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Did Moses Write the Torah?

After Moses blesses the tribes, he then stands atop Mount Nebo and surveys the entire land. Perhaps he feels some sense of closure, an acceptance of what he could and could not accomplish in a lifetime. There is a certain humility in knowing our limits and recognizing when it is time to move on. Affirming the future is what leadership is all about: knowing and accepting that our best dreams may be realized by others who come after us.

We learn from Moses that sometimes we have to scale mountains in order to come closer to these blessings. The late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He said:. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.


Like Moses, his final words were a blessing for justice and peace in the service of God. The royal family found him and raised him as their own. As an adult, Moses killed an Egyptian slave-master and fled across the Sinai, where he witnessed the miracle of a burning bush that would not be consumed, from which God instructed him to return to Egypt and free the Hebrews. He continued to lead the Hebrews through the desert in search of the land God had promised to them but died before reaching the land of Israel.

Jews revere Moses as their greatest teacher. In this passage the Zohar poses the same question.

How can we even consider that part of the Torah is not directly from God? The answer which the Zohar offers is remarkably elegant: Of course the entire Torah is Divine, but not all the Torah was communicated in the same manner.

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The Zohar thus introduces a concept which has become known as "the Shechina speaking from the throat of Moses. This phrase, which apparently does not have a source in Talmudic or Rabbinic literature, became quite popular, and can be found in the great works of the 18 th thru 20 th centuries.

The idea is clearly stated in the Zohar: At times Moses, who rose to such a profound level of prophecy, literally had the Shechina speak from his throat. Therefore, the Zohar teaches that Moses did not "author" this section of the Torah; it was authored by God as was the rest of the Torah. The "problematic" passage in the Talmud never said that Moses made it up, rather it was Moses speaking from his own mouth.

Moses’ Teachings

But if in his mouth was the Shechina, God's presence, the contradiction is reconciled. However, this still does not seem to help us with the larger issue, namely the "style" of the rest of Deuteronomy. In the book of Aggada of the study hall, it states: "Even though the entire Torah is the word of God, some is from the words of Moses as well. For example, the rebuke in Mishna Torah Deuteronomy. Afterwards [these words] were included in the Divine [words], as the verse indicates "Moses spoke and the Lord responded aloud. Here we see that the section of rebuke is merely an example of a recurring phenomenon; the Zohar implies that there are other sections which were "produced" in a similar manner.

That which is called Mishna Torah, Moses said it [all] from his own mouth. Zohar Vetchanan a. Here we see that the Zohar is willing to make a much broader assertion: The entire Book of Deuteronomy was communicated via the mouth of Moses, with the Shechina in his throat -- in a type of Divine ventriloquism. The implication is that the stylistic differences in Deuteronomy are of Divine origin.

Why, then, did the Talmud only mention the section of the rebuke? Because that was the section under discussion, and therefore, when describing the difference between the sections, the Talmud introduces this principle which, according to the Zohar, applies equally for the entire Book of Deuteronomy.

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As stated at the outset, the question of the authorship of Deuteronomy occupied many of the early Sages and many answers have been offered. The Abarbanel, in his introduction to Deuteronomy, expands a teaching of the Nachmanides, in the following manner:. The Book of Deuteronomy is referred to as "Mishna Torah", which means the repetition of the Torah or of the law Deuteronomy.

In this book, many laws are restated. On what basis did Moses repeat these laws?


The Abarbanel answers very simply that the Oral Torah is what Moses taught at this opportunity. We know that God's communication with Moses was much more in-depth than what is indicated in the written text of the Torah. At Sinai, all of Judaism was taught by God to Moses. Not all that God taught Moses at that juncture became part of the written Torah.

Certain ideas remained unwritten, or verbal. According to Maimonides, Moses wrote down many of these teachings, but kept them private, for his own use and as a teaching tool. These notes were not meant to be passed on, at least not in the written form. Rambam, Introduction to the Mishna Torah. We may draw the following conclusion: The essential difference between the Written Torah and the Oral Torah was not that one was written and the other not written.

Rather, one was meant to be passed on in written form, and the other was meant to be passed on verbally. Furthermore, the text of the Written Torah is sacrosanct, while in the Oral Torah, it is the ideas which are holy. Rashi in Gittin 60b has a different understanding of this concept, which has enjoyed much more popularity than the Rambam's concept, outlined above. Moses, now in the last days of his life, will soon take leave of his beloved nation. Therefore he teaches them the laws of the Torah yet again.

What does he use as the basis for his lectures? The answer is simple -- the Oral Torah which was taught to him by God at Sinai. According to this approach, the Book of Deuteronomy, is in actuality the oldest source of Oral Torah extant.