Could someone explain me the meaning of the words ‘he beholds the likeness of HaShem’ from Bamidbar 12:8 in comparison to Devarim 4:15 which states no one saw such a thing’. Because in both verses the root for ‘likeness (similitude)’ are used.


Sefaria brings the possukim, their translation and the Rashi to Bamidbar 12 (8).

Bamidbar 12 (8)

פֶּ֣ה אֶל־פֶּ֞ה אֲדַבֶּר־בּ֗וֹ וּמַרְאֶה֙ וְלֹ֣א בְחִידֹ֔ת וּתְמֻנַ֥ת ה' יַבִּ֑יט וּמַדּ֙וּעַ֙ לֹ֣א יְרֵאתֶ֔ם לְדַבֵּ֖ר בְּעַבְדִּ֥י בְמֹשֶֽׁה׃

With him I speak mouth to mouth, plainly and not in riddles, and he beholds the likeness of the LORD. How then did you not shrink from speaking against My servant Moses!”


ותמנת ה' יביט

AND THE SIMILITUDE OF THE LORD DID HE BEHOLD — This refers to beholding the after-effects of God’s Providence, just as it is stated, (Exodus 33:22 Exodus 33:23) “[And it shall be when My glory passeth by] thou shalt see what is behind Me” (Sifrei Bamidbar 103).

Devorim 4(15)

וְנִשְׁמַרְתֶּ֥ם מְאֹ֖ד לְנַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶ֑ם כִּ֣י לֹ֤א רְאִיתֶם֙ כָּל־תְּמוּנָ֔ה בְּי֗וֹם דִּבֶּ֨ר יְהוָ֧ה אֲלֵיכֶ֛ם בְּחֹרֵ֖ב מִתּ֥וֹךְ הָאֵֽשׁ׃ For your own sake, therefore, be most careful—since you saw no shape when the LORD your God spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire—

Two answers occur to me:

1] Bamidbar 12 (8) speaks about Moshe whereas Devorim 4(15) was speaking to the people. Moshe did see תמנת ה whereas the people did not see it.

2] Rashi explains that תמנת ה in Bamidbar refers to the after-effects of God’s Providence and not to a representation of Hashem.

The Abarbanel's words (Rashi does not comment) on Devorim 4(15) suggest that תמנת ה here means likeness:

ואולי יבואו מפני זה לעשות תמונת חשך ענן וערפל ועתיק יומין יושב בתוכו. וצורת מרע"ה ותמונתו עומדת לפניו.

And perhaps because of this they may come to make a representation of darkness etc. And Hashem dwelling amongst it and the form of Moshe standing before it.

So the answer is that in the two pessukim the words תמנת ה have different meanings.


In context, the phrases have different directions.

For example, as the Ran understands, the verse in Devarim is said in contrast to a physical image of Hashem.

The Ran is in Derush Ha'teshi'i:

ופירוש הענין כך הוא - בתחילה אמר "ומי גוי גדול אשר לו אלקים קרובים אליו וגו'" ויהיה קרוב לטעות ולומר שיש לשי"ת איזה יחס וקשר ויבא לדמות ולחשוב באלקותו איזה דבר ממקרה הגשם. לפיכך אמר עם היות שתראה זה תמיד, השמר לך ושמור נפשך מאד פן תשכח המעמד הנכבד ההוא שהיה מקורבת השי"ת עם ברואיו מה שלה היה לפניו ולאחריו, ועם כל זה לא הגיע מענינו שתראו שום תמונה כי איננה...

(Translation mine) First Hashem said "Who is a great nation to whom Hashem is close..." and a person might likely come to make a mistake and think that Hashem has some connection and relationship, and he will come to imagine and think some aspects of physicality about Hashem's Godliness. Therefore He said...be very careful lest you forget this momentous event at which Hashem was closer to His creations that ever was and ever will be, and even so you did not see any image, because there is none to see.

The cited verse in Bamidbar, on the other hand, is contrasting prophetic images, and is indeed among the Rambam's sources for the elevated level of Moshe's prophecy which no other prophet will ever match:

והענין הראשון כי איזה נביא שהיה לא דיבר לו השם יתברך אלא על ידי אמצעי, ומשה בלא אמצעי שנאמר פה אל פה אדבר בו. (Text from daat.ac.il)

(Paraphrased translation mine) The first aspect of Moshe's unique prophecy is that he speaks directly to Hashem, as opposed to all other prophets, as it says "face to face I shall speak to him."

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