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Who was Moses?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

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The Short Answer:

Moses is the most famous person in history.1 Moses was the first leader of the Jewish People (14th Century BCE); he was G-d's messenger to take the Jewish People out of Egypt, through the Sea of Reads, to a mass G-dly revelation at Mount Sinai. All of Judaism stems from G-d's Torah which Moses transmitted to the Jewish people.

The Askmoses Answer:

Great among the Greats 

In order to give a slight understanding of Moses’ unparalleled greatness, we’ll start with a very telling anecdote:

Moses was the third in a family of three children. He had an older sister, Miriam, and an older brother, Aaron the High Priest. They were the ultimate talented family—all three of them were prophets. Now, Moses decided to separate from his wife Tziporah after the giving of the Torah, and, upon becoming aware of this fact, Aaron and Miriam were displeased. They, too, were prophets and they saw no need for celibacy.

G-d summoned Aaron and Miriam and rebuked them. He first explained to them that Moses, who was the greatest prophet of all times, was very different than all other prophets. All others experienced their prophecy through a vision, dream or fit. Moses spoke to G-d face to face. Moses was able to argue with G-d! G-d then concluded by saying: “So why then were you not scared to speak against My servant Moses?!”2

Moses humbly but unsuccessfully pleaded with G-d to send another person as a messenger - Aaron, the Messiah, or ANYONE... But G-d insisted, and got His way... as usual
In other words, “You guys may be prophets… but he is MOSES!”

In fact one of the thirteen core beliefs of Judaism is that the prophecy of Moses was true, and he was the chief of all prophets, both before and after him.

Now a short biography:

The Early Years 

Moses was born on Adar 7, 2368 (1393 BCE) in Egypt. His mother was Yocheved—daughter of Levi, granddaughter of Jacob. His father, Amram, was also a grandson of Levi. Moshe was placed in the Nile River three months after his birth and was rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter. She named him Moses, meaning “drawn” from the river. Moses was raised in Pharaoh’s house, knowing that he was Jewish.

When Moses was a young adolescent, he went to see the plight of his brethren who were enslaved in Pharaoh's Egypt. He saw an Egyptian taskmaster cruelly beating a Jewish man. Moses killed the Egyptian. Fearing for his life, Moses fled Egypt and ended up in Midian (present day Saudi Arabia). There he met his wife Tziporah, daughter of the local high priest Jethro and had two sons, Gershom and Eliezer.

[According to tradition, before arriving in Midian, Moses spent several decades in Ethiopia where he actually served as king for a while.]

Divine Messenger

One day, as Moses was tending Jethro’s sheep, one of the lambs broke away from the fold. Moses chased after the lamb into the desert. Seeing a bush on fire but not being consumed, Moses went to investigate. G-d revealed himself to Moses at that bush. Moses was instructed to inform Pharaoh and the Jewish people that the Egyptian bondage was over. Moses humbly but unsuccessfully pleaded with G-d to send another person as His messenger—Aaron, the Messiah, or ANYONE… But G-d insisted, and got His way… as usual.

Footnotes

  • 1. To read more about him, read the most famous book in history: the Bible.
  • 2. Numbers ch. 12.

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History » Desert Sojourn

Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Yom Kippur
Day of Atonement. This late-autumn high-holiday is the holiest day of the year. We devote this day to repentance and all healthy adults are required to fast.
Zohar
The most basic work of Jewish mysticism. Authored by Rabbi Shimeon bar Yochai in the 2nd century.
Joshua
1. Assumed the leadership of the Jewish people after Moses died in 1267 BCE. He split the Jordan River and led the Jewish people in their conquest of the Promised Land. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, which chronicles Joshua's leadership.
Moses
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
Adar
The twelfth month on the Jewish calendar. This month (which falls out approx. February-March), is the most joyous month on the calendar due to the holiday of Purim which is on the 14th and 15th of this month.
Jacob
Third of the three Patriarchs and father of the Twelve Tribes. Lived most his life in Canaan and died in Egypt in 1505 BCE. Also known by the name of "Israel."
Aaron
Brother of Moses. First High Priest of Israel and progenitor of all Kohanim (priests) until this very day. Died in the year 1272 b.c.e.
Jethro
Moses' father-in-law.
Miriam
Older sister of Moses and Aaron, and a prophetess in her own right.
Exodus
1. The miraculous departure of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage in 1312 BCE. 2. The second of the Five Books of Moses. This book describes the aforementioned Exodus, the giving of the Torah, and the erection of the Tabernacle.
Levi
1. Name of Patriarch Jacob's third son. 2. A Levite -- a Jew who is a patrilineal descendant of Levi. Levites had special duties in the Holy Temple, and are still accorded special respect.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.