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Ben-Tzion Spitz
Former Chief Rabbi of Uruguay

Two Illuminations (Vayikra)

Moses Squinting at Sun (AI-generated parsha illustrations, by B. Spitz)
Moses Squinting at Sun (AI-generated parsha illustrations, by B. Spitz)

There are two kinds of light — the glow that illumines, and the glare that obscures. — James Thurber

Moses Squinting at Sun (AI-generated parsha illustrations, by B. Spitz)

At the beginning of the Book of Leviticus, in the Torah portion of Vayikra, God calls out to Moses twice. He uses two different verbs. The first is “Vaykira,” to call, and the second is “Vayidaber,” to speak. The Bat Ayin on Leviticus 1:1 explains that there are a number of parallels and lessons to learn from the duality of God communicating to Moses in apparently two different fashions:

He compares the first level of communication to both the creation of the world and to the sun. The creation of the world is something that is “hidden” from mortal perception and easy to not believe in, or to not believe in a Creator. Relatedly, the sun is difficult to look at directly and to truly perceive. In a sense, the true essence of the sun is something that is not really visible to mortals. So too, God’s higher level of communication and revelation is something sublime and only perceptible to a few people.

The second level of communication is compared to both the Egyptian Exodus and to the moon. The Exodus was a loud, public event, clearly visible to all. It was felt and witnessed directly by the Egyptians and reverberated throughout the region, if not the world. Similarly, the moon, even at its most brilliant, is fairly easy to see.

The Bat Ayin then compares the two levels of communication to two additional phenomena: clouds and fire. Clouds relate to the first, higher level. They are indistinct, obfuscating, hard to see through. Fire is the second, lower level of communication. Fire is bright, illuminating, distinct.

The Bat Ayin then brings our attention to the fact that the Jews in the desert were exposed to both of these phenomena. A pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire were both present at the Tabernacle. God, in essence, was revealing Himself and communicating with the young nation of Israel at both levels of communication. He was communicating via the hidden, sublime, barely perceptible channel, and he was concurrently communicating in a more open, direct, and discernible way.

It was a confluence of a certain closeness, attachment, identification and even transcendence that permeated the people of Israel during that special, formative period of our nation.

May we find further moments of closeness and transcendence in our own lives.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To having five planets in view next week.

https://www.thrillist.com/news/nation/planetary-alignment-how-to-see-march-2023

About the Author
Ben-Tzion Spitz is the former Chief Rabbi of Uruguay. He is the author of six books of Biblical Fiction and hundreds of articles and stories dealing with biblical themes. He is the publisher of Torah.Works, a website dedicated to the exploration of classic Jewish texts, as well as TweetYomi, which publishes daily Torah tweets on Parsha, Mishna, Daf, Rambam, Halacha, Tanya and Emuna. Ben-Tzion is a graduate of Yeshiva University and received his Master’s in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University.
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