ויקרא אל משה וידבר ה' אליו מאהל מועד לאמר
And HaShem called to Moshe, and HaShem spoke to him from the Ohel Moed
לכל דברות ולכל אמירות ולכל צוויים קדמה קריאה, לשון חבה, לשון שמלאכי השרת משתמשים בו, שנאמר וקרא זה אל זה, אבל לנביאי אמות העולם נגלה עליהן בלשון ויקר
Rashi explains that before speaking with Moshe or issuing him any commands, HaShem would first call for him, as a means of an introduction. The word used here, “Vayikra”, says Rashi, is a term of affection, a term used by the Malachim when they call out to each other. By contrast, when HaShem calls out to the wicked Bilaam, it says, “Vayikar”, And Hashem appeared, suddenly without warning. But in His love for Moshe, HaShem would preface every message to him with an introduction.
The gemera in Mesechta Yoma (4b) applies HaShem’s example to everyone. ויקרא אל משה וידבר למה הקדים קריאה לדיבור לימדה תורה דרך ארץ שלא יאמר אדם דבר לחבירו אלא א''כ קורהו – The Torah is teaching us derech eretz. Don’t initiate a conversation suddenly, rather first call out to him.
The same point is also made in Masechta Derech Eretz (5)- וילמדו כל אחד ד"א מן המקום, שעמד על פתח הגן וקרא לאדם, שנא' ויקרא ה' אל אדם ויאמר לו איכה- every person should learn proper derech eretz from HaShem Who stood at the entrance of Gan Eden and called to Adam, as it says, And HaShem called to Adam and said to him, “where are you?”
Upon looking at these words of Chazal, the Torah Temimah wonders why the gemara in Yoma jumped all the way to our possuk in Vayikra to teach the lesson of derech eretz from Moshe, when it could have chosen the earlier possuk from Bereishis with Adam Harishon that Masechta Derech Eretz quoted.
The Torah Temimah beautifully explains that our possuk in Vayikra is a much broader lesson than that of Bereishis. HaShem’s relationship with Adam was unlike that of Moshe. It is true that HaShem spoke with Adam many times, but in terms of closeness, the relationship with Moshe was much more intimate, as the Torah tells us that Moshe was the only person to speak with HaShem, “face to face”.
The gemara specifically chose our possuk to teach us that even when one wishes to talk with someone whom he is very familiar with, with whom he is in contact with daily, and even extremely close and affectionate with, there are still rules of derech eretz that must be observed when interacting with them. בכל ביתי נאמן הוא ובמראה ולא בחידות אדבר בו- In my entire house he is trusted, and still, HaShem would always formally address Moshe before every discussion.
The lesson of properly introducing oneself is of course just a representation of the many ideas in derech eretz. Proper behavior between people, no matter how comfortable they may be, is not just a nice thing to do and good etiquette. This is actually HaShem’s way and what the Torah expects of every one of us. Close contact and communication in no way negates respect and proper behavior.
When we think of our gedolim and the great respect they had for people, I always recall the levaya of Rebbetzin Auerbach. The minhag is to ask forgiveness of the meis, but for Rav Shlomo Zalman z”l, things were different. He was able to proclaim publicly that he had nothing to ask forgiveness for, because he had never ever wronged his wife. Although at times it may be extremely challenging, it is much easier to put on a good front and treat others nicely when facing a casual acquaintance. But when in the presence of a spouse or one’s own children, that is when the real test is. True derech eretz begins at home!
Each weekday morning, as we wrap the tefillin straps around our fingers, we recite the wordsוארשתיך לי לעולם, which literally means And I will betrothe You to me forever. There are generally two ways to say betrothe. The term, eirusin, is used in the gemara to refer to the time of the engagement period, whereas nesu’in refers to the marriage itself. The question arises: If we are saying a tefilla that we shall merit to be bound to Hakadosh Boruch Hu forever, shouldn’t we rather use the expression of nesu’in? After all, no chasan or kallah would ever want to remain engaged forever, so why do we use the word v’airastich?
Perhaps our tefillah is a request that indeed, we shall remain forever bound to HaShem, but with the same exuberance, excitement, reverence and respect that a chosson and kallah treat each other with during their engagement. The velt claims that familiarity breeds contempt. The Torah is teaching us that the opposite must be true. The most intimate relationship was that of Hashem and Moshe Rabbeinu, and it was specifically here that the Torah chose to teach us about derech eretz.
Good Shabbos, מרדכי אפפעל