The Ohel Mo'ed Outside the Camp (Part I)

  • Rav Yitzchak Levy

Mikdash

Lecture 133: THe Ohel Mo'ed outside the camp (Part I)

Rav Yitzchak Levi

  

INTRODUCTION 

            In continuation of the previous shiurim, in which we dealt with the number of arks and their contents, in this shiur I wish to consider the Ohel Mo'ed that was located outside the camp: 

And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by Mount Chorev. And Moshe would take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, afar off from the camp, and he called it the Ohel Mo'ed. And it came to pass, that everyone who sought the Lord went out to the Ohel Mo'ed, which was outside the camp. And it came to pass, when Moshe went out to the tent that all the people rose up, and stood every man at his tent door and looked after Moshe until he was gone into the Tent. And it came to pass, as Moshe entered the Tent, the cloudy pillar descended and stood at the door of the tent, and one talked with Moshe. And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the door of the tent; and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his tent door. And the Lord spoke to Moshe face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he turned back to the camp; but his servant Yehoshua, the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart out of the tent. (Shemot 33:6-11) 

            On the face of it, moving the tent outside the camp was one expression of the Shekhina's departure from Israel in the wake of the sin of the Golden Calf. Moshe called the tent "Ohel Mo'ed," and "everyone who sought the Lord went out to the Ohel Mo'ed, which was outside the camp." There, the Shekhina revealed itself in a cloudy pillar that stood at the door of the tent. We are faced with several questions, however: 

            1) During what time period did this tent function – from when and until when? 

            2) What was the purpose of the tent? What function did it fill? 

            3) Is there a relationship between the Ohel Mo'ed outside the camp and the Ohel Mo'ed inside the camp? What is the meaning of the relationship between them?[1] 

THE PERIOD DURING WHICH THE OHEL MO'ED STOOD OUTSIDE THE CAMP 

            The timing of this section (Shemot 33:6-11) is the subject of a disagreement among the Rishonim, which is connected to the relationship between the sin of the Golden Calf and the Mishkan in general. 

            According to the Ramban, the Torah's narrative is arranged in chronological order. Therefore, Moshe's pitching the tent outside the camp took place after the sin of the Golden Calf and in its wake, and prior to his ascent of Mount Sinai for the last forty-day period (which, according to Chazal, was from the first of Elul to the tenth of Tishrei). In other words, this episode took place during the middle forty-day period.  

            According to Rashi, the narrative is not arranged in chronological order, and this story took place following Moshe's descent with the second tablets on Yom Kippur and prior to the erection of the Mishkan.[2] 

            I wish now to clarify the details of these two positions. 

WHEN WAS MOSHE'S OHEL MO'ED TAKEN OUTSIDE THE CAMP? 

            Rashi's position: 

"And he turned back to the camp" – After God had conversed with him, Moshe used to return to the camp and teach the elders what he had learned. This Moshe practiced from Yom Kippur until the Mishkan was set up, but no longer. For on the seventeenth of Tamuz, the tablets were broken, on the eighteenth he burnt the calf and punished the offenders, on the nineteenth he ascended the mountain, as it is said (Shemot 32:30): "And it came to pass on the morrow that Moshe said unto the people." There he spent forty days and sought mercy for the people, as it is said (Devarim 9:18): "And I threw myself down before the Lord [as at first, forty days and forty nights]." On the first day of Rosh Chodesh Elul, it was said to him (Shemot 34:2): "[And be ready in the morning] and go up in the morning unto Mount Sinai" – to receive the second tablets. He again spent there the forty days of which it is states (Devarim 10:10): "And I stayed in the mountain, according to the first days [forty days and forty nights]." Just as the first [forty days] were passed in God's goodwill, so too the last [forty days] were passed in God's goodwill – from which you must admit that the intervening [forty days] were passed in God's anger. On the tenth of Tishrei, God became reconciled with Israel in joy and perfect affection and said to Moshe: "I have forgiven," and handed him over the second tablets, whereupon Moshe went down and began to command them concerning the work of the Mishkan. They were occupied in its construction until the first of Nisan and from the time when it was set up God did not converse with him any more except from the Ohel Mo'ed. (Shemot 33:11) 

            The gist of what Rashi is saying is that Moshe's tent was pitched outside the camp for only a limited period of time. According to him, this tent stood there from Yom Kippur, when Moshe descended with the second set of tablets and began to command the people of Israel about the construction of the Mishkan, until the Mishkan was set up on the first of Nisan. According to this understanding, this Ohel Mo'ed served as sort of a preview of the Mishkan until it was actually erected. 

            The Ramban cites the words of Rashi and disagrees with him: 

"Now Moshe took the tent and would pitch it outside the camp." Rashi wrote: "This Moshe practiced from Yom Kippur until the Mishkan was set up, but no longer. For on the seventeenth of Tamuz the tablets were broken, on the eighteenth he burnt the calf and punished the offenders, on the nineteenth he ascended the mountain, and spent forty days there. On the first day of Rosh Chodesh Elul, it was said to him (Shemot 34:2): "[And be ready in the morning] and go up in the morning" – to receive the second tablets. There he spent another forty days. On the tenth of Tishrei, God became reconciled with Israel and handed over to Moshe the second tablets, whereupon Moshe went down and began to command them concerning the work of the Mishkan. They were occupied in its construction until the first of Nisan and from the time when it was set up God did not converse with him any more except from the Ohel Mo'ed." This also is the opinion of R. Avraham Ibn Ezra, that all this took place after Moshe brought down the second tablets, there being no strict chronological order in the narrative of the Torah.

But it does not appear to me to be correct, for what reason is there to mention this here in the middle of the section? The words of our Rabbis in all midrashim are also to the effect that Moshe did this on account of their sin with the calf. Thus, they explained that Moshe said: "One who is excommunicated from the master is also excommunicated from the disciple," and as Rashi mentioned (ibid.) [that God said to Moshe]: "I am angry and you are angry; if so, who will bring them near to Me?" Now if the removal of the tent was after Yom Kippur, the Holy One, blessed be He, as well as Moshe, was already in complete reconciliation with them!

Rather, it appears that on the day that he came down from the mountain – on the seventeenth of Tamuz – he burnt the calf and punished the worshippers. On the next day, he told them that he would go up to God to seek atonement for them, and so he went up to the mountain where the Glory was. This is the sense of the verse: "And Moshe returned unto the Lord" (Shemot 32:31), and prayed briefly: "Oh, this people have sinned a great sin," and God answered him: "Depart, go up hence, you and the people, etc." (vv. 1-3). And Moshe told this to Israel, and they mourned, and stripped themselves of the ornaments (vv. 4-6). Then Moshe realized that the matter was a very long one, and did not know what the end thereof would be, therefore he took the tent and pitched it outside the camp (v. 7) so that the Shekhina would communicate with him from there, for it was no longer dwelling in the midst of the people, and if the tent were to be in the midst of the camp, He would not communicate with him there. Scripture continues (ibid.): "And it came to pass, that everyone that sought the Lord…," meaning that everyone who sought the Lord used to go out to him. Then Scripture completed the narrative of all that happened while the tent was there until the Mishkan was set up (vv. 8-11), which was, according to the opinion of our Sages (Shabbat 86b), from Yom Kippur until the first day of Nisan.

I have seen in Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer (chap. 46): "R. Yehoshua ben Korcha says: [After the revelation,] Moshe spent forty days on the mountain, studying the Written Law at daytime and the Oral Law at night. After the forty days, he took the tablets and came back to the camp. On the seventeenth of Tamuz, he broke the tablets and killed the sinners of Israel, and then stayed in the camp forty days until he burnt the calf and ground it like the dust of the earth. Then he eliminated idolatry from Israel, and established each tribe in its place. On the first of Elul, the Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: 'Come up to me into the mountain.' Then the ram's horn was sounded throughout the camp, announcing to the people that Moshe was going up to the mountain, so that [they might not be alarmed by his absence] and not be misled anymore after idols. [On that day,] the Holy One, blessed be He, was exalted by the sound of the ram's horn, as it is said (Tehillim 47:6): 'God is gone up amid shouting, the Lord amid the sound of the horn.' And thus likewise the Sages ordained that we blow the horn every year on the first day of Elul." Thus far are the words of the Aggada.

And if this is so, then the whole section from "Moshe took the tent" applied to the time from the eighteenth of Tamuz till the end of the forty days, and from Yom Kippur till the first of Nisan.

But this exposition does not fit in well with what Scripture says (Devarim 9:18-19): "And I fell down before the Lord, as at first, forty days and forty nights; I did neither eat bread, etc.," and it is further written there (ibid. v. 25): "So I fell down before the Lord forty days and forty nights that I fell down; because the Lord had said He would destroy you," and it is impossible that all this refers to the last forty days, since He told him (Shemot 34:1): "Hew you two tablets of stone… and come up to Me into the mountain." Thus, these last forty days were already those of God's goodwill, after He had already nullified the decree that He would destroy them. (Ramban, Devarim 33:7)   

The Ramban's first argument is that after Yom Kippur, Israel's sin had already been pardoned, while the tent was removed on account of the sin. It is therefore unreasonable to assume that the tent was removed only after Yom Kippur. Rather, the Ramban argues, immediately after the sin of the Golden Calf, Moshe ascended the mountain and offered a short prayer; afterwards, he took the tent and pitched it outside the camp so that the Shekhina would talk to him there, as it no longer rested among the people.  

            In the continuation, the Ramban says: 

The whole section from "Moshe took the tent," applied to the time from the eighteenth of Tamuz till the end of the forty days, and from Yom Kippur till the first of Nisan. 

As opposed to Rashi, the Ramban understands that immediately following Moshe's descent from Mount Sinai and his breaking of the first set of tablets, Moshe took his tent and pitched it outside the camp. 

            This position is based on another point that is the subject of a disagreement between Rashi and the Ramban. Rashi understands that Moshe ascended the mountain three times, each time for forty days. He says as follows: 

"I fell down before the Lord as at the first, forty days," as it is said (Shemot 32:30): "And now I will go up to the Lord perhaps I may atone for your sin." At that ascent, I tarried there forty days – consequently these terminated on the twenty-ninth of Av, since he had ascended on the eighteenth of Tamuz. On that same day, He became reconciled with Israel and said to Moshe (Shemot 34:1): "Hew you out two tablets." He stayed there another forty days; consequently, these terminated on Yom Kippur. On that same day, the Holy One, blessed be He, was gladly reconciled with Israel and said to Moshe, “I have forgiven according to your word.” On this account, it was appointed for pardon and forgiveness. And from where do we know the he was reconciled with them with complete goodwill? Because it is stated in respect to the forty days of the last tablets (Devarim 10:10): "And I stayed in the mountain according to the first days." What was the case with the first days? They were passed in God's goodwill. So too the last forty days were in God's goodwill! You must now say that the intervening forty days were passed in God's anger. (Devarim 9:18) 

            This position must also take into account Rashi's fundamental position regarding the use of the principle that the Torah's stories are not necessarily recorded in chronological order, as was mentioned above. If Moshe was found on the mountain for all three forty day periods, as Rashi assumes, it is easy to understand that the story regarding the removal of Moshe's tent from the camp had to take place after those 120 days – that is, after Yom Kippur, the day of complete pardon for the sin and the day of Moshe's descent from the mountain with the second set of tablets. According to him, the tent was removed from Yom Kippur until the dedication of the Mishkan. Once the Mishkan was dedicated, there was no longer any need for Moshe's tent to be located outside the camp. 

The Ramban disagrees. According to him, Moshe was on the mountain during the first forty day period until he went down on the seventeenth of Tamuz and broke the tablets. He was similarly on the mountain during the last forty day period, when he was commanded to hew the second set of tablets; he ascended the mountain on the first of Elul and came down on Yom Kippur with the second set of tablets. But during the middle forty days, according to the Ramban, Moshe was found not on Mount Sinai, but in the camp.

 

According to the Ramban, after Moshe burned the calf and punished its worshippers on the seventeenth of Tamuz, he went up the next morning to the mountain, offered there a short prayer, and then returned to the camp. At this point, he took his tent and pitched it outside the camp so that the Shekhina would talk to him there.  

The Ramban cites the Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer, according to which following the breaking of the first tablets and the killing of the sinners among Israel, Moshe spent the next forty days in the camp until he burned the calf and crushed it into dust and set each tribe in its place. On Rosh Chodesh Elul, Moshe ascended the mountain one final time for the last forty days. 

Once again, we must take into account the Ramban's basic position that the Torah's stories are generally recorded in chronological order. (Throughout the Torah the Rambam makes minimal use of the principle that the Torah is not written in chronological order.) According to his understanding that Moshe spent the middle forty days in the camp, we understand that Moshe's tent was removed from the camp and played a role from the eighteenth of Tamuz until forty days passed (i.e., until the end of Av), and from Yom Kippur until the first of Nisan, when the Mishkan was erected. 

THE VIEW OF R.AVRAHAM BEN HA-RAMBAM 

            R. Avraham ben ha-Rambam writes as follows: 

It is possible that this is the same tent about which it said at the time of [Moshe's] meeting with Yitro: "And they came into the tent" (Shemot 18:7). Presumably, he did this as commanded by God. (Shemot 33:7) 

            According to this understanding, there is already an earlier reference to this tent. Even before Israel arrived at the foot of Mount Sinai, this tent served as a place "to inquire of God" (v. 15). There took place, "And I do make them know the statutes of God and His laws" (v. 16), and it was apparently at God's command that this tent was moved from inside the camp to outside the camp. 

            R. Avraham ben Ha-Rambam points to the existence of this tent at an early stage of Israel's stay in the wilderness, following the exodus from Egypt, even before the Torah was given at Sinai. The tent served as a place for the people to inquire of God and for Moshe to inform Israel of God's statutes and laws. 

            Another interesting point that he raises relates to the question of whether Moshe removed the tent from the camp on his own initiative or at the command of God. 

            In the verses, there is no hint to an explicit Divine command, and it would seem that the move was undertaken on Moshe's own initiative. If indeed there was a Divine command, this was part of the removal of the Shekhina that was decreed against Israel on God's initiative in the wake of the sin. 

THE MEANING OF THE VARIOUS VIEWS 

            To summarize the main viewpoints regarding the removal of Moshe's Ohel Mo'ed from inside the camp to outside the camp (beyond the question from when did that tent existed, regarding which R. Avraham ben Ha-Rambam maintains that tent already existed prior to the revelation at Mount Sinai), we saw two principal opinions: 

            1) The view of Rashi, according to which the tent was removed from Yom Kippur on, after Moshe descended from the mountain with the second set of tablets. 

            2) The view of the Ramban, according to which the tent was removed from the camp from the seventeenth of Tamuz and on, immediately following the breaking of the first tablets. 

            On the face of it, there is one important difference between these two viewpoints. According to the Ramban, the removal of the tent was a direct consequence of the sin, immediately after the breaking of the tablets, and this act was a clear expression of the removal of the Shekhina in the wake of the sin.   According to Rashi, on the other hand, following Yom Kippur, the sin to a large degree had already been pardoned and Moshe descended with the second set of tablets. Therefore, we cannot explain the pitching of the tent outside the camp merely as an expression of the removal of the Shekhina, and we must find an additional reason. 

            It is possible that according to Rashi, the removal of the tent was an expression of the separation between Moshe's tent and the tent of the Mishkan. According to this understanding, calling the tent Ohel Mo'ed in total correspondence to the name of the Ohel Mo'ed of the Mishkan comes against the background of the erection of the Mishkan and in order to express the very clear difference between it and the Mishkan.[3] 

            It is also possible that Moshe's tent was removed from the camp until the Mishkan was set up, at which point the resting of the Shekhina returned to the heart of the camp, the Mishkan. In this sense, the Ohel Mo'ed served as a sort of preparation/separation until the erection of the Mishkan. This difference will be sharpened when we deal in the next lecture with the essence of Moshe's Ohel Mo'ed outside the camp. 

            It is also interesting to consider the meaning of the removal of the tent in the view of the Ramban. In the book of Bereishit, in the stories relating to Adam, Kayin and Hevel, in the wake of the sin, the sinner is removed from his place. This was also true about the people of Israel in their land in later generations. Since the people were meant to inherit the Land of Israel, and it is the land in which the Shekhina is found, a state of sin does not allow the people to remain in the land, the land of God's inheritance, and therefore the land casts its sinners out beyond its borders. 

            Here in the wilderness, we are not dealing with a place which has sanctity, and therefore it serves no purpose to remove the sinners from the camp (especially at this stage when there is no Mishkan and the Shekhina is still not resting in the camp). The appropriate way to cancel the Shekhina's presence in the entirety of the camp and to continue with its connection to Moshe was to remove Moshe's tent outside the camp. There the Shekhina revealed itself to Moshe, and there the cloudy pillar appeared, as a clear expression of the revelation of the Shekhina.[4] According to the Ramban, then, the removal of the tent was a most drastic step that emphasized the removal of the Shekhina at this time, and anyone seeking God had to go out to the Ohel Mo'ed outside the camp. 

UNTIL WHEN WAS MOSHE'S OHEL MO'ED OUTSIDE THE CAMP? 

            According to Rashi and the Ramban, Moshe's Ohel Mo'ed was outside the camp until the Mishkan was set up in the month of Nisan of the second year. It is possible to see the very setting up of the Mishkan as an expression of God's total pardon of the sin, and therefore under these circumstances it was possible to return Moshe's tent to the camp. 

            In addition, with the erection of the Mishkan and establishment of the various camps, the sanctity of the entire camp found expression in the distinction between the camp of the Shekhina, the camp of the Levites, and the camp of Israel, each camp with its own boundaries. With the creation of zones of sanctity around the Mishkan, it was fitting that the presence of the Shekhina in Moshe's tent should also be found in the camp. This is certainly true according to the Ramban. According to Rashi, the separation was necessary as long as the Mishkan was not built, but once it was actually built, it was possible to unite the tents and return Moshe's tent to the camp. 

            This question is of course directly connected to the standing of the tent and its function, which will be discussed later. Beyond the simple understanding that follows from the words of the Rishonim that the tent existed until the Mishkan was actually set up, an examination of the Scriptural verses indicates that Moshe's tent outside the camp continued to exist until the end of Moshe's life, in anticipation of Israel's entry in the land, when Israel camped during the fortieth year in Arvot Moav opposite Jericho. 

MOSHE'S TENT OUTSIDE THE CAMP AFTER THE SETTING UP OF THE MISHKAN 

            Several verses indicate that Moshe's tent remained outside the camp even after the Mishkan was set up. 

            In the story of the complainers at Tav'eira, Moshe is commanded: 

Gather to me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them to the Ohel Mo'ed, that they may stand there with you. And I will come down and talk with you there; and I will take of the spirit which is upon you, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you that you bear it not yourself alone. (Bamidbar 11:15-17) 

            Moshe executes this command, as is related in the continuation: 

And he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people and set them round about the tent. And the Lord came down in a cloud and spoke to him, and took of the spirit that was upon him and gave it to the seventy elders… And there remained two of the men in the camp… But they went not out to the tent; and they prophesied in the camp… And Moshe retired into the camp, he and the elders of Israel. (ibid. vv. 24-30)  

            The Sifrei (ad loc.) explains: 

This teaches that God did not bring calamity down upon them until all the righteous entered into the camp. 

            That is to say, they had been in the tent that was outside the camp, and they entered the camp.[5] 

            The story of the Kushite woman can also be understood in this manner:  

And the Lord spoke suddenly to Moshe and to Aharon and to Miriam, “Come out you three to the Ohel Mo'ed. And they three came out. And the Lord came down in the pillar of cloud and stood in the door of the tent and called Aharon and Miriam: and they both came out… And the cloud was removed from the tent; and, behold, Miryam was snow white, stricken with tzora'at. (Bamidbar 12:4-10) 

            In these two cases, when the Ohel Mo'ed was outside the camp, God comes down in His cloud. Similarly, at the end of Moshe's life, God commands him to call upon Yehoshua and appear with him in the Ohel Mo'ed:  

And the Lord said to Moshe, “Behold, your days approach that you must die; call Yehoshua, and present yourselves in the Ohel Mo'ed, that I may give him a charge.” And Moshe and Yehoshua went and presented themselves in the Ohel Mo'ed. (Devarim 31:14) 

            As in the previous cases, here too God appears at the door of the Ohel Mo'ed in a pillar of cloud. The simple understanding would seem to be that we are dealing with Moshe's Ohel Mo'ed that was pitched outside the camp. 

            Shmuel Hakohen[6] aptly notes that the wording found in the book of Devarim: 

And the Lord appeared in the tent in a pillar of a cloud; and the pillar of the cloud stood over the door of the tent. And the Lord said to Moshe… (Devarim 31:15-16) 

parallels the wording of the story of the removal of the Ohel Mo'ed in the book of Shemot: 

And it came to pass, as Moshe entered the tent, the pillar of cloud descended, and stood at the door of the tent, and one talked with Moshe. (Shemot 33:9) 

            Moreover, the expression "presenting oneself in the Ohel Mo'ed," which is mentioned in the account of the appointment of the seventy elders, is repeated in the story of the appointment of Yehoshua. The precise parallels between the formulations strengthen the understanding that this is typical of Moshe's Ohel Mo'ed that stood outside the camp. 

            Chazal also understood these events as having occurred in Moshe's tent outside the camp. Thus, we find in Sifrei Zuta:  

"And they shall keep the charge of the Ohel Mo'ed, for all the service of the tent." R. Shimon said: Thus, you learn that there were two tents – a tent for service and a tent for speaking. (Bamidbar 18:4) 

            According to this midrash, there were two tents that stood at the same time, and the Levites kept the charge of both tents – the tent for service and the tent for speaking. 

            Regarding the section dealing with the appointment of the elders (Bamidbar 11), the midrash expounds as follows:[7]  

And he set them round about the tent – the tent for speaking which was outside the camp. They made two tents, a tent for service and a tent for speaking. The outer tent had the same dimensions as the inner one, and the Levites served in both with the wagons. 

            Without going into the essence of the tents, we see that the tent of Moshe outside the camp, both according to the plain sense of the verses and according to the words of Chazal, stood throughout Israel's forty year stay in the wilderness, until the end of Moshe's life. 

            There is another possibility[8] – namely, that all the events mentioned above did indeed occur in the tent of Moshe, the Ohel Mo'ed that was outside the camp, but this does not mean that the tent stood consecutively outside the camp throughout the forty years, but rather that at certain times and for special events, Moshe's tent was once again taken outside the camp. 

            According to this understanding, just as there was an additional ark that went out to war with the camp of Israel, so too there was an additional tent that basically was returned to the camp when the Mishkan was set up, but for very special occasions, it was taken outside the camp, and there God revealed Himself to Moshe at the door of the Ohel Mo'ed. 

            It turns out that this tent was connected to the special standing of Moshe and to the special connection between God and Moshe. 

            There is, of course, no hint in the verses that this tent was ever stored away or, alternatively, that it continued to exist after Israel entered the land. In any event, logic dictates that the days of this tent ended with the death of Moshe. 

(Translated by David Strauss)


[1] This issue was discussed by Shmuel Hakohen, "Ohel Mo'ed ha-Sheni," Shema'atin 100, pp. 9-16, 60; Prof. Yaakov Efrati, "Ohel Moshe," Shema'atin 85-86, pp. 20-24, 81; Prof. David Henshke, "Mishkan ha-Eidut u-Beit ha-Bechira," Megadim 11 (Tamuz 5750), pp. 30-35; Aviya Hakohen, "Negged ha-Mishkan Ma'aseh ha-Egel," Beit ha-Mikra 150 (Nisan-Sivan 5757), pp. 262-264. The sources cites in this shiur were taken from these articles.

It is clear that the moving of Moshe's tent outside the camp was one of the direct consequences of the sin involving the Golden Calf. Those consequences constitute a broad topic in itself. Here we shall limit ourselves to the issue of the removal of the tent and its various implications.

[2] This issue was discussed at length in our shiur dealing with the question whether the Mishkan as a whole was lekhatchila or bedi'eved.

[3] It is of course possible to connect Rashi and the Ramban's fundamental disagreement to their positions on the question whether the Mishkan was lekhatchila or bedi'eved. According to Rashi, God's command regarding the Mishkan was issued during the last forty day period. Immediately thereafter, Moshe came down with the second tablets. Thus, the removal of the Ohel Mo'ed came to create a separation between Moshe's Ohel Mo'ed and the Ohel Mo'ed of the Mishkan which was then being built. According to the Ramban, God's command to Moshe about the Mishkan was issued during the first forty days that he spent on the mountain and the removal of the tent in the wake of the sin was meant to remove the revelation of the Shekhina from the camp in order to allow for the repair of the people of Israel, and thus to create the conditions that would enable the Shekhina to rest anew in the Mishkan.

[4] It is clear that the entire section preceding the account of the tent is also directly connected to the sin and the removal of the Shekhina, "for I will not go up in the midst of you" (Shemot 33:3), and the removal of the ornaments (ibid. vv. 5-6). We shall not expand upon this in this framework.

[5] This is also explicit in the story of Miriam (vv. 14-15): "Let her be shut out from the camp seven days, and after that let her be received in again. And Miriam was shut out from the camp seven days: and the people did not journey until Miriam was brought in again."

[6] See note 1.

[7] The midrash is brought is Yalkut Shim'oni Bamidbar 737.

[8] This possibility was suggested by R. Yoel Bin-Nun in an oral conversation.