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In Parashas Shemos, we read:

And the angel of the L-rd appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, but the bush was not consumed. And Moshe said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the L-rd saw that he turned aside to see, G-d called to him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moshe, Moshe. And he said, Here I am.

I was thinking of something familiair. In Sefer Shmuel, we read that G-d tries to call Shmuel, but Shmuel did not know of G-d yet, neither was His word revealed to him. Only after the fourth time, Shmuel knew it was G-d who was calling him, and not Eli.

So this got me thinking.

Besides the fact that the angel of the L-rd appeared to Moshe, how did Moshe know who was calling him? When G-d calls him twice (v.4), Moshe immediately responds with:

וַיֹּ֥אמֶר הִנֵּֽנִי And he said: Here I am

What was different here, in comparison to when G-d tried to call Shmuel, but Shmuel did not know that it was G-d calling him?

--------------------------------- My own thoughts, that might help----------

Maybe the main difference is that Moshe Rabbeinu was interested into the fact that the bush was burning. He knew that there was some greater power doing that, and wanted to find out why. As the Sforno explains, the principle of הבא לטהר מסיין אותו applies here. So, you would say this would set apart Moshe Rabbeinu in that sense from Shmuel. However, The Shelah says that when Hannah says: זרע אנשים, it means that that she asked for a son who would combine within himself the virtues of Moshe and Aharon. In Tehillim 99:6, Moshe and Aharon are compared to Shmuel.

The Shelah goes on to say that Moses in his closeness to G–d had concentrated almost exclusively on devoting himself to G–d. Aharon, on the other hand, concentrated on the virtue of "peace." He was always busy pursuing peace, trying to restore harmonious relations between husband and wife, etc. So what about Shmuel? The Shelah says: The prophet Samuel concentrated on practising the two outstanding virtues of both Moshe and Aharon. - so, according to this explanation, Shmuel possesed virtues of both Moshe and Aharon. This makes it difficult for me to understand why Shmuel was not able to recognise that it was G-d calling him, but Moshe Rabbeinu was able to do that right away.

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  • Good question. How would we know when God is talking to us? If God speaks to us audibly, this makes sense. But if God speaks in our minds, how do we distinguish God's speaking to us from our immediate thoughts after "revelation?"
    – Shmuel
    Commented Jan 8, 2023 at 20:03
  • See this question: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/11360/27180 - however, it does not answer my question.
    – Shmuel
    Commented Jan 8, 2023 at 20:04
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    @Shmuel great observation, namesake :)
    – Shmuel
    Commented Jan 8, 2023 at 20:04
  • Though Moshe answered "Here I am", I'm not sure he realized at that instant that it was G-d who was calling him. Later, when G-d says "I am the G-d of your father’s [house]— the G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Isaac, and the G-d of Jacob", Moshe hides his face "for he was afraid to look at G-d". If Moshe knew it was G-d speaking when he was called, why did he hide his face only after G-d explicitly states His identity?
    – Tamir Evan
    Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 18:26
  • @TamirEvan That also makes sense, with the explanation of Sforno in mind: וירא ה' כי סר לראות, When G’d saw that Moses took a deeper interest in the phenomenon. This seems to explain Moshe Rabbeinu was interested and wanted to find out what happened. He did not recognise it was G-d yet.
    – Shmuel
    Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 19:27

1 Answer 1

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Short answer is in Derech Hashem 3:3:1

Hashem decreed further [than natural intelligence] that a much higher intellect than this should be made available to him [man] - this is the intellect that is given...from Hashem through one of the conduits that He has prepared for this; and when that shefa reaches his mind, a specific type of knowledge will be established in him with clarity, free of uncertainty and error.

This is just ruach hakodesh. Basically, this type of knowledge has it's own route, and sensation that is immediately recognisable as such, without any confusion.

As for prophecy, he writes (ibid 4):

...he will literally attain a state of dvekut to [Hashem], in such a manner that he will sense the dvekut. He will then perceive that to which he has attained dvekut: which is the Glory of Hashem... He will perceive them clearly, in the manner of shefa of intellect that we have mentioned above, but with greater strength than one who possesses ruach hakodesh

Furthermore (ibid 5:4):

That is, it becomes clear to him that the One Who is revealing Himself and making Himself known to him is the Creator.

In this chapter he goes on to describe the prophecy of Moshe, which was free of all riddle, darkening or lack of consciousness, or set times of prophecy, or set amounts of prophecy, like other forms of prophecy of which the above is said. There are a lot more fascinating details in these chapters and I strongly recommend DH 3:3-5.

In a nutshell, is it really a surprise that when we encounter Hashem personally and openly, that we recognise Him and don't confuse Him for someone else? That's impossible!

As for Moshe's and Shmuel's first prophetic moments, Ramchal states (3:4:3):

נבואה בלתי ניכרת: והנה אפשר שיגיע גילוי ממנו ית׳‎ אל אדם והוא לא יכיר בו כמו שיכיר הנביא אלא יחשבהו כא׳‎ מן המורגשות עד שיגבר עליו השפע הנבואיי ואז יכיר הענין כמות שהוא באמת. ומן המין הזה היתה קריאת ה׳‎ לשמואל שלא התנבא מתחלה ולא שפע עליו השפע אלא שנגלה עליו קול כקול מורגש ולא השיג בזה יותר אבל אח״כ שפע עליו השפע והכיר והשיג הנבואה בדרכיה. וכן מראת הסנה למשה בתחלה לא נגלה לו אלא כמורגשות וראה הסנה בוער באש והקב״ה קראו בקולו של אביו אך אח״כ שפע עליו השפע והשיג הנבואה לאמתה:

Unrecognized prophecy: But note that it is possible that a revelation come from Him, may He be blessed, and that one not recognize it as a prophet would recognize it, but rather think of it [as coming from] a perceivable source - until the prophetic influence [later] overpower him, and he then recognize the matter for what it truly was. And God's call to Samuel (I Samuel 3) was of this type: He did not prophesy at first nor did the [divine] influence come upon him. Rather a voice like a perceivable voice was revealed to him, and he did not grasp anything more. But later the influence came upon him and he recognized and grasped the prophecy and its ways. And likewise, the vision of the bush to Moses (Exodus 3) at the beginning was only revealed as something perceivable. So he saw the bush burning in flames, and the Holy One, blessed be He, called him with the voice of his father. But afterwards, He brought the influence upon [Moses] and he grasped the truth of the prophecy.

In short, these moments weren't really prophetic, but just revelations of something perceivable to the normal human senses, orchestrated by Hashem in order to prepare for the upcoming genuine prophecy (which then retroactively proved to them that the previous experiences did contain some hidden prophecy)

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  • 1
    Wonderful, shkoyach! That Derech Hashem makes sense. However, I am also interested in the fact why Shmuel HaNavi did not recognise Hashem's voice, until the fourth time.
    – Shmuel
    Commented Jan 8, 2023 at 21:10
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    @Shmuel Maybe it's something to do with the lashon chiba in Shmuel 1:3:10, Hashem was being gentle with him, speaking in the voice of his rebbe, and preparing him for what he was going to have to report. Need to look into it, although no reason to assume Derech Hashem's shefa explanation has no exceptions
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Jan 8, 2023 at 21:15
  • Interesting take. I will also look into it. If anyone else has something interesting, please feel free to add that in.
    – Shmuel
    Commented Jan 8, 2023 at 21:17
  • he says it even more explicitly in daas tevunos
    – user813801
    Commented Jan 8, 2023 at 21:33
  • 1) Maybe the main difference is that Moshe Rabbeinu was interested into the fact that the bush was burning. He knew that there was some greater power doing that, and wanted to find out why. As the Sforno explains, the principle of הבא לטהר מסיין אותו applies here. So, you would say this would set apart Moshe Rabbeinu in that sense from Shmuel. However, The Shelah says that when Hannah says: זרע אנשים, it means that that she asked for a son who would combine within himself the virtues of Moshe and Aharon. In Tehillim 99:6, Moshe and Aharon are compared to Shmuel.
    – Shmuel
    Commented Jan 10, 2023 at 21:11

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