I understand that Moshe ascended Har Sinai 3 times.

The 1st time was on 6th of Sivan

The 2nd time seems to have occurred after the sin of the Golden Calf, starting on 18 Tamuz and he spent 40 days praying to God for forgiveness.

The 3rd time began on Rosh Hodesh Elul and ended on Yom Kipur. This is when Moshe brought to God his own fashioned set of tablets, and God wrote the Ten Commandments on it. ( I will b"n followup with a separate question regarding what "version" was written on it.)

In asking my rabbi this question, he explained that Midrashim discuss a controversy as to what happened the 1st time and the 3rd time. One Midrash explains that only the 10 Commandments were received the 1st time, and the 3rd time he was taught Torah, Mishnah, Talmud, halacha and Midrash. Another opinion says that he was taught everything the first time.

My question - if on the 1st time, he was given only the 10 Commandments, why the 40 days to explain just that? It seems like a long time for that. If, he was taught everything the first time, then what was happening the 3rd time?

  • Cant all mitzvos be learnt from the aseres hadibros
    – sam
    Oct 23, 2019 at 15:27
  • 1
    Could you (ask your rabbi to) provide a source for such an interpretation? I've never heard of or seen any commentator who says that Moshe needed 40 days to learn the עשרת הדברות alone Oct 24, 2019 at 1:44
  • Maybe as a start: Pirkei d'Rebbi Eliezer 46 says on the first forty days קורא במקרא ביום ושונה במשנה בלילה while on the second forty days קורא בדת מקרא ביום ושונה בדת משנה בלילה.
    – DonielF
    Dec 8, 2019 at 1:30

1 Answer 1


Even if it was "just" the aseres hadibros, God's wisdom is infinite compared to ours, so I'm sure Moshe was not bored up there and had plenty to learn and see.

We don't ask about souls in heaven, "What could they possibly be doing there for thousands of years?". And here Moshe was face to face with God! I bet he would jump at the opportunity to go for another 40 days if he was given the chance.

Regarding the 3rd ascension. Chagigah 9b says that to be called 'he who serves him [God]', you must study the Torah at least 101 times. So if Moshe acsended the mountain more than one time to study the Torah, that shouldn't be a cause for questioning.

On another angle, Aish.com explains here the significance of the three ascensions of 40 days, which total 120:

The defining feature of Moshe’s life was the Torah. His role in redeeming the Children of Israel from Egypt was solely so that they would receive God’s Torah at Sinai, with Moshe playing an essential role in its transmission to the Jewish People. Indeed, there is a parallel between days and years in terms of the process of Moshe’s receiving the Torah. In ascending the mountain to receive the Torah, there were three 40-day periods, namely (40 x 3 =) 120 days in total. This contains in microcosm the 120-year life of Moshe, which was dedicated to teaching Torah to the Jewish People.

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