After all of the tumultuous events of the book of Shmot – the Exodus, the
revelation at Sinai and the granting of the Torah, the event of the Golden
Calf and of the construction of the Mishkan/Tabernacle – the Lord calls
out, so to speak, to Moshe from the inner recesses of the
What is the significance of this call? And why does it need to be made at
all? Moshe had already ascended the mountain of Sinai and been taught the
Torah and its laws previous to this call. And, as Rashi points out to us,
this call was personal to Moshe for it was not addressed to the rest of
Israel as was the revelation at Sinai itself.
Moshe would then have to transmit the call – the teachings and
instructions that were now entrusted to him by God – to the Jewish people
and explain and teach them these laws and nuances of the Godly message.
Vayikra teaches us that henceforth Torah would be taught by humans to
humans and that the Torah was “no longer in Heaven.” That is the
significance of God’s call to Moshe and to Moshe alone.
The Talmud teaches us that even the holy prophets of Israel were forbidden
to construct new systems of halacha. The transmission of Torah, though
certainly requiring heavenly aid and inspiration, was now a purely human
Moshe heard the Heavenly voice directly in receiving the Torah’s laws and
instructions but the Jewish people only heard the human voice of Moshe
teaching them God’s Torah.
In the final chapter of Pirkei Avot (which is not a part of the mishna of
Avot itself) called Perek Kinyan Torah – the chapter concerning the
acquisition of Torah knowledge – one of the methods of acquiring such
Torah knowledge and direction is emunat chachamim – belief in the
teachings of the wise Torah scholars of Israel.
Though there are differing interpretations as to the latitude of this
concept and whether it applies even to all matters of personal and
national life generally, all agree that as far as Torah teaching is
concerned it is an applicable and necessary value and belief. The basis
for this value is what has been described above in the previous paragraph –
ultimate belief of the Jewish people in the divinity of Torah as
transmitted to them by Moshe.
The Torah at Sinai was given once. That scene would never be repeated
again. Thus the burden of the transmission and teaching of Torah now
rested with human beings – with the Torah scholars of every age and era.
And one of the tests of Jewish life would be the trust and faith that the
people as a whole would entrust to the teachings and direction of those
scholars – emunat chachamim if you will.
This human relationship of generational trust and teaching is the hallmark
of halacha throughout the history of Israel. Moshe still speaks to us even
if we are unable to hear the heavenly voice emanating from the
Mishkan/Tabernacle itself. This is the basis of Jewish continuity and
vitality till today.
Rabbi Berel Wein