Special thanks to those who contributed to this week’s dvar torah, including: Judy Bernstein, Reba Rosen, Yael Schonfeld, Becky Weiss, and Malkie Ziegler.
This week’s dvar Torah is dedicated to the victims of the terrorist attack in Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav on Thursday night.
At the end of this week’s parsha we witness the triumphant culmination of all that Bnei Yisrael have worked towards since Yetziat Mitzraim – the Chanukat Hamishkan and Hashem’s Shechina finally dwelling in our midst. However, the conclusion of Sefer Shmot seems a bit depressing, for the Torah writes that Moshe Rabbeinu was unable to enter the Mishkan.
“34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35 And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of meeting, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” (Shmot Ch. 40)
This very statement seems problematic, for we know that Moshe did enter the Ohel Moed, as it says in Bamidbar 7:89
“And when Moses went into the tent of meeting that He might speak with him, then he heard the Voice speaking unto him from above the ark-cover that was upon the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim; and He spoke unto him.”
Was Moshe in fact able to enter the Mishkan and Ohel Moed once the Shechina came to rest there?
Rashi answers that Moshe was only unable to enter the Ohel Moed when the anan was there, for the pasuk says “Because the cloud abode thereon.” However, when the anan lifted Moshe would enter the Ohel Moed and speak with Hashem.
Ibn Ezra asserts that the pesukim in Shmot and Bamidbar do not contradict each other. When the anan covered the Ohel Moed Moshe could not enter. Only when Hashem called to Moshe could he enter the Ohel Moed and converse with Hashem. This is further proved by the next page in our Tanach, Vayikra 1:1, where Hashem specifically calls to Moshe to enter the Ohel Moed “And the Lord called unto Moses, and spoke unto him out of the tent of meeting.”
Ramban offers two possibilities. Firstly, Moshe couldn’t enter the Ohel Moed because the anan was covering it and no one may enter the place where the Anan Hashem resided. Additionally, the mishkan was filled with Kvod Hashem and it is forbidden to step foot into the resting place of the Kvod Hashem. Ramban maintains that Moshe was able to enter the actual Ohel Moed in times following the Chanukat Hamishkan when Hashem specifically called Moshe to the Ohel Moed (i.e.: Bamidbar 7: 89). Since Hashem didn’t call to Moshe during the Chanukat Hamishkan, Moshe was unable to enter the Ohel Moed, as Shmot 40:35 attests to.
Rashbam and Chizkuni insist that Moshe could not enter the Ohel Moed when it was first established, because at this time the anan was resting there out of Hashem’s love for the Jewish People. But after the initial inauguration of the Mishkan as the dwelling place for the Shechina, the anan moved from over the entire Ohel Moed to cover only the Aron, resting between the keruvim. Thus, Moshe would enter the Ohel Moed and would hear the voice of Hashem emanating from between the keruvim, but would remain before the parochet in the Heichal. Chizkuni adds that the same the kohanim were also unable to enter the Beit Hamikdash at the time of the Chanukat Habayit during Shlomo’s time. Melachim I 8:10-11 describes the occurrence: “10 And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, 11 so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.”
Sforno defines the Ohel Moed as the space that the rods of the Aron occupied behind the parochet. In other words, the Ohel Moed is the Kodesh Hakodashim.
Abarbanel suggests that the Ohel Moed refers to Moshe’s tent, not the mishkan. He rejects this approach, however, for in the pasuk “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” the Torah writes that the Kvod Hashem filled the mishkan, not Moshe’s tent, so why would the first part of the pasuk refer to Moshe’s tent? Additionally, in the rest of the Tanach the term Ohel Moed is used to refer to the Heichal, so why would this pasuk be any different. Instead, Abarbanel maintains the opinion that Moshe had to be called into the Ohel Moed in order to enter, adding that the Kvod Hashem filled the mishkan only on the 8th day of the Chanukat Hamishkan.
The Kli Yakar and the Ohr HaChaim say that because the pasuk differentiates between the anan and the Kvod Hashem they must mean two different things and may not always be present together. Because only the anan was present in the Ohel Moed, Moshe was unable to enter, as it says “And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of meeting, because the cloud abode thereon.” However, if the Kvod Hashem had been mixed with the anan Moshe would have been able to enter the Ohel Moed. Thus, when the pasuk writes “And Moshe entered the cloud of Glory,” this was a case where the Kvod Hashem was combined with the anan and it was therefore permissible for Moshe to enter the Ohel Moed.
The Malbim suggests that the anan would cover the Shechina in its fiery appearance. When the Shechina was covered by the anan Moshe had permission to enter, but when the Shechina was uncovered Moshe could only enter the Ohel Moed when Hashem called to him.
The Netziv explains that Moshe could not enter the Kodesh Hakadoshim, because that was where the Kvod Hashem was. However, Moshe could enter up to 10 amot away from the mishkan in order to receive the Shechina and nevuah.