Parshat Naso

Parshat Naso covers many topics and closes with the dedication of the Tabernacle with the offerings of the twelve princes and then the final sentence “And when Moses went into the Tent of Meeting (Ohel Moed) that He might speak with him, then he heard the Voice speaking to him from above the ark-cover that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim; and He spoke unto him.” This is a long puzzling sentence. Why the change from the usual “and Hashem spoke to Moshe…”? In addition, strangely the Hebrew word for speaking “Medaber” is used here but read and pronounced “Midaber” with a dagesh in the daled, which does not appear anywhere else in the Torah. Added to this we are told unusually not just that Hashem spoke to Moshe but that in some way his voice is projected through the cherubim.

The Midrash explains that Moshe in his humility felt that his task as leader was over with the erection of the Tabernacle, now called the Tent of Meeting. To dispel his fears, Hashem calls him in to tell him that his still has a lot of work to do in teaching Bnei Yisrael the fine details of the Torah. The voice that called him was a very powerful voice which is even written with a capital V in the English translations. However, the voice that called him, though powerful, was only heard by Moshe and no one else not even the Angels heard it.

Rashi, in his brief interpretation give us a concept, which at first sight, seems difficult to grasp. He suggests that “midaber” is a reflexive form (grammatical hitpael in Hebrew) and that Hashem was actually talking to himself and Moshe also hears this within himself. Professor Lebovitz explains that Rashi presents the idea that this is not actually a spoken voice, but Moshe comes to the understanding through a voice inside himself as to what Hashem wants from him. In Lebovitz’s view, Rashi in his few words brilliantly presents the whole Maimonides philosophy of prophesy, which the Rambam presents in a lengthy profound argument. The Sforno also explains simply that there was no actual spoken word in the Tent of Meeting and Hashem’s messages to Moshe were transmitted to his inner soul and this is the true nature of prophesy.

Rabbenu Bechaye takes a different approach and notes that in this verse the concept of “speaking to him” is mention three times. We should understand from this the greatness of Moshe and how he is set apart from all the other prophets, as we are told at the end of the Torah that there has not been any prophet since Moshe who knew Hashem face to face. The term “speak to him” is not just Hashem speaking to Moshe, but Moshe speaking and in conversation with Hashem. We even have examples here and there of Moshe initiating the conversation and approaching Hashem such as with the case of the daughters of Zelofchod later in Bamidbar.

Returning to Rashi’s idea of Hashem talking to himself which Leibovitz notes seems to be Rashi’s original thought and not based on any midrash or other source, made me think how we should treat talking to oneself. Our minds our active all the time and we do think in words and many of us from time to time think out aloud. My brother always used to say he talked to himself as he often thought he was the most intelligent person in the room. Looking on the internet for more thoughts on the matter there are several discussions saying it is quite normal and many of us find it a way of organizing our thoughts. I read about a recent experiment done at a University found that that talking out loud actually improved control over a task rather than just reading written instructions. Think about it!

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach.

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