Revelation to Avraham vs. Revelation to Moshe
Yeshivat Har Etzion
This parasha series is
in memory of Michael Jotkowitz, z"l.
Mazal Tov to Tamara and Ben-Zion Spitz on the birth of a baby girl, sister to Eitan, Akiva, Elchanan, Netanel, Yehuda and Yehoshua; may they and the entire Spitz-Tucker family raise her le-Torah, le-Chupa u'le-Ma'asim Tovim!!
"At the Entrance to the Tent"
Revelation to Avraham vs. Revelation to Moshe 
By Rav Tamir Granot
In several instances in the biblical narrative, we find a phenomenon whereby one story "quotes" another, whether explicitly or by means of repeating linguistic expressions, a similar structure, or even a similar sketching of the narrative images. It is as though the "fingerprints" of one story turn up in the midst of another.
We will propose in this shiur that the fingerprints of the revelation by God and the angels to Avraham, bringing tidings of the future birth of Yitzchak (Bereishit 18), may be located in the description of the Ohel Mo'ed ("Tent of Meeting") that Moshe erected following the sin of the Golden Calf and in the subsequent story of the Second Covenant and God's revelation to Moshe (Shemot 33-34:10).
Let us first present the parallels between the two situations along the axis of the story of God's revelation to Avraham, following the order of the verses. Thereafter we shall elaborate slightly concerning each parallel in order.
1. "He was sitting AT THE ENTRANCE TO THE TENT (1)
2. and behold, three men WERE STANDING before him (God reveals Himself) (2)
3. And HE RAN towards them, AND PROSTRATED HIMSELF TO THE GROUND. And Avraham HURRIED (2,6)
SAID: MY LORD, IF I HAVE FOUND FAVOR IN YOUR EYES, DO
5. And Avraham hurried TO THE TENT, TO SARA, and he said 'AND MY HUSBAND (adoni) IS OLD (6,12)
6. And afterwards you shall move on, since you have PASSED TO COME TO YOUR SERVANT (5)
7. IS ANYTHING TOO WONDROUS FOR GOD? (14)
8. They shall KEEP THE WAY OF GOD (19)
9. FOR I HAVE KNOWN HIM (19)
1. Every man at the ENTRANCE TO HIS TENT The pillar of cloud would descend and stand AT THE ENTRANCE TO THE TENT and [God] spoke with Moshe. [When Moshe hides himself in the crevice of the rock, God also passes over the opening]  (33:8-10).
2. And HE STOOD with him there (34:5)
3. Moshe HURRIED, and HE BOWED DOWN TO THE GROUND AND PROSTRATED HIMSELF (34:8)
4. AND HE SAID: IF I HAVE FOUND FAVOR IN YOUR EYES, GOD, LET GOD THEN GO AMONGST US, for they are a stiff-necked nation (34:9)
5. And his servant YEHOSHUA BEN-NUN, A YOUNG MAN, DID NOT MOVE FROM INSIDE THE TENT" (33:11); MY MASTER, MOSHE restrain them! (Bamidbar 11:28)
6. I SHALL CAUSE ALL MY GOODNESS TO PASS OVER BEFORE YOU. And it shall be, WHEN MY GLORY PASSES until I HAVE PASSED OVER. And GOD PASSED BEFORE HIM (33:19)
7. So I and Your nation SHALL BE A SOURCE OF WONDER; before all your nation I SHALL PERFORM WONDERS (33:16, 34:10)
8. Let me know YOUR WAYS (33:13)
9. I SHALL KNOW YOU BY NAME (33:17)
Let us now examine these parallels in greater detail:
1."God appeared to him in Elonei Mamrei, while he was sitting at the entrance to the tent, in the heat of the day" (Bereishit 18:1) God's revelation here is described using the verb "appeared" (vayera), which is quite common in such instances. Correspondingly, "Show me (hareni) Your glory" (Shemot 33:19). But the place of revelation is interesting: THE ENTRANCE TO THE TENT. In the parasha that sits in between the description of what the Levi'im do after the episode of the Golden Calf and God's promise to send a guiding angel and the second covenant with Moshe, there is a description of the Tent of Meeting that Moshe sets up. "Moshe would take the tent and it was the pillar of cloud would descend AND STAND AT THE ENTRANCE TO THE TENT, and [God] spoke with Moshe" (Shemot 33:7). In other words, in both places the tent is the place where the people are sitting (as opposed to the Mishkan, where obviously the "tent" (Ohel Mo'ed) is the place where God "sits," as it were, and people come to Him). In both stories the revelation takes place AT THE ENTRANCE TO THE TENT in other words, at the doorstep of the dwelling place of Moshe. Concerning the nation, too, we are told, "All the nation got up and prostrated themselves, each man AT THE ENTRANCE TO HIS TENT" (Shemot 33:10). The parallel here is both thematic and linguistic. Further on, in the story of the Revelation at Sinai, we find a similar picture. God commands Moshe, "You shall stand by the rock," and then, "It shall be, when My glory passes by, I SHALL PLACE YOU IN A CREVICE OF THE ROCK, and I shall cover you with My hand until I have passed " (Ibid. 33:21-22). The rock is similar to the tent. God comes from outside the tent, and when He passes by, Avraham tries to detain Him, to speak to Him. God also comes from outside of the rock; when He passes by Moshe tries to take in whatever he can .
Still, the revelation at the
rock is different from the revelation at the tent, for it takes place in a
sphere that is super-human. Mount Sinai is also called "the
To this we may add a further
parallel: Moshe leaves the camp and erects his tent in the desert, far from the
camp. Only there can God reveal Himself to him, for the nation is not worthy of
the presence of God's glory: "For I shall not go up among you
." Avraham, too,
pitches his tent outside of any inhabited area, in the desert . This is an
important point that helps us understand his relations with the Canaanites:
Avraham does not dwell among them; he does not become a citizen. This works to
his disadvantage when he seeks a burial plot for Sara, but it does allow him to
experience Divine revelation because he is outside of the pagan, morally
blemished inhabited area. (Interestingly, Lot lives in
2. Similar language is used to describe the respective revelations: "And behold, three men WERE STANDING before him" (Bereishit 18:2); "God descended in a cloud and STOOD WITH HIM there" (Shemot 34:5). The continuation of this latter verse is reminiscent of a verse that admittedly has nothing to do with the story of the angels, but is nevertheless common to Avraham and to Moshe: "And he CALLED IN GOD'S NAME"  (Bereishit 12:8; Shemot 34:5).
3. Both Avraham and Moshe HURRY to welcome the Divine Presence before it moves on: "He saw - AND HE RAN towards them from the entrance to the tent." Immediately thereafter, we read, "And Avraham HURRIED to the tent and he said, Quickly prepare three measures of fine meal " (Bereishit 18:2,6). Concerning Moshe, who sees the Divine Presence passing over, we read: "Moshe HURRIED and bowed down to the ground and prostrated himself" (Shemot 34:8).
In Avraham's case, too, the "hurry" leads up to prostration: "He hurried towards them from the entrance to the tent, and prostrated himself to the ground" (Bereishit 18:2).
4. We discover a surprising and most important point when comparing what Avraham and Moshe say, at the time of the respective revelations:
Avraham says, "MY LORD, IF I HAVE FOUND FAVOR IN YOUR EYES, PLEASE DO NOT PASS OVER FROM BEFORE YOUR SERVANT" (Bereishit 18:3).
Moshe says, "IF I HAVE FOUND FAVOR IN YOUR EYES, MY LORD, LET MY LORD GO AMONGST US" (Shemot 34:9).
Attention should be paid to the fact that in both cases there is a request that God tarry and not move on. Both appeal to God with the appellation, "A-donai" "my Lord" . In both instances, the request that God remain is uttered against the background of the presence of an angel, or angels. Avraham sees three men, but he addresses himself only to the most senior one, using a holy name . In Moshe's case, the significance of the appeal is actually an attempt to change the Divine decree that has come about in the wake of the Golden Calf. "I shall send an angel before you, and I shall drive out for I shall not ascend among you, for you are a stiff-necked nation " (Shemot 33:2-3). Moshe asks that God remain and journey with the nation, not to remove Himself. Just as when God passes over, Moshe tries to persuade Him to remain there with him by "reminding" God, as it were, that He Himself declared that Moshe found favor in His eyes, so too, Avraham "reminds" God that he has found favor in His eyes and therefore he entreats Him not to move on. And in both cases God agrees, remains, and does not move on.
5. There would seem to be a parallel between Sara's status and that of Yehoshua. Avraham runs to the tent, to Sara. Throughout the scene she remains inside, while the Revelation and the conversation between Avraham and God and the angels takes place at the entrance to the tent, under the tree.
Similarly, we are told that Yehoshua Moshe's servant does not move from inside the tent (Shemot 33:11), and the speech takes place at the entrance to the tent with Yehoshua inside .
Both Sara and Yehoshua call Avraham and Moshe, respectively, "adoni" "my master": "My husband (adoni) is old " (Bereishit 18:12); "My master (adoni), Moshe restrain them!" (Bamidbar 11:28).
6. In both narratives, God's presence is described using the expression "passing over/on/by" (la'avor al). Avraham says, " Feast yourselves, afterwards you will pass on, since you have passed by your servant" (Bereishit 18:5). In His words to Moshe, God says, "I shall cause all My goodness to pass over before you," and thereafter "And it shall be, when My glory passes over until I have passed by" (33:19 etc.), and finally, "And God passed over before him, and He called out " (34:6).
7. In both cases the text makes use of the root "p-l-a." First Moshe asks, "How then shall it be known that I have found favor in Your eyes, I and Your nation? Is it not by Your going with us, that I and Your nation shall BE WONDROUS" (33:16); thereafter God promises, "Before all your nation I SHALL PERFORM WONDERS" (34:10). The "senior angel" chides Avraham, "Is anything TOO WONDROUS for God?" (Bereishit 18:14). The significance of this expression in both narratives appears to be similar: something that is "wondrous" is unique, special, different, distinguishable from others. Moshe asks that Am Yisrael be made wondrous noticeably different and God promises to perform wondrous acts that are unheard of in the world among other nations. Similarly, Avraham is asked, "Is anything too wondrous for God?" meaning, is there anything that is foreign to God's power, anything that is different from what His abilities can accomplish?
8. In both cases the text speaks of "the way of God." The choice of Avraham is explained with the words, "For I know him they will follow THE WAY OF GOD " (Bereishit 18:19), while Moshe asks, "Show me YOUR WAY" (Shemot 33:13).
9. God's special relationship with each of these two personalities is described using the same expression: "FOR I KNOW HIM" (Bereishit 18:19); "For you have found favor in My eyes AND I KNOW YOU BY NAME" (Shemot 33:17).
From the parallels discussed above we conclude that the Torah is drawing our attention to a special connection between the two narratives. Let us now examine two possible ways of explaining the significance of this connection.
i. Revelation at the entrance to the tent: We have already mentioned that in both cases God's revelation takes place at the entrance to the tent. In Sefer Shemot, this fact would appear to have added significance; the description of the "private" Tent of Meeting that Moshe erects follows on God's announcement that He will not journey amongst Bnei Yisrael. Moshe draws the obvious conclusion that he can no longer come into contact with the Divine Presence and he therefore pitches "the Tent" outside of the Israelite encampment. It is from there that he conducts his quest for God: "And it was, that anyone who sought God would go out to the Tent of Meeting " (Shemot 33:7). The commentators are divided as to the status of this tent. Rashi , along with many others who adopt his view, explains that this was a temporary arrangement that ceased with the establishment of the Mishkan. This would seem the most likely scenario, based on the narrative logic, and it would appear that whenever the Tent of Meeting is mentioned after this temporary period, it may be identified with the Mishkan that is familiar to us, and which is also called the "Tent of Meeting." But the commentators who adopt this view fail to address the manner of the revelation. The difference between the Tent of Meeting meaning the Mishkan and the tent that Moshe pitches is not only that the former sits in the very middle of the camp while the latter is outside of it. The more important difference is that in the case of the Mishkan, revelation takes place within it, at its heart: "FROM ABOVE THE COVERING, BETWEEN THE TWO KERUVIM." Moshe is always outside; he enters only when he is invited as God's guest, to His "house" the Mishkan. In Moshe's Tent of Meeting the situation is reversed: the tent is Moshe's own, private domain. Yehoshua dwells constantly within this tent something quite unimaginable in the case of the Mishkan. When God wants to speak with Moshe, He descends and stands "AT THE ENTRANCE TO THE TENT"; Moshe goes out to Him and converses with Him. Here, Moshe is the "host," as it were, and God the "guest." The visit is temporary and brief. It is only to show honor to the host that God reveals Himself in this place.
In the story of Aharon and Miriam's complaint against Moshe (Bamidbar 12), we are witness once again to this manner of revelation. God tells Aharon and Miriam, "Go out all three of you to the Tent of Meeting" (Bamidbar 12:4) (indicating that the Tent is located outside of the camp rather than in the midst of it). Then, when they enter, we read: "God descended in a pillar of cloud, and stood at the entrance to the Tent, and He called: "Aharon and Miriam!" and they both went out" (Ibid. 5). This echoes exactly what we are told concerning Moshe's Tent: "And it was, when Moshe came to the Tent, that the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance to the Tent, and [God] spoke with Moshe" (Shemot 33:9). Attention should be paid to the fact that concerning the Tent of Meeting that is in the midst of the camp - the Mishkan - the text usually tells us that "the cloud covered the Tent;" or "God's glory appeared in a cloud;" or the suchlike; or, particularly, "God's glory filled the Mishkan." However, in both of our instances the text specifically mentions the "pillar of cloud," and the "entrance to the Tent" .
This would seem to suggest that
Moshe's Tent of Meeting did not cease to exist, but rather that it continued
alongside the Tent of Meeting of all of
Moshe's Tent of Meeting, on the
other hand, is erected precisely when the nation of
The episode in Bamidbar 12 the story of Aharon and Miriam's complaint against Moshe can now be added to all that we have said above. Here, the main theme of the narrative is Moshe's special elevated status in comparison with his brother and sister - his unique merit as a prophet. Obviously, in this instance, God chooses to reveal Himself in Moshe's tent, not in the Tent serving the entire community, because He wants to emphasize that the revelation in this instance is by virtue and merit of Moshe. Thereby, He demonstrates to Aharon and Miriam their mistake, for they said, "Has He not also spoken with us?" (Bamidbar 12:2). God shows that His revelation to Moshe is exclusive and He does so through revelation at the entrance to Moshe's Tent.
Attention should be paid to another connection between the revelations to Moshe and Avraham respectively a connection which requires close examination in its own right. The Torah testifies that Moshe is the only person with whom God spoke "mouth to mouth" (Bamidbar 12), or "face to face" (Shemot 33). The other prophets experienced prophecy in a dream or vision, or through the agency of an angel. Indeed, elsewhere in Tanakh, wherever we find a full description of revelation (rather than just "So says God," or "God told him"), it takes place when the prophet is not awake (see, for example, the story of Bilam), or an angel is described as appearing to mediate. But here, in the story of Avraham (Bereishit 18), the situation is different: God reveals Himself to Avraham face to face, while Avraham is fully conscious and not dreaming. The proximity between God and the prophet (Avraham and Moshe) is tangible. It is difficult to determine whether, in metaphysical terms, the revelation to Avraham is qualitatively different or whether it resembles the revelation through an angel that we find elsewhere. But at least on the narrative level, it appears that the level of intimacy, the direct and close conversation between God and Avraham that takes place here is very powerful and is paralleled only in the case of Moshe.
ii. The status of Moshe: We propose that the crux of
the parallel concerns Moshe's status. What the Torah means to tell us is that
Moshe here attains a status like that of Avraham. God Himself visits him, just
as He visited Avraham, in his own personal tent. The visit is only to him, and
it is by God Himself not just an angel. Both Avraham and Moshe find favor in
God's eyes, and therefore He reveals Himself to them and answers their requests.
If we continue this line of thought, we arrive at the possibility that the Torah
is making an important statement about the forgiveness for the sin of the Golden
Calf. At first, while
Moshe refuses the proposal, and supports his refusal by referring to the merit of the forefathers: "Remember for Avraham, for Yitzchak and for Yisrael I shall multiply your seed" (Ibid. verse 13). We usually think that the matter ended there, but perhaps this is not so. Maybe the text means to teach us that the Second Covenant, and the second set of Tablets and especially God's acquiescence to the request that He go amongst the nation are obtained solely by Moshe's personal merit. Thus Moshe becomes the forefather of the nation not genealogically (i.e., not as father of the dynasty), as God proposes, but juridically and perhaps also metaphysically, for the continued existence of the nation is all by his merit. Indeed, God explains His acquiescence with the words, "For you have found favor in My eyes, and I know you by name" (Shemot 33:17). Moshe's stature and beloved status are the reason. And this understanding allows us to see that these two narratives, which at first glance appear so thematically different, actually deal with the same subject: the beginnings of the nation. The story of Avraham centers around the tidings of the son about to be born, representing the fulfillment of the promise, "I shall make your seed like the dust of the earth" (Bereishit 13:16), and this is the beginning of the establishment of the nation. God makes the unprecedented gesture of coming right to the entrance of Avraham's tent in order to tell him about the beginning of the establishment of the nation. Similarly, God Himself comes and appears at the entrance to Moshe's Tent to teach us that the second "start" of the nation is bound up with the merit of Moshe himself. His merit and his prayer saved us, such that God agreed to go amongst us and to enter into a covenant with us.
The linguistic and thematic
similarity that we have pointed out in the requests of the two personalities now
assumes new significance: Moshe asks that God go amongst the nation i.e., that
He "personally" fulfill the covenant, and not just send an angel. This request
should be viewed as a re-establishment of the nation as God's nation. God's Tent
of Meeting (Mishkan) is built in the midst of the camp only by virtue of
the prayer offered by Moshe from the Tent that is outside of the camp.
Similarly, Avraham asks God not to pass by, and he thereby merits God telling
him and Sara that the nation will be established through the descendant that
will be born to them. We may therefore summarize by saying that the revelation
to Moshe is described as a mirror image of the revelation to Avraham, so as to
link their respective status and to tell us that Moshe is the forefather of the
nation, like Avraham before him. Just as we are told concerning Avraham, "For I
KNOW HIM," we are told concerning Moshe, "I KNOW YOU BY NAME." In both cases we
see that the two personalities are uniquely chosen. In this regard, the concept
of the "way of God" is also linked. Avraham is chosen in order that he will
command his children and household after him to keep the way of God, to perform
righteousness and justice. He immediately proves that he is worthy of this
mission by arguing with God for justice on behalf of
All of the above gives rise to
yet another central connection between the two narratives. Both revelations
that of God at the entrance to the tent, to Avraham, and that of God at the
entrance of the Tent and in the crevice of the rock, to Moshe take place in
the context of the prophet's request for mercy towards a sinful group of people
about to be destroyed. Avraham prays for the wicked
This shiur is a shortened version of an article with the same title due
to appear soon in the Megadim journal, published by
 See in this regard also the commentary of Yehuda Kiel, Sefer Bereishit Da'at Mikra, ad loc.
 We may perhaps point to an additional, graphic parallel: God and the two angels stand under the tree and speak with Avraham; in Moshe's case God stands under the pillar of cloud and speaks with him. The tree is similar to the cloud in that both shelter the Divine Presence.
 The very description of Avraham as wandering with his tent from place to place tells us that he is not a person who chooses to live in town ("He pitched his tent with Beit-El on the west and Ai on the east" Bereishit 12:8. Once again: "Up to the place where his tent had originally stood" (Ibid. 13:3). The situation in which he sits at the entrance to the tent and suddenly spots some passers-by is likewise typical of someone who dwells outside of an inhabited area rather than in the midst of it. And again the very fact of dwelling in a tent is characteristic of someone who does not live in a town.
 We address here the metaphoric aspect of the subject. There may be righteous people living in the city (Malkhitzedek), but as a rule the Torah and Avraham keep aloof from the Canaanites and their culture, as evidenced also by the story of the choice of wife for Yitzchak.
 This assumes that it is Moshe who does the "calling," and not God (the verse is ambiguous). If it is God who is calling in Moshe's name, then the whole situation is different.
 Other than this sole instance, only the Tetragrammaton is used throughout the entire episode in Sefer Shemot.
 As some of the commentators note (see Ramban and
Rabbeinu Bechaye on 18:3). The vocalization of the word "A-donai"
(suggesting a plural: "my Lords," as it were) along with the singular
formulation following it, proves that Avraham realizes that he is standing
before God. Further on in the story, the text presents an utterance of God as
though it is obvious that He is part of the scene: "God said to Avraham, Why now
has Sara laughed
." From a literary perspective, we cannot imagine that the
Torah would be presenting God's direct speech without some prior notice to us,
the readers, as well as to Avraham that God is present. Following this, as we
know, God stays to talk to Avraham and the text tells us: "The two men came to
 Chazal draw a connection between Yehoshua and Sara (See Shemot Rabba parasha 10): The letter "yud" that was removed from the name "Sarai" when it was changed to "Sara," was given to Hoshea, whose name became Yehoshua. It is interesting to speculate whether the connection surrounding the tent prompted Chazal to arrive at this teaching.
 "Moshe maintained this practice from Yom Kippur until the Mishkan was established, but no longer" comments Rashi on Shemot 33:11.
 A revelation of this type took place at the appointment of Yehoshua as leader to succeed Moshe, in Devarim 31. "They stood at the Tent of Meeting, and God appeared in the Tent in a pillar of cloud, and the pillar of cloud stood at the entrance to the Tent" (verses 14-15).
 For further discussion on the similarities and differences between the Tent of Meeting outside of the camp and the Tent of Meeting in its midst, see the article by Aviya Hakohen, "Neged ha-Mikdash Ma'aseh ha-Egel," Beit Mikra 150, 5757, pp. 257-271 (esp. pg. 263). Among Chazal there are some opinions that maintain that there indeed existed two tents. See, for example, Sifri Zuta on Bamidbar 18:4, Horwitz edition, pg. 292. Also see Ibid. 9:1, and also Tanchuma Pekudei 5, and Tanchuma Buber, Ibid. 2.
 See, for example, Amos Chakham, Da'at Mikra, on Shemot 32:10; M.D. Cassuto, Commentary on Sefer Shemot, Jerusalem 1953, pg. 290.
Translated by Kaeren Fish