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Title: Calling Moses From The Tent

Major Focus: God, humanity's Senior Partner

Minor Focus: Moses, God's junior partner

Abstract: Why did God call Moses from the Tabernacle?

Format: Rabbinic Argument




"God called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting saying: Speak to the Israelite people, and say to them..."

Leviticus 1:1-2

    Why did God call Moses from the Tent?

  1. Rashbam: At the end of Exodus (40:34-35), we are told that Moses could not enter the Sanctuary because the Cloud of Glory covered it day and night. The Tent was filled with God's Glory. Moses waited patiently outside for God to call him. The Book of Leviticus opens by saying that Moses was standing outside the Sanctuary. God called to him.
    1. Why would it be important for the commentators to try to make the end of Exodus fit with the beginning of Leviticus?
    2. Why didn't God want Moses to come into the Tent freely? What was God doing in there?

  2. Baruch A. Levine: God called Moses from the Ohel Mo'ed. In other priestly Texts this same place is referred to as the Mishkan. This was God's earthly address. The Tent served two functions: It was an "oraculum" where God communicated with people. It was also the site of the sacrificial cult, where people worshipped God through sacrifices. In its function as an "oraculum," it was the logical place for God to call Moses, "Come to Me."
    1. Why does the Tabernacle have so many names -- Sanctuary, Tent of Meeting, Mishkan, etc.?
    2. What is an "oraculum"? What language is that?

  3. M. Haran: There is another tradition, rabbi. In Exodus 33:6-11, the Ohel Mo'ed is portrayed as a tent pitched far outside the Israelite encampment. It was Moses' personal tent to meet with God. It served exclusively as an "oraculum." The Cloud of Glory appeared at its entrance to keep the people away while Moses and God held private conferences. I think God called Moses from this private tent, not the main Sanctuary in the center of the encampment.
    1. What is the problem? How can one scholar conclude that God called Moses from the Tabernacle in the center of the Israelite camp, while another thinks Moses was called into his private tent outside the general encampment?
    2. What difference does it make philosophically or practically which tent Moses was called to?

  4. Ramban: The plain meaning of the Text is that God called Moses from the Tent of Meeting, the Sanctuary. God had already said earlier that meetings could take place above the cover of the Ark, between the two cherubim. The real reason God called Moses from the Tent was to express encouragement and affection for Moses. God said, "Moses! Moses!" and Moses answered, "Here I am."
    1. Does this answer really solve the problem of which tent God called Moses from?
    2. Why should God have to show Moses special affection and encouragement at this particular time? What was going on in the camp at the end of Exodus?

  5. Torat Kohanim: Perhaps Moses was waiting around outside the tent, waiting for God to call. Moses did not know that the Glory of God was already inside the tent. He did not know that God would communicate with him from there. After all, the Cloud of Glory did not cover the Sanctuary until the eighth day of the ceremonies for installing the new priests.
    1. Is it really possible that a man like Moses would not have known where the Divine Presence was at all times?
    2. Why would the Divine Presence, as represented by the Cloud of Glory, stay inside the Tabernacle until after the dedication ceremonies were all completed? Was God shy, afraid of publicity?

  6. Abohab: Not everyone agrees with that opinion however! The Text does say that God called to Moses from the Cloud. It does not make it clear where the Cloud was at that point, inside or outside the tent. Perhaps Moses only assumed God would speak to him from inside the tent, and from the cover of the Ark, between the cherubim. Actually, God probably called him directly from Heaven.
    1. Read the Text carefully for yourself and see if you can figure out where the Cloud of Glory was.
    2. Why wouldn't it be unreasonable for Moses to assume that God would speak to him from inside the tent?

  7. Kabbalah: The secret lies in the way God called Moses in for private consultations. When God called Moses up to the mountain at Sinai, in order to reveal the Torah to him (Exodus 24:1), God used the same secret way of communicating with the prophet.
    1. Who or what is Kabbalah?
    2. Why should God use secret methods of communicating with prophets? Can you think of other examples?

  8. Plaut: Before every act of Revelation, God would call, "Moses, Moses!" as at the burning bush for instance. It was an expression of affection and urgency. Each time Moses would respond, "I am here!"
    1. When you want to get someone's attention urgently, how do you say it?
    2. We can probably understand God's affection for the old man, but why the urgency?

  9. Hirsch: The word came to Moses, it did not originate in him. It was not an ecstasy or Divine inspiration, as some would have us believe was the usual way of God's inspiring the prophets. God called to Moses. God spoke to Moses. The call was independent from any message that God had for him.
    1. What is the rabbi's concern here? What difference does it make if the call came "to" Moses or originated "in" Moses?
    2. Where do you think Rabbi Hirsch stands on the philosophic question of the Torah being the Word of God, on one hand, or a great book, inspired by God, on the other?