Moses Fights for the People

Mar 1, 2015

וַיְדַבֵּר יְהֹוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה לֵךְ עֲלֵה מִזֶּה אַתָּה וְהָעָם אֲשֶׁר הֶעֱלִיתָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם אֶל־הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּעְתִּי לְאַבְרָהָם לְיִצְחָק וּלְיַעֲקֹב לֵאמֹר לְזַרְעֲךָ אֶתְּנֶנָּה׃

Then Hashem said to Moshe, “Set out from here, you and the people that you have brought up from the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, saying, ‘To your offspring will I give it'

vai-da-BAYR a-do-NAI el mo-SHEH LAYKH a-LAY mi-ZEH a-TAH v'-ha-AM a-SHER he-e-LEE-ta may-E-retz mitz-RA-yim el ha-A-retz a-SHER nish-BA-tee l'-av-ra-HAM l'-yitz-KHAK ul-ya-a-KOV lay-MOR l'-zar-a-KHA e-t'-NE-nah

Exodus 33:1

וַהֲסִרֹתִי אֶת־כַּפִּי וְרָאִיתָ אֶת־אֲחֹרָי וּפָנַי לֹא יֵרָאוּ׃

Then I will take My hand away and you will see My back; but My face must not be seen.”

Exodus 33:23

Although God forgives the nation, He tells Moses from now on, they will be led by an angel, lest God consume the people on the way. The people are devastated by the news, and remove their ornaments in mourning. Moses appeals to God to change His mind and continue to be a presence among the nation. God agrees.


Encouraged by his strengthened relationship with God, Moses now asks Him to reveal His glory. God chides him that nobody can see His face and live; nevertheless, He agrees to show Moses His back.


As an aside, this section also describes how Moses and God would communicate during the nation’s travels. Moses would set up the Tent of Meeting at a distance from the camp. When he would go there, all the nation would watch him approach it. When he arrived, the pillar of cloud would appear before the door of the tent and God would converse with Moses as two friends might. The people would bow in worship.


When God commands Moses to continue journeying at the start of this section, He uses the verb “go up”. From here, the Israel Bible points out, the Talmud learns that the Promised Land is considered the highest point on Earth.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

What do you think the difference would be between having an angel lead the nation rather than God being directly present among them? Why do you think the people were so upset with the original verdict?

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