Rabbi Yaakov Neuberger
Rabbi Yaakov Neuburger

Hearing the Call

Quite surprisingly, the sefer that will prepare us for every visit to the inner sanctum - the mishkan and mikdash, opens with a seemingly simple and superfluous pasuk: "And He called to Moshe and Hashem spoke to him from the Ohel Moed saying." Not so surprisingly then, is that Rashi sees in this a story that is waiting to be told, and one that captures some of the most important facets of the lives of our Torah sages ever since Moshe.

This is the story that unravels for us from Rashi's comments. Whenever it came time to impart some instruction to His people, Hashem would lovingly call out to Moshe in a heavenly tone, the sounds of which are reserved for angels. These tones were loud enough for Moshe to hear even as they were soft enough to go unnoticed by anyone close by. Presumably, Moshe would immediately make his way to the Ohel Moed. It was there that Moshe would stand listening to a thundering voice emanating from the Aron Hakodesh which stood behind the paroches. From Rashi's description, it would seem that this mighty voice was reminiscent of Matan Torah and conjured up images of creation - a veritable big bang. Mysteriously enough, these tones too, though of enormous volume, were inaudible to anyone passing nearby. All of these stark and abrupt contrasts informing Moshe's presence amongst his people are clearly designed to teach us something.

At first blush, it would seem from Rashi that Moshe's constant preparedness to be called upon allowed him to hear his name being called. Others, sidetracked by the "white noise", the "small stuff" of life, would often miss their moments. This is not unlike the burning bush, which all the way at the start of his service caught Moshe's attention while everyone else passed by. There too, Moshe seems to be the only one open to seeing above the ongoing rhythm of affairs. As Rashi explains, only Moshe gets called by G-d, (Vayikra) while others are visited and chanced upon (Vayikar) by Him. (All of this is intimated, as Baal Haturim points out, by the reduced aleph of Vayikra which stresses what would otherwise be a hidden nuance of Lashon Hakkodesh- the Hebrew language.)

Apparently, we are to understand through this vignette that moments of spiritual clarity, epiphanies of spiritual growth, come and go. However, inspired individuals will seize these moments and craft a life around them.

But what are we to make of the next miracle, the "big bang" voice that accompanied every lesson from on High to Moshe, but did not reach beyond the Mishkan walls? Perhaps we gain a portal into Moshe's greatness, and that of the great sages ever after. Here we can come realize that at times, Moshe's perspective was indeed starkly different than his followers. When Hashem talked to him directly, he was transformed into a state that we can simply aspire to, but probably not come to understand. He moved to a different sphere, much as he did during the forty days and nights on Har Sinai, when his human frame knew no food or water.

There is one more part to the story: leimor - saying. According to Rashi, following every section, Hashem would request of Moshe to get back to Him, to let Him know if the Jews accepted the new laws and ideas. How strange that is. Is Hashem taking a poll? Is He offering a chance to readjust if necessary? Is this a way of checking up on Moshe?

It seems to me that this was a charge to Moshe, one that was challenging and encouraging at once. It was as if to assure Moshe that he would, without doubt, be most successful in crossing the "great divide". He would indeed be able to communicate the Torah studied in the precincts of Mishkan with the clarity of creation and the joy and certainty of Sinai all around, to a people who may be struggling with doubts and difficulties. It would become his responsibility and that of our spiritual giants with which we have been blessed in every generation, to assure that the thunderous tones of Torah which they would hear, would travel far beyond, with passion and warmth.

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