Moshe – Overview

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Unique Traits

Prophetic Powers



The concluding verses of Torah suggest that no other prophet compares to Moshe, not only in his prophetic prowess, but also in all of the signs and wonders he wrought. What, though, was so exceptional about Moshe's miracle-making? Did not other prophets perform similar feats?1 Commentators differ in their understanding of what made Moshe's miracles unique: [See Moshe's Epitaph – Signs and Wonders and Miracles for more.]



Standing up for Justice

Possible Flaws

Misunderstanding Hashem

Commentators disagree as to whether it is legitimate to maintain that Moshe could have ever misunderstood Hashem. After all, if a prophet can make a mistake and misinterpret Hashem's words, how can he be trusted to correctly transmit Hashem's messages?

Administrative Shortcomings

Some exegetes suggest that Moshe exhibited certain weaknesses as an administrator, while others think that saying so borders on the blasphemous:

  • Yitro's Advice (Shemot 18) – When Yitro sees the nation standing online to await Moshe's judgment, he suggests that Moshe delegate some of his responsibilities to lighten the load. Yitro's advice seems like such an obvious and simple solution that one cannot help but wonder: How could it be that Moshe, the greatest of all men and in possession of a direct line to Hashem, needed Yitro's help to figure this out?
  • Moshe and Mei Merivah.(Bemidbar 20) – Though many suggest that Moshe's sin at Mei Merivah related to the realm of man and God, others suggest that the problem was one of faulty leadership.
  • Petition of the Two and a Half Tribes (Bemidbar 32) – Moshe initially responds negatively to the tribes' request to settle the eastern bank of the Jordan, chastising them for leaving the burden of fighting to the rest of the nation.  Immediately thereafter, Reuven and Gad express their willingness not just to fight, but even to lead the nation in battle, whereupon Moshe agrees to their original demands. What leads to the about-face both on the part of the tribes and on the part of Moshe? Did the tribes change their stance only due to Moshe's condemnation, or had they always planned to take part in the Conquest?  Might Moshe have misunderstood their intent?
    • Moshe misjudges – AbarbanelBemidbar 32About R. Yitzchak Abarbanel maintains that Moshe misunderstood the tribes' request and wrongly assumed that they did not want to participate in the Canaanite campaign when they had meant to all along.9
    • Moshe judges correctly Akeidat YitzchakBemidbar Peirush 32About R. Yitzchak Arama, in contrast, justifies Moshe's angry reaction, opining that Moshe correctly read the tribes' petition and that it really was problematic both on the interpersonal level (as the tribes did not initially intend to join their brethren in the Conquest), and in relation to Hashem (as they rejected His Promised Land.) In face of Moshe's anger, the tribes revise their proposition and only then does Moshe agree.
  • Bemidbar 11  


RambamShemonah Perakim chapter 4Moreh Nevukhim 2:35About R. Moshe b. MaimonIn several places in Torah, commentators question Moshe's behavior and suggest that he might have sinned, even if this is not explicit in the text:

  • Moshe at the Malon (Shemot 4) – Hashem's attempt to kill Moshe (or perhaps his son) during the incident at the inn implies that there had been some serious transgression.  Yet, there is no explicit mention of any wrongdoing in the text.  Moreover, attributing a crime to Moshe implies that Hashem had chosen an unworthy messenger! How, then, is the story to be understood?  Is it a tale of sin and punishment or something else?


Several commentators have faulted Moshe for unwarranted anger:

Speech Impediment

The three verses of Shemot 4:10, 6:12, and 6:30 describe Moshe's speech impediment using the terms of "כְבַד פֶּה וּכְבַד לָשׁוֹן" and "עֲרַל שְׂפָתָיִם‎". Exegetes debate whether or not this disability was of a physical nature, and why Hashem would choose a disabled messenger to be His spokesman. See Moshe's Speech Impediment.

Errors in Judgment

Commentators disagree as to whether this happened:

  • Moshe could have made errors of judgment – see Mystery at the Malon, the Spies.
  • Moshe did not make errors of judgment – 

Religious Identity

Journey to Belief


Was Moshe's Son Uncircumcised and Why?

Upbringing, Marriage and Family Life

Miraculous Birth?

Commentators divide in how they views Moshe's birth and early years, with some presenting these as being filled with miracles and others seeing them in a more natural light.

Palace Upbringing

Moshe's Marriage