Once upon a time there was a pair of parents who didn't know what to do about their child. They truly desired to teach him right from wrong and equip him with the tools of life. They told him to eat his vegetables, to do his homework, to look both ways before crossing, to be generous but firm in his dealings with others, to care about the important things in life. They told him once, they told him twice, they told him a third time. Then they stopped trying to tell him anything — what was the point?

Next door lived a second pair of parents. They, too, at a certain point, stopped telling their child what to to do. But they did not stop because they had tired of the task. On the contrary: every time their child faced a new choice or dilemma, it took every iota of self-control they had to restrain themselves from offering their advice and guidance. But they understood that if their child was to develop as an independent, responsible, moral human being, they had to hold back. They could instruct him up to a point, but beyond that point they must give him the space in which to grow.

The first child turned out a complete slob. The moment his parents stopped imposing their code of behavior upon him, he basically dumped everything they had taught him. He became stingy and weak in his dealings with others, scarcely slowed down at stop signs, became an Atkins enthusiast, and cared about nothing in life — important or unimportant.

The second child became a mentch. He savored his independence, but also missed the guidance of his parents. Many times, in facing a decision, he found himself imagining what his parents would have said. He made mistakes, but was usually aware that he was making a mistake and eventually tried to correct it. He was appreciative of his strengths and aware of his imperfections, and thus carried himself with a combination of pride and humility that endeared him to all who knew him.

What was the difference between the two sets of parents? They both offered the same sort of advice, with the same degree of sincerity. They both stopped their instruction of their child at about the same point, leaving him to his own devices. But the first pair of parents stopped because they ran out of things to say and the strength to say them. The second pair stopped because they decided to stop.

During the first period of their parenting careers, both sets of parents sounded the same to their children. But as the years went by, there was a change — not in what they were saying, but in the potency and vitality behind their words. The first child heard exhaustion in the voices of his parents. The second child heard restraint. A restraint that created an emptiness in his heart, but also the longing to fill that emptiness in a way that would make his parents say, "We couldn't have done it better ourselves."

The closing verse of the Torah reading of Naso (Numbers 7:89) describes the manner in which the voice of G‑d emanated from the "Holy of Holies" (the innermost chamber of the Sanctuary) to instruct Moses — and through Moses, the Children of Israel and all of mankind. The verse reads:

And when Moses would enter the Tent of Meeting to speak with Him, he would hear the voice speaking to him from above the cover of the Ark of Testimony... and it spoke to him.

The Midrash analyzes this verse and comes up with some interesting conclusions. From the fact that the verse emphasizes that "he would hear the voice speaking to him" and again "and it spoke to him," we derive that only Moses heard G‑d's voice. In other words, the voice did not carry beyond the doorway of the "Tent of Meeting," even though it was a relatively small chamber (about 15' x 45'). "Perhaps this means that the voice was low?" queries the Midrash. Not so, it answers. The verse also emphasizes that it was "the voice" — the voice of which it is said (Psalms 29:4-9) "The voice of G‑d comes in power; the voice of G‑d comes in majesty. The voice of G‑d crushes the Cedars of Lebanon... The voice of G‑d carves flames of fire; the voice of G‑d makes tremble the wilderness..." The verse emphasizes that it was "the voice" — the voice which, at the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, "reverberated from one end of the world to the other."

This means, concludes the Midrash, that inside the "Tent of Meeting," the divine voice was as powerful and as infinite as the one sounded at Sinai; but the moment the voice reached the doorway of the tent, it "abruptly ceased" (Midrash Rabbah, Bamidbar 14:21; Sifri on verse; cited in Rashi on verse).

A fascinating phenomenon, but what does it mean?

It means, says the Lubavitcher Rebbe, that G‑d granted freedom of choice to man. As Maimonides writes, without freedom of choice, the entire notion of a relationship between man and G‑d that gives significance to life is quite meaningless. That's why the divine voice stopped at the doorway of the "Tent of Meeting" — to create that emptiness in our hearts, that space in our lives in which G‑d does not intervene, but looks on from without.

G‑d instructs us as to how to live our lives, but His infinite voice carries a certain distance and then stops. It does not stop because it gradually weakens until it reaches the point that it is no longer heard. If that were how G‑d spoke to us, His words would have no effect on our lives. Rather, He speaks to us with infinite power and authority. Yet He allows His voice to reach a certain point and no further, so that we hear the power and infinity in His voice, and also the restraint.

That restraint creates a great loneliness in our lives. And a longing to fill that loneliness in a way that will make Him say, "I couldn't have done it better Myself."