether it is be from Hashem? After all, it is what is said that is
important, so what difference does it make who is the caller?
The words of the Avnei Nezer can serve as an introduction to understanding
this. He explained that there is a qualitative difference between the case
of Bilaam where the text is ‘vayikar’-[that is, Hashem met, or appeared to
or brought it about for Bilaam], and the case of Moshe where it said
vayikra. The language vayikar refers to a situation where the word or
message comes to the person while he remains in his place so that he is
not transformed or elevated through the speech. However, vayikra refers to
those cases where the caller wants the listener to draw closer to him so
that the person is elevated towards the message or the saying.
A person receives words or messages that are appropriate to his spiritual
status. The evil Bilaam despite his requests for HaShem to draw close to
him and to reveal himself, had no desire to leave his evil ways. In other
words, he wanted to have both the presence of HaShem while remaining
immersed in the filth of his evil deeds. Therefore he was judged
accordingly, so that even while there was Divine speech to him in honour
of Israel and for their benefit, nevertheless he remained evil. So Bilam,
the evil one, remained standing outside the Divine presence, despite
Hashem’s message to him. He has been compared by the Zohar (part 3) to the
metzorah who only knocks on the door but doesn’t wish to enter. Moshe
Rabbenu, however, devoted his whole essence and being to withdrawal and
separation from the material; as conatated by his name ‘I drew him from
the water’, as explained by the Maharal in Gevurot HaShem. He, therefore,
was accorded the appropriate spiritual status and was called and elevated
towards the message and the speech and became more sanctified thereby.
This is referred to in the Midrash in the example of a King who had a wife
and a concubine; a wife is with kiddushin whereas the pilegesh is without
kiddushin, according to most of the poskim. The kiddushin make the wife
permitted solely to her husband and forbidden to anyone else, just like
those articles and things which belong to hekdesh. These are the prophets
of Israel who are devoted solely to do the will of HaShem without any
personal interest, benefit or purpose. In contrast, the prophets of the
nations, like Bilaam, have other purposes and aims in addition to the
words which HaShem speaks to them; they are like the concubine.
“Rabbi Tanchuma said that the gold that was brought to the Mishkan was the
free will offering of the Israelites, whereas the jewels which are
referred to are the free will offering of the Princes. The soul of Moshe
was troubled as he saw everybody bringing an offering while he did not.
HaShem said to him ‘By your life, your words are more precious to me than
the gifts of all of them,’ therefore it is only with regard to Moshe that
it is written vayikra, and He called”.
This is difficult to understand because nobody prevented Moshe from
bringing anything to the Mishkan and if he really had a reason not to
bring anything, what was the reason for his self-doubt?
The whole basic principle with regard to the donations to the Mishkan was
that each person would give a gift appropriate to his spiritual status and
his desire to create contact with HaShem, since the significance and
viability of every action depends on the will and desire of the person
doing the action.. In order to achieve their aim of devotion and cleaving
to the Shechinah, each ordinary person brought their wealth with love and
elevated spirit; “The words of your Torah are more precious to me than
much gold and silver” (Tehillim, 79). The Nesiim brought the precious
stone because these stones contain and reflect the light of the sun and
thereby purify and cleanse it, thereby converting it to bodies of light,
and this transformation corresponds to the transformation of the yetzer
harah into the yetzer hatov. This spiritual avodah is appropriate to the
Princes who are the heads of the myriads of Israel (Introduction to
Tikkunei Zohar). However Moshe, who was the epitome of refinement and so
was always connected and related to the Shechinah, did not need any other
desire or motivation. Furthermore, it was unnecessary to relate this merit
and trait since Moshe had no need of such explanations or reasons. We know
from the Midrash that the very body of Moshe was so refined that it shone
and his face reflected the light of the Shechinah so that he was more holy
even than the ministering angels. In view of all this, he had no need to
bring any material possessions to reflect his desire and connection to
HaShem. However Moshe never paid attention to his own perfection as we
know that Moshe never attended to his personal needs and did not go to his
house to see what his family needed when he came down from Mount Sinai,
but turned immediately to the people (Mechiltah, parshat Yitro).
Furthermore we know that he had neither a portion of vineyard or fields
nor any commerce in the desert and all his strength and desires were
channelled into his efforts and devotion to perfect Yisrael and to bring
it closer to HaShem. His soul, nevertheless, was troubled because he knew
that if a person submits all his yetzer to the worship of HaShem, then all
the darkness is transformed into light and the bitterness becomes sweet.
This would not be only to the benefit of Moshe but he would elevate
thereby each person, according to their ability and level. Therefore Moshe
felt that it would be a good thing if he had something tangible and
material to the Mishkan.
To this Hashem replied that the Torah that Moshe taught and that was
called in his name, would elevate and purify Yisrael more than any gits to
the Mishkan, so that he need not be troubled.
Shem Mi Shmuel, 5671,5672.
Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Meir Tamari and Torah.org.
Dr. Tamari is a renowned economist, Jewish scholar, and founder of the Center For Business Ethics (www.besr.org) in Jerusalem.