By Rabbi Yitzchok D. Frankel
Agudath Israel of the Five Towns
Rashi tries to pin down exactly where the voice of Hashem emanated from:
“And I will speak to you from on top of the kappores.” But in another place it says, “Hashem spoke to him from the Ohel Mo’ed” (Vayikra 1:1), which is the Mishkan outside of the Curtain. These two verses contradict. A third verse comes and decides between them: “When Moshe came to the Ohel Mo’ed . . . he heard the voice speak to him from above the kappores . . .” (Bamidbar 7:89). Moshe would enter the Mishkan, and after he came in the entrance, a voice would come down from Heaven to between the Keruvim, and from there it would go out and be heard by Moshe in the Ohel Mo’ed. (Rashi, Sh’mos 25:22)
Hashem’s voice would descend from Heaven to the Kodesh HaKodoshim, to a point between the two Keruvim on top of the Aron HaKodesh. Then, the voice would go out to Moshe, who was standing in the Mishkan outside the Kodesh HaKodoshim.
And what was the nature of this voice? Was it a physical voice discernible by human ears? If that were so, it would be understandable that the sound had to come down from Heaven and then travel outside the Kodesh HaKodoshim to where Moshe was standing so it could reach his ears. But it raises a bigger question: Why does Hashem have to use physical sound in order to communicate with a navi?
When a navi receives his prophecy, he’s not listening to anything that is heard by his physical ears; the prophecy is perceived by the soul of the navi. Hashem does not need to “speak” in a way that creates sound waves that impact on the nerve endings of the navi’s ears to impart the prophecy to him. Thus, it seems strange that the Torah speaks of a voice emanating from the Kodesh HaKodoshim and reaching Moshe’s ears. The course that this sound follows is equally baffling: It goes straight down and then turns abruptly at a right angle.
We know that Hashem spoke to Moshe “face-to-face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Sh’mos 33:11). It is also said that Hashem spoke to him “mouth to mouth . . . and he would see the image of Hashem” (Bamidbar 12:8). What are we to make of all this, in light of what Rashi says here? And how are we to understand Moshe Rabbeinu’s level of prophecy, which is described as aspeklaria hame’irah? From what Rashi says here, it seems as if Moshe did not “see” anything and did not stand “face-to-face” with Hashem, but merely came to the Mishkan to hear a voice from far away in Heaven that miraculously reached the point where he was standing.
To me, this remains unresolved. Perhaps someone reading this has an explanation. v
Rabbi Frankel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. At local stores: Machat shel Yad Shemos.