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Here are the last two psukim in parshat nasso:

פח וְכֹל בְּקַר זֶבַח הַשְּׁלָמִים, עֶשְׂרִים וְאַרְבָּעָה פָּרִים, אֵילִם שִׁשִּׁים עַתֻּדִים שִׁשִּׁים, כְּבָשִׂים בְּנֵי-שָׁנָה שִׁשִּׁים: זֹאת חֲנֻכַּת הַמִּזְבֵּחַ, אַחֲרֵי הִמָּשַׁח אֹתוֹ. פט וּבְבֹא מֹשֶׁה אֶל-אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד, לְדַבֵּר אִתּוֹ, וַיִּשְׁמַע אֶת-הַקּוֹל מִדַּבֵּר אֵלָיו מֵעַל הַכַּפֹּרֶת אֲשֶׁר עַל-אֲרֹן הָעֵדֻת, מִבֵּין שְׁנֵי הַכְּרֻבִים; וַיְדַבֵּר, אֵלָיו.

Right after chanukat hamizbeach, Moshe goes into the Ohel Moed "לְדַבֵּר אִתּוֹ." Taken out of context, one would think that Moshe is going to speak to Hashem, but in context, the only two candidates for what אִתּוֹ could be reffering to are the mizbeach and the ohel moed.

It sounds like this is what the passuk is saying: And when Moshe went into the Ohel Moed to talk to the mizbeach, he heard this other Voice coming from between the kruvim.

I checked a few mefarshim and the general explanation is that the passuk belongs at the begining of sefer vayikra. There are a couple of problems with that though. Firstly, I'm not so sure that there is sufficient reason to move around pssukim. It sounds to me like more of a cop out than a real solution. Also, even if it does belong there, the pronoun אִתּוֹ is left without any antecedent. The mefarshim (or at least the ones that I saw) do not provide an explanation for this.

What is אִתּוֹ reffereing to, why do the mefarshim want to move the passuk to Vayikra, and (how) would that solve the problem (the last two might be the same question)?

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Context includes the following words as well, not only the preceding ones. Your assumption that he is coming in to speak to Hashem is a sound one, and is supported by "THE voice" speaking from atop the aron. At the end of the pasuk Moshe apparently does exactly what he entered to do, i.e. speak "to Him". Why the Torah does not refer to Hashem by name is still a good question, but it seems clear that He is the interlocutor. – WAF May 8 '12 at 23:42
@WAF, As is clear in the Septuagint. – jake May 8 '12 at 23:50
@Jake. I'm asking how they figured that out. I'm not looking for more sources that say the same thing (thank you though). אִתּוֹ is a pronoun. Pronouns are (usually) used to refer to something that was previously named (i.e. the mishkan, ohel moed) not something that is yet to be named (i.e. the Voice). – Ari A May 8 '12 at 23:56
Related (also about an antecedent following its pronoun): judaism.stackexchange.com/q/15322. – msh210 May 9 '12 at 0:03
@ msh210. I've got my own explanation for that one.I'm going to post it there. thank you – Ari A May 9 '12 at 0:09

It would seem that Moshe already knew that God would speak to him from between the cherubim, since God explained that to him during the initial instructions on how to build the Mishkan (See Exodus 25:22). This would preclude your idea that Moshe did not know who was speaking.

Jake seemed to be on to an answer in indicating that the sentence structure is similar.

Rashi's commentary on the first verse of Vayikra may help as it refers directly to the last verse in Nasso:

to him: Heb. אֵלָיו [That is, God spoke only to Moses. This phrase comes] to exclude Aaron. Rabbi Judah [Ben Betheira] says: “Thirteen times in the Torah, God spoke (וַיְדַבֵּר) to both Moses and Aaron together, and, corresponding to them were thirteen [other] occasions [when God spoke only to Moses] precluding [Aaron], to teach you that they were not said [directly] to Aaron, but to Moses, that he should say them to Aaron. These are the thirteen cases where [Aaron was] precluded: (1) ”To speak with him…,“ (2) ”…speaking to him…,“ (3) ”…and He spoke to him“ (Num. 7:89); (4) ”I will meet with you [there at set times], etc. …“ (Exod. 25:22) All of them can be found [in the above dictum of Rabbi Judah] in Torath Kohanim (1:4). Now, [even though it was Moses who exclusively heard the prophecies,] one might think that they [i.e., the rest of Israel, nevertheless] heard the sound [of God] ”calling“ [to Moses preceding the prophecy]. Scripture therefore, says: [not ”He heard] the voice [speaking] to him (לוֹ),“ [but] ”[he heard] the voice [speaking right up] to him (אֵלָיו)“ (Num. 7:89). [This verse could have used the word לוֹ, ”to him,“ rather than such an exclusive expression as אֵלָיו, ”right up to him." However, it uses this expression in order to teach us that only] Moses heard [the Divine voice calling him], while all [the rest] of Israel did not hear [it]. — [Torath Kohanim 1:4]

אליו: למעט את אהרן. ר' יהודה בן בתירא אומר שלשה עשר דברות נאמרו בתורה למשה ולאהרן, וכנגדן נאמרו שלשה עשר מיעוטין, ללמדך שלא לאהרן נאמרו אלא למשה שיאמר לאהרן. ואלו הן שלשה עשר מיעוטין לדבר אתו, מדבר אליו, וידבר אליו, ונועדתי לך, כולן בתורת כהנים. יכול שמעו את קול הקריאה, תלמוד לומר קול לו, קול אליו (במדבר ז פט), משה שמע, וכל ישראל לא שמעו:


As the commentators indicate, it seems that there is some sort of link between these two verses. In Vayikra, God speaks directly to Moses, "right up to him", such that Moses knows Who is speaking without the actual Name of God being mentioned until several words later. In Nasso, Moses goes in to speak "to It", such that Moses is speaking with the Voice without it being mentioned until several words later. Rashi's commentary states that only Moses could hear God speak when He called in Vayikra. To an onlooker, it would thus have seemed as if Moses was talking to no one. The use of the verse in Nasso as an example would seem to imply that, in the same way, when Moses spoke to the Voice, an onlooker would have thought he was speaking to the Ark or to the Tent of Meeting.

Hope this is helpful.

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I'm going to read this again before deciding what I think about it, but first I want to clarify what I said about the passuk in Vayikra. Even if Moshe where Hashem was going to call from, I suspect that the manner in which Hashem spoke was different in some way other than just the location (tone of voice, volume, maybe it sounded like an entirely different voice. The last one is unlikely, but I don’t think the others are farfetched at all). Also, although he knew WHERE the voice would come from, Moshe did not know WHEN it would come. (cont. in next comment) – Ari A May 16 '12 at 1:33
Moshe was startled by this element of surprise and the change in voice. After a second, he realized what was going on, allowing the passuk to identify Hashem. – Ari A May 16 '12 at 1:33
I read it again. It's a nice thought, but I'm not so sure it answers my question. Maybe I'm being blunt, but I don't see how the Rashi you brought indicates that "there is some sort of link between these two verses." Also, the idea that only Moshe hears Hashem explains why it says אֵלָיו but does not solve the problem of אִתּוֹ not having an antecedent. – Ari A May 16 '12 at 1:45
@AriA I am basing my connection on your statement "I checked a few mefarshim and the general explanation is that the passuk belongs at the begining of sefer vayikra," as well as the fact that Rashi himself connects the verses by referencing Num. 7:89 in his commentary on Lev. 1:1. – Pesach David May 16 '12 at 13:29
@AriA I guess I am missing the necessity to be so specific and (no offense) nit-picky. It seems clear that Moses was talking to the Voice, even if the verse seems to imply that he was talking to the Ark. People speak "to it" (ie. Phone, Television, ie.) all the time, and yet it is clear they are speaking to a person. Just thought the commentary of "right up close to him" might have helped. Otherwise, I got nothing... I'm interested to see the resolution to your question! Thanks for letting me have a go! – Pesach David May 16 '12 at 13:43

I think approaching this question with the comment @Ari A made is promising:

Also, this narrative started, as far as I can tell, with the first passuk in Bamidbar: וַיְדַבֵּר ה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה בְּמִדְבַּר סִינַי, בְּאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד. I find it difficult to say that the first time Hashem talks to moshe from the Ohel Moed comes seven prakim after this passuk.

Antencedents in question like this are based on context by means of references in the text.

From Weekly Rashi Digest:

אֶת הָאַיִל יַעֲשֶׂה זֶבַח שְׁלָמִים לַי־הֹוָ־ה עַל סַל הַמַּצּוֹת וְעָשָׂה הַכֹּהֵן אֶת מִנְחָתוֹ וְאֶת נִסְכּוֹ:

He shall make the ram as a peace offering to the Lord, along with the basket of unleavened cakes, and the kohen shall perform the service of its meal offering with its libation.

The question here is what "its" refers to - the ram? Or the meal offering, which is the more immediate antecedent?

Rashi answers this question by looking FURTHER in the chapter - we are at Nu06-17b, and he references Nu15-06:07!

Or for a ram, you shall prepare for a meal offering two tenth measures of flour mixed with the third part of a hin of oil. And for a drink offering you shall offer the third part of a hin of wine, for a sweet savor to the Lord.

As stated:

This then justifies the interpretation of its as referring back to ram rather than the immediate antecedent, the meal offering. So the heart of the Rashi comment is based on the reference method.

Given that context is completely valid, and that a reference which is separate from the pronoun in question is at a distance from the question at hand, I do not think it is unlikely that the distance of seven prakim Ari A stated is a barrier to be considered an antecedent (considering here we further in the book itself). A contextual antecedent not part of a sentence or at a distance is valid.

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Can you be a little clearer as to which pssukim you are referring to. (like Nu 6:17, if that's what you're trying to say) – Ari A May 16 '12 at 20:43
I've used Nu06-17b as an example of contextual antecedents for the pasuk in the original question. @AriA – EEE May 17 '12 at 18:25
Can you quote the Rashi you are referring to? As far as I see, there are two Rashi's on Bamidbar 6:17 and neither of them reference anything outside of that passuk. Also, it looks like you quoted something else in that last box. Can you please identify where that is from? thank you – Ari A May 17 '12 at 22:22
If you are to follow the links provided, it is a description of contextual referencing and antecedents based on Rashi and his methods of derivation. It's a sound analysis of the antecedent question you posed. – EEE May 17 '12 at 22:37
It's kind of long... Can you please summarize what it says and emphasize which points are most relevant to my question? thank you – Ari A May 20 '12 at 2:31

The phrase לְדַבֵּר אִתּוֹ is clearly referring to Moshe - "When Moshe went to the Tent of Meeting, (for Hashem) to speak to him (Moshe)." This is clear from the posuk itself since, as the question points out, there has to be an antecedant for this pronoun, and the only possibility is Moshe who is mentioned in the beginning of the posuk.

This is also the way the posuk is translated here, and if you want a clear proof to this translation, Rashi on the first posuk in Vayikra lists the thirteen phrases where Hashem's speaking to Moshe excludes Aharon, and this phrase is the first one in the list!

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