Vayichal Moshe – Moshe Implored
While looking at Unqelus this week, I had a thought that is an application of the idea in Prayers and Requests. (See also Meshekh Chokhmah – Vayechi II – My Sword and My Bow.)
There we discussed that the Gra establishes that there are two modes of prayer:
Tefillah is liturgical prayer. It is a chance to learn and internalize what our priorities ought to be and how we ought to relate to Hashem by finding relatable meaning in the words prepared for us by people who were close to that ideal
Tachanun are requests. They could be self-written. They could be a choice of existing prayers that seem to say what we want to say.
Tefillah is a chance to impress upon ourselves a particular kind of relationship with the Divine. Tachanunim are our expressions of how we actually are relating, hightening and making that relationship more real.
We refer to these two kinds of prayer in the long Qaddish, when we ask Hashem “תִּתְקַבֵּל צְלוֹתְהוֹן וּבָעוּתְהוֹן דְּכָל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל — accept the tefillos and requests of the entire House of Israel.” Tzelosa is the Aramaic term for liturgical prayer. (Shemoneh Esrei is called “Tefillah” and “Tzelosa” by Chazal, in Hebrew and Aramaic, respectively.) Ba’usa is a request, Tachanunim.
With this idea and in particular with the Aramaic terminology for it, we can explain something in parashas Ki Sisa. The Jews had just made the eigel and Hashem is ready to punish them. Moshe davens on their behalf (Shemos 3:10-11):
וְעַתָּה֙ הַנִּ֣יחָה לִּ֔י וְיִֽחַר־אַפִּ֥י בָהֶ֖ם וַאֲכַלֵּ֑ם וְאֶֽעֱשֶׂ֥ה אוֹתְךָ֖ לְג֥וֹי גָּדֽוֹל׃
וַיְחַ֣ל מֹשֶׁ֔ה אֶת־פְּנֵ֖י ה֣׳ אֱלֹקָ֑יו וַיֹּ֗אמֶר לָמָ֤ה ה֙׳ יֶחֱרֶ֤ה אַפְּךָ֙ בְּעַמֶּ֔ךָ אֲשֶׁ֤ר הוֹצֵ֙אתָ֙ מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֔יִם בְּכֹ֥חַ גָּד֖וֹל וּבְיָ֥ד חֲזָקָֽה׃
“… Now, let Me be, that My anger may blaze forth against them and that I may destroy them, and make of you a great nation.”
But Moses implored Hashem his G-d, saying, “Hashem, why should you let Your ‘Anger’ blaze forth against Your nation, whom You delivered from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty ‘Hand’…”
Hashem says “let Me be” and Moshe’s response is to continue begging from Him?
But when we look at the same pesuqim in Targum Unqelus, we see that what Moshe went on to do, Vayichal Mosheh is not the same thing Hashem asked Moshe to stop doing.
וּכְעַן הַנַּח בָּעוּתָךְ מִן קֳדָמַי וְיִתְקֵף רוּגְזִי בְהוֹן וְאֵישֵׁיצִנּוּן וְאֶעְבֵּד יָתָךְ לְעַם סַגִּי:
וְצַלִּי משֶׁה קֳדָם ה׳ אֱלָקֵיהּ וַאֲמַר לְמָא ה׳ יִתְקֵף רוּגְזָךְ בְּעַמָּךְ דִּי אַפֶּקְתָּא מֵאַרְעָא דְמִצְרַיִם בְּחֵיל רַב וּבִידָא תַקִּיפָא:
“Now leave be’usakh — your personal requests from before Me and My wrath will blaze against them and destroy them, and make of you a great nation.”
But Moses tzali — prayed a formal liturgical prayer before Hashem his G-d, saying, “Hashem, why should you let Your ‘Anger’ blaze forth against Your nation, whom You delivered from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty ‘Hand’…”
Perhaps Hashem told Moshe it was time to stop expressing and start impressing. Moshe as he stood before Hashem then could not save the Jewish People. But if Moshe were to work on himself, to pray in a manner that brought him even closer to G-d, he could.
And pehraps this is why, as soon as Hashem’s immediate response to the Eigel was completed, Moshe thirsts for a greater vision of the Divine than he has had before. He had elevated himself, and his prophecy was capable of more as well. “הַרְאֵ֥נִי נָ֖א אֶת־כְּבֹדֶֽךָ — show me Your Glory!”