Last week’s parasha was about the erection of the משכן. This week’s parasha starts shortly after that ceremony:
The subject, “ה׳”, comes too late in the sentence, after the implied pronoun. The Malbim explains that ויקרא אל משה וידבר is a sort of hendiadys:
So translate it as “Hashem called to Moses by speaking”.
And this is important, because immediately before, after the יום השמיני ceremony, ה׳ did not talk to Moshe:
Which is why we emphasize that ה׳ called Moshe now:
What makes that interesting is that before the משכן was built, Moshe could talk to ה׳ anytime:
Imagine the scene: for the past 6 months, every day, Moshe has gone to the office in the old אהל מועד, speaks with G-d כאשר ידבר איש אל רעהו. Yesterday was the big ceremony for the new אהל מועד. Today Moshe goes to the office, and his keys don’t work. G-d tells him, “No problem, I’ll buzz you in”. But he’s never needed to be buzzed in before! There’s a change in relationship implicit in this ויקרא אל משה וידבר. And this is how things will be from now on:
What has changed? First we need to look at another peculiarity of the pasuk, ויקרא אל משה. There’s a difference between קרא ל־ and קרא אל:
Note the distinction when שמואל is called:
And strikingly in the narrative about Moshe going up הר סיני:
Artscroll makes the distinction:
There are four times Moshe is addressed with קרא אל:
To be called, קרא אל, by ה׳ is to have a “calling”:
Moshe has four separate callings.
The first is Moshe’s mission to take בני ישראל out of Egypt. The second is to get them ready to accept the Torah. The third is to get the Torah itself, to be on the level of the angels, 40 days without food or water.
What is this קריאה, the last one of Moshe’s career? Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski (the psychiatrist) talks about how difficult change is.
But this doesn’t sound like growth; it sounds like a demotion. What was Moshe supposed to do when he is called to the אהל מועד?
After this קריאה, there is a series of ״וידבר ה׳ אל משה לאמר״ paragraphs, with all the laws of sacrifices. Then it ends with a summary:
Note the two terms, בהר סיני and במדבר סיני. The last clause is ambiguous: does במדבר סיני refer to where the sacrifices were brought, or where they were commanded? And who is the referent of צותו; who did the commanding? חז״ל understand במדבר סיני as referring to ביום צותו, and that refers to G-d’s commandment. Thus: “This is the law…, which G-d had commanded Moses on Mount Sinai, on the day that G-d commanded Israel in the Wilderness of Sinai, to bring their sacrifices”.
Moshe had been given the entire Torah on Sinai, but he hadn’t learned it:
His role is now to learn Torah, so that he can teach it to the people. That takes hard work, and is never a gift. In the אהל מועד, Moshe would now have a חברותא with ה׳, learning Torah, and teaching it to בני ישראל. His new role is to become משה רבינו. And now he will not talk כאשר ידבר איש אל רעהו (though he still is at the level of פנים אל פנים), but all his communication with ה׳ will be for the sake of teaching בני ישראל. This is hinted at in our pasuk:
The לאמר seems redundant with דבר אל בני ישראל, but Moshe is being told that he has to tell בני ישראל that he was commanded to speak to them:
And that role, of תלמיד חכם, to be a חכם by being a perpetual תלמיד, he will pass on to כנסת ישראל as a whole:
And having to work to achieve that, in learning and in spirituality, is a higher level than simply being given it.