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(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.

HOWEVER...

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.

SO:

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!

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  • 1
    מלמד שהראהו הקב״ה למשה דקדוקי תורה ודקדוקי סופרים ומה שהסופרים עתידין לחדש
    – Dr. Shmuel
    Mar 13, 2019 at 16:43
  • 1
    See mahratzchayus on that Gemara Megillah 19
    – Dr. Shmuel
    Mar 13, 2019 at 16:46
  • 4
    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, 2019 at 21:50

5 Answers 5

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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.)

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  • R. Elijah Benamozegh explains this as follows: Can we say that if the seed were endowed with intelligence, it would recognize itself in the plant? Does the child know himself in the man? No, because the difference is too great and there is no consciousness or memory to testify to the continuity, the sameness of existence. But the plant knows itself in the seed, the man in the child, because once the evolution has become an established fact, all the moments of existence are linked together and form an uninterrupted chain which allows the being to affirm its own identity.
    – wfb
    May 26, 2022 at 14:01
  • See also Torat Nevi’im in Kol Sifrei Maharatz Chajes, vol. 1, pp. 135–136; R. Tzadok HaKohen, Likkutei Maamarim, pp. 6–7; Meshekh Ḥokhma, Deut. 17:11; and R. Moshe Feinstein’s introduction to Igrot Moshe, vol. 1.
    – wfb
    May 26, 2022 at 14:02
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Please see Michtav Meliyahu Chelek 5 page 216. There he brings the Maharal as well as his own understanding.

Rabbi Akiva develops his knowledge from the specifics to whole. So from even the taggim he understood and expanded ideas in Torah. Whereas Moshe understood the Torah as a whole, it confused him as to why someone would need such profound logic for things that were so obvious. They both had different learning styles.

My own analogy: A blind man can infer that since it is hot outside there must be a massive producer of heat, and since there are general periods of hot and cold there must be day and night, clouds, winter etc....

If you did not know the person was blind you would be confused why he was developing such complicated pieces of logic for things that were so obvious. I think this is the "kind" of difficulty Moshe had. It is of my opinion that it was not that Moshe didn't understand the class; rather, the whole idea was difficult until he heard Rebbi Akiva mention Halacha Moshe Mi'Sinai, that we need the general picture, but you could also infer it. According to the analogy the person says I know there is a sun, but look how you could logically infer it if you needed to.

This shows the greatness of Torah and how interconnected it is. You can learn all the specifics from the general or vice-versa since they are all connected like a perfect web.

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    – mbloch
    May 25, 2022 at 3:24
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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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It says Moses did not understand what was being said. It does not say he had not heard it before.

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  • 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, 2019 at 15:49
  • Moses' job was to convey. Mar 13, 2019 at 16:20
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The ultimate knowing is not knowing. And so in the aspect of "turning back" - Watik, old - of course Moshe Rabbeinu knows it all. But even then, that's not the takhlit. Rather, newness and youth, "Today if you'll listen to His voice." As H"Y is infinite so too is the Torah .. isn't there a Chazal: HK"BH and the Torah and etc. are one.

Related: Sichot haRan #3

הִפְלִיג מְאֹד בִּגְדֻלַּת הַבּוֹרֵא יִתְבָּרַךְ שְׁמוֹ, וְאִי אֶפְשָׁר לְבָאֵר זֹאת בִּכְתָב.

It cannot be put into writing how much the Rebbe emphasized God’s greatness. He stressed that it is beyond all measure. God does so many wonderful things that absolutely no one can really appreciate them.2

וְאָמַר: כִּי לִגְדֻלַּת הַבּוֹרֵא יִתְבָּרַךְ אֵין שִׁעוּר, כִּי נַעֲשִׂים דְּבָרִים נוֹרָאִים בָּעוֹלָם, נִפְלָאִים וְנוֹרָאִים מְאֹד וְאֵין יוֹדְעִים כְּלָל. הַיְנוּ שֶׁעֲדַיִן אֵין יוֹדְעִים שׁוּם יְדִיעָה כְּלָל כְּלָל לֹא.

We may speak of God, but we know absolutely nothing. It is said that the goal of all knowledge [of God] is to realize that one knows nothing.3 But even this cannot be attained.

וְגַם מַה שֶּׁמּוּבָא "כִּי תַּכְלִית הַיְדִיעָה אֲשֶׁר לֹא נֵדַע", הַיְנוּ גַּם־כֵּן אֵצֶל כָּל יְדִיעָה וִידִיעָה, הַיְנוּ שֶׁאֲפִלּוּ כְּשֶׁמַּגִּיעִין לְהַתַּכְלִית שֶׁל הַיְּדִיעָה דְּהַיְנוּ "לֹא נֵדַע", אַף־עַל־פִּי־כֵן עֲדַיִן אֵין זֶה הַתַּכְלִית. כִּי זֶה הַתַּכְלִית הוּא רַק בְּאוֹתָהּ הַיְדִיעָה, אֲבָל בְּהַיְדִיעָה הַגָּבוֹהַּ מִמֶּנָּה עֲדַיִן לֹא הִתְחִיל בָּהּ כְּלָל, וְכֵן לְמַעְלָה מַעְלָה.

This goal pertains to every level of insight. One may reach the level of realizing he knows nothing, but only in a particular area and on a given level. There is still the next level, and this has not even been touched. He does not know enough about the next level to even realize his ignorance. And no matter how high he goes, there is still a higher step.

נִמְצָא שֶׁלְּעוֹלָם אֵין יוֹדְעִין כְּלָל כְּלָל לֹא, וְאַף־עַל־פִּי־כֵן אֵין זֶה הַתַּכְלִית, כִּי עֲדַיִן לֹא הִתְחִיל כְּלָל לֵידַע בַּיְדִיעוֹת שֶׁלְּמַעְלָה מִזֹּאת הַיְדִיעָה שֶׁהִגִּיעַ בָּהּ אֶל הַתַּכְלִית שֶׁלֹּא נֵדַע וְכוּ'.

Therefore, a person knows nothing, and still cannot perceive his ignorance. For there is always a degree of “not-knowing” on a level that lies beyond his perception.

...

https://www.sefaria.org/Sichot_HaRan.3

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