After the events of the Golden Calf, and Moshe's intercession for the
people, the Torah refers to Karnei Hod -- rays of light emanating from
Moshe's face. As a result of the radiance, Moshe began to wear a veil.
Opinions vary as to when Moshe wore this veil, when it was taken off, and
what its purpose was.
Both the Kli Yakar and Rebbi Akiva Eiger were of the opinion that Moshe
wore the veil when speaking with the people, but removed it when
communicating with Hashem.
According to Kli Yakar, the veil demonstrated the humility of Moshe. When
Moshe became aware that the people were staring at him because of the
radiance, he was ashamed, and covered his face. When speaking with Hashem,
however, he needed to remove the veil, in order to receive the teachings
Rebbi Akiva Eiger, though, explained it differently. According to his
words, Moshe was by nature an `anov' -- humble person. In teaching the
people, however, he had to direct with strength; excessive modesty might
prevent him from discharging his duty fully. The veil was a symbol that
Moshe had to conceal and hold back his nature in order to fulfill his mission.
Interestingly, the recently published Shimusha shel Torah tells similar
stories regarding Rebbi Akiva Eiger himself. Although Rebbi Akiva Eiger
has always been renowned for, among other things, his great humility, he
nonetheless stood up for the honor of the Torah with strength and might.
He could easily disregard his own honor -- but the honor of the Torah, its
sages and their decrees, could not be slighted!
Others explain in accordance with Ralbag: Moshe could spend his days
fasting and communing with Hashem, but he needed to be able to relate to
ordinary people, as well. The veil symbolized to Moshe that he had to
separate from the purely spiritual realm in order to be able to advise,
guide and direct the people.
The legal compendium Chai Adom begins with lofty concepts.
"It is a positive mitzva from the Torah to attach one's self in thought to
Hashem, as the Torah says: (Devorim 10:20) `You shall fear Hashem ... and
adhere to Him.' Is it possible for a person to adhere to Hashem? Rather,
the intention is that one's thoughts should constantly be bound to Him..."
(See Ramban, Devorim 11:22)
See further there, how the author of Chai Adom continues at length.
The commentaries struggle to explain the words of Chai Adom, however, for
they seem to be in direct contradiction to the Talmud (K'suvos 111b): "Is
it possible for a person to adhere to Hashem? Rather, one who marries his
daughter to a Talmud Chachom (Torah Scholar), one who does business with
Talmidei Chachomim, one who benefits Talmidei Chachomim from his property
-- the Torah considers it as if he has attached himself to Hashem..."
The Beis Baruch explains that the mitzva to adhere to Hashem is like any
other commandment. There is an ultimate purpose and intention of the
mitzva, besides the simple laws. The Talmud is explaining the simple laws,
which apply to all men. It would be too much to expect the average person
to attain such a lofty level as to adhere in thought constantly to Hashem.
Therefore, the Talmud commanded that people strive to attain a closeness to
the Talmidei Chachomim -- Torah Scholars. However, the purpose and
ultimate intention of the command is as the early authorities stated, that
one should learn from the Scholars' deeds and come to appreciate the ways
of Hashem. The Chai Adom is reminding us about the purpose of the mitzva:
Ideally, each person should try, on his own level, to attain true
attachment to Hashem.