Moses and the Decree
||God declared to Moses, 'You and the people you took out of Egypt will have to leave this place and go to the land regarding which I swore to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that I would give it to their descendants.
||I will send an angel ahead of you, and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizites, Hivites and Yebusites.
||'[You will thus go to] a land flowing with milk and honey. However, I will not go with you, since you are an unbending people, and I may destroy you along the way.'
||When they heard this bad news, the people began to mourn. They stopped wearing jewelry.
||God told Moses to say to the Israelites, 'You are an unbending people. In just one second I can go among you and utterly destroy you. Now take off your jewelry and I will know what to do with you.'
||From [that time at] Mount Horeb on, the people no longer wore their jewelry.
||Moses took [his] tent and set it up outside the camp at a distance. He called it the Meeting Tent. [Later], whoever sought God would go to the Meeting Tent outside the camp.
||Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise, and each person would stand near his own tent, gazing at Moses until he would come to his tent.
||When Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the tent's entrance, and [God] would speak to Moses.
||When the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the tent's entrance, the people would rise, and each one would bow down at the entrance of his tent.
||God would speak to Moses face to face, just as a person speaks to a close friend. [Moses] would then return to the camp. But his aid, the young man, Joshua son of Nun, did not leave the tent.
||Moses said to God, 'You told me to bring these people [to the Promised Land], but You did not tell me whom You would send with me. You also said that You know me by name and that You are pleased with me.
||'Now, if You are indeed pleased with me, allow me to know Your ways, so that I will know how to [remain] pleasing to You. [Also], You must confirm that this nation is Your people.'
||'My presence will go and lead you,' replied [God].
||[Moses] said, 'If Your presence does not accompany [us], do not make us leave this place.
||Unless You accompany us, how can it be known that I and Your people are pleasing to You? [But if You do,] I and your people will be distinguished from every nation on the face of the earth.'
The Divine Glory
||God said to Moses, 'Since you have been pleasing to Me and I know you by name, I will also fulfill this request of yours.'
||'Please let me have a vision of Your Glory,' begged [Moses].
||[God] replied, 'I will make all My good pass before you, and reveal the Divine Name in your presence. [But still,] I will have mercy and show kindness to whomever I desire.'
||[God then] explained, 'You cannot have a vision of My Presence. A man cannot have a vision of Me and still exist.'
||God then said, 'I have a special place where you can stand on the rocky mountain.
||When My glory passes by, I will place you in a crevice in the mountain, protecting you with My power until I pass by.
||I will then remove My protective power, and you will have a vision of what follows from My existence. My essence itself, however, will not be seen.
See note, previous verse.
See note on Exodus 3:8.
|stopped wearing jewelry|
See Exodus 32:2. Some say that the 'jewelry' here denotes the spiritual gifts that the Israelites received at Sinai (Shabbath 88a; Targum Yonathan; Rashi).
|From that time...|
(Saadia). Or, 'The people took off the jewelry that they had on from Mount Horeb' (Rashi). See note on Exodus 3:1.
(Rashi). Literally, 'the tent.' Or, 'Moses took to the tent' (Targum Yonathan).
Or, 'Tent of Study' (Onkelos). Although the same term, Ohel Moed, is used, it is not the Communion Tent mentioned earlier. Or, 'communion tent,' since God communed with Moses in that tent until the Tabernacle was erected (Ibn Ezra). Or, 'He took the Tabernacle....' before the enclosure was set up (Ibid.). Moses was in the 'Meeting Tent' from Yom Kippur until the Tabernacle was erected (Rashi). Some say that he was there 40 days from 18 Tammuz on (Ramban).
|the young man|
Joshua was 42 at the time (Seder Olam 12; Rashi on Judges 11:26). Others say that he was 56 (Ibn Ezra). He was a young man compared to Moses, who was 80 (Ramban).
See Exodus 17:9, 24:13, 32:17. Joshua was therefore worthy of becoming the next leader of the Israelites (see Numbers 27:18).
|pleased with me|
Literally, 'I have found favor in Your eyes.'
(See Ramban on Genesis 1:4).
And not the angel (see Exodus 33:3,4).
|have a vision|
(Emunoth VeDeyoth 2:12). Or, 'Let me comprehend Your unique nature' (Yad, Yesodey HaTorah 1:10).
(see Berakhoth 7a). Or, 'I will let you know to whom I will show mercy and kindness' (Rashbam; Ramban).
|and still exist|
Literally, 'and live.' Or, 'No man nor any other living creature can see Me' (Ralbag).
|I have a special place|
(Rashi). Or, 'All space is under My domain' (Rashi; Baaley Tosafoth). Or, 'There is a way of reaching up to Me' (Moreh Nevukhim 1:8).
|where you can stand|
Literally. Some take this expression idiomatically, and render it, 'You must remain in contemplation of the origin of all things' (Moreh Nevukhim 1:16; Abarbanel).
|When My glory passes by...|
(Literally). Or, 'When [you try] to pass over the boundaries [toward] My glory, I will let you reach the limit of your powers' (Abarbanel).
|protecting you with My power|
(cf. Targum). Literally, 'placing My hand over you.' Or, 'protecting you with My cloud' (Emunoth VeDeyoth 2:12; see Exodus 34:5).
|My protective power|
(cf. Targum). Literally, 'My hand.'
|of what follows from My existence|
(Hirsch; cf. Moreh Nevukhim 1:34; Avodath HaKodesh 3:40). Literally, 'My back.' Or, 'a glimmer of My essence' (Emmunoth VeDeyoth 2:12); or, 'a partial realization of My uniqueness' (Yad, Yesodey HaTorah 1:10).
Literally, 'My face.'