Practicing bringing an offering
Practicing bringing an offeringTPI


What did Hashem say to Moshe?

The Chezkuni links the opening pasuk of our Parasha, to the concluding psukim of the previous Parasha, expounding:’Because at the end of the previous Parasha, it said:’The glory of Hashem filled the Mishkan and Moshe could not enter the Tent of the Meeting’, Hashem had to call to him, and to give him permission to enter.’

Therefore, our Parasha begins:(1:1-2) ‘And He called to Moshe, and the Lord spoke to him, from the Tent of the Meeting, saying. Speak to Bnei Israel, and say to them: When a man from you brings a sacrifice to the Lord, from cattle or from the flock you shall bring your sacrifice.’

Our Sages expound the word ‘Saying’ in the first pasuk in several ways, feeling that it is superfluous, as immediately after it - in the second pasuk - the Torah again says:’Speak to Bnei Israel, and say to them.’

Rashi brings two expositions, from the Torat Kohanim, as to what was said. First:’say to them דברי כיבושין:captivating words, namely:’For your sake G-d communicates with me’; second:’Tell them My commandments, and bring Me back word whether they will accept them’, just as the verse says’ - shortly before Matan Torah - (Shemot 19:8)’And Moshe reported the words of the people back to the Lord’.’

Rav Yosef Salant comments:’ The parshanim already queried how Hashem’s words, in the first exposition - that Hashem only spoke with Moshe because of Bnei Israel - ‘can be called ‘captivating words’, as many have already commented.’

He answers:’We can understand this exposition, by the teaching of Rabbeinu Yona, in Shaarei Teshuva, that the transgressor, upon seeing that Hashem has forgiven him, and does not punish him, his shame - for having transgressed - is greatly increased.

‘Therefore, by Hashem saying to Moshe ‘captivating words, that because of them, He speaks with him - with Moshe, meaning: contemplate how you have become even more beloved in Hashem’s eyes, that because of you he has descended from Above to speak with me, increasing His love over His previous love for you; surely this will penetrate to the depths of the hearts of the people, and can truly be called ‘captivating words’.

‘Hashem is speaking to me - Moshe - only because of you; not only has He forgiven you for the sin of the golden calf, but has gone beyond that, in his love for you.

‘These words surely captivate the hearts of the people, and lead them to greater shame for having transgressed.

‘Therefore, whilst these words allude to the praise due to the people - as Hashem only speaks to Moshe because of them - they also are ‘captivating words’.’

Rav Yissachar Ber Eilenberg, on this first exposition of Rashi, says:’The words can be truly called ‘captivating words - that Hashem only spoke with me - with Moshe - because of you, as Bnei Israel were disconcerted on seeing that from their offerings and labor, the Mishkan was built, yet only Moshe was ‘rewarded’, as Hashem only spoke to him; and we cannot say that this was because he was more ready than them for this, for, as the Torah stated - at the end of the previous Parasha - that he too, could not enter until called by Hashem.

‘For this reason, Hashem commanded Moshe to say to them ‘captivating words’, to appease them: that, whilst he, Moshe, was the only one to whom Hashem spoke, on the completion of the erection of the Mishkan, this was due to them, and therefore, it is as if they were the ones Hashem called, as he called and spoke to Moshe not on his own account, but for them and for their benefit, and the benefit from the Mishkan and from the One who dwells in it was solely for them, as they were the reason that Hashem called and spoke to Moshe.’

Rav Aryeh Leib Heiman sweetens our appreciation of each of the two expositions of Rashi, as to what the word ‘Saying’ alluded.

As to the first exposition: ‘At this very festive occasion, there could have arisen in the hearts of the people a query: true Moshe was chosen to lead them out of Egypt, and split the sea for them, and taught then the Torah, and commanded the building of the Mishkan, as atonement for the sin of the golden calf - as clearly in these matters, he was at a loftier level than them,

BUT at the moment that the shechina was about to dwell in the Mishkan that they constructed, out of all the myriad of the people, when Hashem’s words are about to be heard from between the two cherubim, they were only to Moshe’s ears - an unpalatable thought could enter the hearts of the people: was not the Mishkan built totally from their personal offerings, from their ‘compensation’ that they took from their wicked oppressors, and which was therefore precious in their eyes, yet they donated it to for the construction of the Mishkan? - and only Moshe did not contribute anything to the construction!

‘Even the erection of the Mishkan which seemingly was performed by Moshe, was only possible - as Rashi brings - because of help from Hashem.

‘Were the people not likely to wonder then: since Hashem is speaking with us via the Mishkan - why was the person chosen for this, specifically the only one that had no part in the contributions to the Mishkan?!

‘To forestall such thoughts that could arise in the hearts of the people, Hashem commanded Moshe to say to the people words that would soften their hearts, before He - Hashem - spoke to Moshe from the Tent of the Meeting, to reveal to them, that only ‘because of them’: in their merit and for them, was Hashem going to speak with Moshe; not because of Moshe’s special qualities, but only for the needs of the people - Moshe said: I am but the representative of each one of you.

‘Whilst it is true that these words are ‘captivating words’, as literally understood, when we contemplate them in greater depth, they were intended to ‘soften’ the hearts of the people, to do teshuva.

‘Why, otherwise, do the people need a representative to speak with Hashem? Why is Moshe the only one, of all the people, who enters the Tent and who alone hears the words of Hashem?

‘Because he is the most removed from the sin of the golden calf! And the prophets tell us: our sins are what distance us from Hashem; since all of the people were closer than Moshe regarding the sin of the golden calf, they are precluded from entering the Tent where the shechina dwelled, and thus also from hearing Hashem’s words!

‘This also explains why the people need to hear these ‘captivating words’ and mussar, before the laws of the korbanot: of the offerings; why did Hashem relate them to me? asks Moshe rhetorically - because of your sin!

‘Now we can turn to the second exposition as to what the word ‘saying’ alludes.

‘Why is Moshe commanded to ask the people, if they agree to Hashem’s words as to the korbanot? Did they not already, at Matan Torah, declare that: ‘that Hashem says, we shall do and we shall hear’? And, as our Sages expound, they there bound themselves to accept all that Hashem decrees.

‘What place, then, is there to now ‘consult’ the people whether they consent to Hashem’s decrees as to the mitzvot of the korbanot?

‘The answer is - that in addition to the ‘benefits’ that the bringer of the korban receives, and it being an expression of thanks for Hashem’s blessings and bounty - it has a singular aspect, not found in any other mitzvah.

‘The offeror is GIVING to Hashem; the korban is, as it were, also (21:8)לחם אלקיך: ‘the bread of our G-d’.

All the other mitzvot are performed - as our Sages expound - as decrees of the King that follow from us accepting His kingship, at Matan Torah, and therefore do not ‘require’ a re-acceptance, as they are, at their core, for our benefit; but the korbanot, as they have this element of ‘giving’, are subject to a condition, the absence of which nullifies them:’(1:3)יקריב אותו לרצונו: ‘He shall bring it willingly’.

‘Therefore, Hashem asks Moshe to seek a special - additional - agreement from the people as to the korbanot, since - in addition to what is clear to all, that Hashem does not in reality, need us to give Him anything - we, too, only appreciate gifts that are given whole-heartedly, and not if out of compulsion or with ulterior motives.

‘In this respect, the mitzvot of the korbanot differ from all other mitzvot.

‘We might add: our Sages expound that ( Shab’ 88. ) Hashem ‘suspended the mountain over us ‘ at Matan Torah, to compel us to accept the Torah, leading our Sages to say, that, should one be accused of not fulfilling the Torah, he could validly argue that he only accepted it under coercion.

‘Thus, all the mitzvot of the Torah have this foundation of coercion - but, in the mitzvot of the korbanot, this element could not remain, as they had to be given freely.

‘Therefore, Hashem asked Moshe to seek a new consent from the people, so that the korbanot were given freely, as Hashem required.’

A concluding gem, from Rav Shlomo Kluger: In addition to the requirement, for a renewed consent to the mitzvot of the korbanot, so that they are free of any element of coercion from Matan Torah: ‘there is a further reason for the need for this consent.

‘Our Sages teach in Yerushalmi (Makot 2:6) , that the Ministering Angels declare: ‘the only punishment for transgression, is death’, meaning that, at that level, there is no place for atonement by bringing a korban - however, as our Sages add there, the Torah has mercy on the sinner, and accepts the korban, as atonement.

‘Our Sages also say (Yeb’ 111:) that Hashem is strict with the righteous, and punishes for even the hair-breadth of a transgression.

‘Therefore, before the sin of the golden calf, all the people were in the category of the ‘righteous’, and subject to the Attribute of Strict Justice, and could not atone by bringing a korban, but were punishable by death for the slightest transgression.

‘For this reason, when the Torah was given at Sinai, there was ‘no place’ for korbanot, as they were not a means of atonement.

‘Only when Bnei Israel sinned with the golden calf, and Hashem saw that there would be no existence for the people should they be subject to the Attribute of Judgement, as he did at Creation - when He saw that the world He created to be ruled by the Attribute of Justice, also needed the Attrbute of Chessed - so too, after the sin of the golden calf, he also ‘accepted’ atonement by the bringing of korbanot.

‘As the laws of korbanot were now given anew, not having been amongst the laws accepted at Matan Torah, there was a need for the people to accept them, and therefore Hashem asked Moshe to seek the people’s consent to them, and to report to Him, whether or not they accepted them.’