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Shem Mishmuel: Vaeira IV

Moses was familiar with the divine master plan and saw each prophecy within the context of that plan. Later prophets struggled to understand the details of what they were given and from them they attempted to deduce the wider implications of the master plan.

Humility – Key to Inspiration

Why was Moses accorded this distinction? The Torah informs us that Moses was not only the greatest prophet but also the most humble man on earth. These two qualities are interconnected.

Moses did not view himself as a separate entity from G‑d; he was completely detached from himself with no sense of independent ego. His entire consciousness was absorbed within G‑d.

Pious as they were, the later prophets did not see themselves this way. They strove mightily to achieve full communion with G‑d but, try as they might, they could not reach Moses’ level. In the end they and G‑d remained, ostensibly, separate entities. G‑d was the speaker and they were the listeners.

Because Moses was, also in his own consciousness, not an entity separate from G‑d, he was never overwhelmed by prophecy. He could easily relate to the words G‑d spoke to him and understand both the prophecies themselves and their wider context. Prophesying was natural to Moshe for he and his prophecy were fully one.

The later prophet was not fully one with his prophecy; prophecy came to him from a place beyond himself. The actual prophecy phase always overwhelmed him and upon its conclusion he would need to step back and examine the vision he had received. Once he stepped back and returned to his usual self, the transcendent vision would appear enigmatic. To decipher it he would need to apply himself intellectually.

Where Moses saw a perfect portion of a greater image, the later prophet he saw an incomplete fragment and struggled to make sense of it. Later prophets transmitted their prophecy in their own words; but Moses’ prophecy would become an instant “live feed” through which G‑d’s words were broadcast to the Jewish people. As our sages have said, “the Shechinah (Divine Presence) spoke from Moses’ throat.”

An Ordinary Beginning
It was not always this way for Moses. When he first started he also struggled to understand his prophetic experiences. The burning bush was the first image he was given to interpret. From there he went on to receive further riddles that required unraveling, such as the stick turning to a serpent, his hand becoming leprous and the water turning to blood.

Moses’ defining moment came with the most enigmatic of all his prophecies, which appears in the end of last week’s Parsha. G‑d instructed Moses to demand that Pharaoh set the Israelites free. In response, Pharaoh defiantly increased the pressure on the people by refusing to provide building supplies yet demanding the same work quotas as before.

Moses, yet unschooled in matters of the divine plan, couldn’t accept this development and turned in anger to G‑d, “Why have you harmed your people?” Moses was saying that he couldn’t understand the logic of his mission. G‑d’s seemingly unsatisfactory response is found in the beginning of this week’s Parsha. “I am G‑d. I have revealed myself to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and have not shown them my intimate name.”  How does this response satisfy Moses’ heart-rending demand?

Unprecedented and Unmitigated

G‑d was telling Moses that he would now be permitted to see what no prophet ever would: G‑d’s essence. When G‑d’s essence is revealed it completely absorbs the viewer, for it’s not possible to see G‑d and remain detached. From here on Moses could no longer receive his prophecy as a separate entity, outside from G‑d.

He would now become fully absorbed within the divine. His senses would be fully attached to G‑d, he would have no desire for anything but G‑d, and he would stand fully prepared for prophecy at all times. He would be wholly and fully a vehicle of G‑d.

Once he transferred from a self-based entity to a G‑d-based perspective, Moses became a conduit for divine thought and was made privy to the master plan. He could now see the context of every detail and understand how it fits the divine master plan.

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