Moshe said: This is the thing that Hashem has commanded you to do. Then
Hashem’s Glory will appear to you.
We struggle to find the purpose of Moshe’s exhortation. The people had
already responded to Moshe’s instructions. The parshah of inauguration had
been prepared and assembled; all that remained to be done was their
offering. What was Moshe asking of them?
Chazal clearly were concerned with this problem when they authored this
comment: “Moshe said to Yisrael, ‘Remove that yetzer hora from your hearts,
so that you will all be reverentially of one mind and purpose, to minister
before Hashem. Just as He is Singular in the universe, so shall your
service be unified before Him. Why? Because ‘Hashem your G-d is the G-d of
the powers and the Lord of lords . ’” This explication, however, is even
more difficult to understand than the verse it attempts to elucidate!
Here is what it means. Already in the days of Moshe, groups of people whose
love for Hashem led them to act in a manner transgressing limits prescribed
by the Torah. (We will later see a blatant example of this in the behavior
of the two hundred and fifty  who so desired the connection with Hashem
they expected would come through the avodah of the ketores, that they risked
their lives – and ultimately paid that price – against overwhelming odds.
They were all completely righteous, and yet still wrong. They “sinned
against their souls ” by offering their very lives to evidence their
intense love of Hashem and achieve even more of it. They did this even
though they contravened the expressed will of the Torah that only Kohanim
offer the ketores. They apparently thought that individuals were not barred
from finding their own ways to show their devotion to Hashem, entirely
outside the demands of the Torah.
Moshe understood that similar sentiments were already brewing in various
parts of the population, although these feelings had not yet burst out in
open expression. Moshe wished to suppress their passion, and proactively
deal with a nascent problem before it got out of hand. He recognized that
the events of this special, final day in the period of the Mishkan’s
inauguration would inflame those dangerous feelings. People wanted to draw
close to the Shechinah as they watched it manifest its closeness to them as
a fire that descended from Heaven. Moshe could tell that some people were
prepared to act unilaterally and precipitously to invent home-grown ways of
achieving spiritual elevation and connection with Hashem.
Moshe therefore cautioned them to “remove that yetzer hora” from their
hearts. No matter how lofty their objective, if it was not part of Hashem’s
expressed Will, it has to be seen as a form of yetzer hora! Moshe expands
upon this thought by adding, “Just as He is Singular in the universe, so
shall your service be unified before Him.” In other words, it is fitting
that Hashem’s people share a common form of service. If it would be proper
for each person to serve Hashem differently according to the depth of
passion and excitement that he felt in his heart, many different Torahs
would be generated, rather than the one Torah that is suitable in serving
the One G-d.
Moshe bolsters his plea with a proof text that doesn’t seem to prove his
point. “Hashem your G-d is the G-d of the powers and the Lord of lords.”
Moshe’s intent becomes apparent in the end of the pasuk. “The great…G-d Who
does not show favor, and Who does not accept a bribe.”
What could we offer Hashem as a bribe? Money? Is there anything that does
not already belong to Him? Do we pledge to multiply our righteous acts?
Whatever we are capable of doing we are obligated to do! Such a pledge
doesn’t offer Hashem anything that is not already owed to Him – and
therefore cannot be considered a bribe. The only item we can offer Him that
He makes no claim upon is our very existence. We can offer Him our lives
when He does not ask for them, as a sign of our devotion and our eagerness
to become joined with Him. Yet He does not take any pleasure, as it were, in
such sacrifice. Moshe throws cold water on any such enterprise by terming
such behavior “bribes” that He does not accept.
Chazal  understand the phrase “This is the thing/davar” as a double
entendre. Davar means not only “thing,” but “word.” They derive from this
that Moshe read the actual words of this parshah to the Jewish people. But
if we are to understand the phrase as referring to a presentation of the
verbatim instructions of Hashem, we must accordingly tweak our reading of
the next phrase: “that Hashem has commanded you to do.” How can we “do” a
group of sentences, a section of text?
We can show similar constructions elsewhere. In each case, “doing” text
means exactly comprehending the intent and message of that text, and acting
upon it. This, too, was part of Moshe’s message to Klal Yisrael on the
eighth day of the milu’im. Sensing the anticipation and eagerness of his
people for the service of korbanos and the spiritual benefits they believed
they would glean from the indwelling of the Shechinah, it fell to Moshe to
put things in perspective. He presented the parshah to them as he had heard
it, and then urged them to “do” that parshah, i.e. to accurately digest all
of its details, lessons, and implications, and act upon them. Then and only
then “Hashem’s Glory will appear to you.”
The message is that when the kernel idea behind korbanos is understood fully
in the manner that it was intended at Sinai, then the Glory of Hashem
becomes available even without the medium of korbanos! In their desire to
feel the closeness of the Shechinah, it would not be necessary of
appropriate for people to sacrifice their lives. (There are several reports
of Heavenly fires descending in places of intense Torah study, such as Moso
Mechasya , and in the vicinity of talmidei chachamim rejoicing in the
Torah with the intensity of the celebration at Sinai ).
While passion for Hashem is a wonderful thing, He wants it always to be
constrained by the limitations of His expressed wishes in the Torah.
1. Based on Ha’amek Davar, Vayikra 9:6
2. Devarim 10:17
3. Bamidbar 16:2
4. Bamidbar 17:3
5. Yoma 5B
6. Berachos 17B – see Tosafos
7. Tosafos Chagigah 15A