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..."
Why did God call Moses from the Tent?
- 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.
- Why would it be important for the commentators to try to
make the end of Exodus fit with the beginning of Leviticus?
- Why didn't God want Moses to come into the Tent freely? What
was God doing in there?
- 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."
- Why does the Tabernacle have so many names -- Sanctuary,
Tent of Meeting, Mishkan, etc.?
- What is an "oraculum"? What language is
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.
- 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
- What difference does it make philosophically or practically
which tent Moses was called to?
- 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."
- Does this answer really solve the problem of which tent God
called Moses from?
- 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
- 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.
- Is it really possible that a man like Moses would not have
known where the Divine Presence was at all times?
- 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?
- 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.
- Read the Text carefully for yourself and see if you can
figure out where the Cloud of Glory was.
- Why wouldn't it be unreasonable for Moses to assume that God
would speak to him from inside the tent?
- 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.
- Who or what is Kabbalah?
- Why should God use secret methods of communicating with
prophets? Can you think of other examples?
- 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!"
- When you want to get someone's attention urgently, how do
you say it?
- We can probably understand God's affection for the old man,
but why the urgency?
- 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.
- What is the rabbi's concern here? What difference does it
make if the call came "to" Moses or originated "in" Moses?
- 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?