(inspired by this question)

The Talmud Yerushalmi Peah 2:4 - (daf 13a) states:

ריב"ל אמר... אפי' מה שתלמיד ותיק עתיד להורות לפני רבו כבר נאמר למשה בסיני מה טעם (קוהלת א) יש דבר שיאמר אדם ראה זה חדש הוא וגו' משיבו חבירו ואומר לו כבר היה לעולמים

R, Yehoshua Ben Levi says... Even that which a senior student will lecture in front of his master, was already said to Moshe at Sinai. What is the reason (source) of this? [From the passuk: (Koheles 1:10) Sometimes there is a phenomenon of which one might say say, “Look, this one is new!”— And his friend will respond and say to him "it occurred long since, in ages that went by before":

The Yerushalmi says that everything taught by students in front of their masters was already said to Moshe at Sinai.


In Menachos 29b we see Moshe Rabbeinu join R' Akiva's shiur and:

אמר לפניו רבש"ע הראהו לי אמר לו חזור לאחורך הלך וישב בסוף שמונה שורות ולא היה יודע מה הן אומרים

Moses said before [God]: Master of the Universe, show him to me. [God] said to him: Return behind you. Moses went and sat at the end of the eighth row [in Rabbi Akiva’s study hall] and did not understand what they were saying.


If Moshe Rabbeinu received all Torah that would ever be learnt at Har Sinai (Yerushalmi Peah), why didn't he understand R' Akiva's shiur? He had already learned/ received that Torah!

  • 1
    מלמד שהראהו הקב״ה למשה דקדוקי תורה ודקדוקי סופרים ומה שהסופרים עתידין לחדש
    – Dr. Shmuel
    Mar 13 '19 at 16:43
  • 1
    See mahratzchayus on that Gemara Megillah 19
    – Dr. Shmuel
    Mar 13 '19 at 16:46
  • 2
    Asked differently: How can R’ Akiva say that a teaching was a הלכה למשה מסיני if Moshe clearly didn’t know it?
    – DonielF
    Mar 13 '19 at 21:50

I once heard Rav Herschel Schachter discuss this question. He gave an analogy, that if one were to bring out Euclid, and show him a modern suspension bridge, and tell him it was built using Euclidean geometry, he would have no idea what you are talking about. Because Euclid started with five postulates and built from there, and later mathematicians continued to build on that. But they were always building, and combining or extending existing principles to deduce new ones. R' Schachter suggested the same with R' Akiva and Moshe - R' Akiva was teaching Torah which was firmly rooted in Toras Moshe, but was advanced by developing the existing framework. Thus, Moshe was consoled when R' Akiva said he knew it from Halacha L'Moshe MiSinai, because he understood that it all was still rooted back to the Torah brought from Har Sinai, and it had not been supplanted or replaced. Thus, everything was told to Moshe, for all of the future chiddushim are not new to the Torah, they are just the complexity and the depth of the Torah being expounded and explicated. But Moshe did not necessarily have the conscious awareness of all of these details of what he was receiving. The Maharal in his Chiddushei Aggados to the Gemara in Menachos, in his second approach, says something similar, namely that Moshe had the השגה of the Torah as a כלל, in one general unified grasp, but not of the particulars. R' Akiva had the grasp of Torah in the form of detailed particulars. (The Maharal understands this to be what it means that R' Akiva was expounding the taggin, the crowns of the letters, which Maharal understands are references to the details which "come out" of the letters.) Perhaps this could mean that Moshe had, in potential, all of the Torah to ever be taught, but not with a conscious appreciation of each detail.

In his first approach the Maharal says something that I don't fully understand but will try to present. Firstly, he established that the taggin represent a level of grasping some higher level, finer concepts of the Torah. He then says that Moshe's level was higher than R' Akiva in that he received everything at the level of prophecy, and everything that he knew, he had higher clarity in because he knew it through prophecy. He also explains that Moshe was on the level of mastery of this world. He therefore knew all of the Torah relevant to this world (which would explain that he knew everything a future scholar would instruct, all of the halachic material of Torah). However, he specifically did not know it through חכמה. R' Akiva knew it through חכמה, and therefore was able to grasp things which are beyond this world, and R' Akiva lived an existence on a level of beyond this world. He could therefore connect to the taggin. (See there for more details and explanation.)


It says Moses did not understand what was being said. It does not say he had not heard it before.

  • Nice diyyuk! Seems odd that Hashem would teach Torah to Moshe that he wouldn't understand though, right? What would be the purpose?
    – alicht
    Mar 13 '19 at 15:49
  • Moses' job was to convey. Mar 13 '19 at 16:20

Was discussing this with my rabbi recently and he gave me an answer. This can be answered based on logic. Moshe's learning of the Torah in many respects was not linear and was visual as well as with many details being conveyed simultaneously. One specific example of this is the menorah. While Rebbi Akiva is teaching a subject in a logical and progressive linear fashion. It makes sense that Moshe could not recognize the same teaching being tought in another fashion. At the end of that story Moshe is reassured when Hashem tells him this is what was taught on mt sinai.

In short. Moshe knew what was being taught but did not recognize the thing being taught right away

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