Dwellers and Guests

  • Rav Binyamin Tabory





Parashat pekudei

guest sicha by rav binyamin tabory


Dwellers and Guests


Adapted by Shaul Barth

Translated by Kaeren Fish



At the end of our parasha we read, “The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and God’s glory filled the Mishkan. And Moshe could not come to the Tent of Meeting for the cloud rested upon it, and the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting” (Shemot 40:34-35).


Rashi, Ramban and others point out that this verse seems to contradict what we read elsewhere: “When Moshe went into the Tent of Meeting, that God might speak with him, then he heard the Voice speaking to him…” (Bamidbar 7:89).  The verse in our parasha implies that Moshe could not enter the Tent of Meeting when God was present, while the verse in Naso indicates that Moshe entered the Tent to speak to God.


Different explanations are offered.


a. There are two positions of the cloud over the Mishkan. When the cloud has risen, Moshe is able to enter. When the cloud is upon the Mishkan, Moshe cannot enter.


b. The Midrash teaches that Moshe could enter only when summoned by God. Even though he was “the most trusted in God’s House,” he was still a guest there and was not free to come and go as he pleased.  In our parasha, he had not yet been summoned, but in Naso Moshe was summoned. 


When we say, “And also two texts which contradict one another, until a third text comes and decides [the matter] between them” – what do we mean by the introductory expression “and also” (ve-khen)? The source for this beraita is to be found in the introduction to the Sifra on Vayikra, which deals with the verse (1:1) where Moshe is summoned by God to enter the Mishkan.  This verse resolves the contradiction between the verses in Pekudei and in Naso.  Hence the beraita should be read, “And here (ve-kan) are two texts which contradict one another (i.e., Shemot 40:34 and Bamidbar 7:89), until a third text (i.e., Vayikra 1:1) comes and decides between them.”


This understanding carries a profound message. There are some people who feel quite free to act as they please, while others understand that they should do only what they have permission to do. This is the difference between someone at home and a guest. If someone has studied much Torah and feels “at home” in Torah, he will “wage the war of Torah,” debate others, and advocate for his own understanding of Torah.  This is a positive characteristic, as long as one’s feeling of being “at home” is justified.


Today, however, the situation has somehow become reversed: people who have less knowledge feel free to say whatever they think, while those who are “inside,” “at home” in the Torah, are humble and do not rush to render judgment on every subject. People from the outside, “guests” as it were, arrogantly express criticism of the Torah. It is important to delve profoundly into Torah, but at the same time one should always keep in mind the mishna’s teaching that one should “cling to the dust of the sages’ feet.”  If even great sages behave with humility towards Torah, how much more so should the rest of us. 


(This sicha was delivered on Shabbat parashat Pekudei 5763 [2003].)