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Both Talmudic opinions about the dictation of the Torah to Moses (either at once or scroll by scroll, Gittin 60), agree on the fact of the dictation. Therefore the Torah must reflect that fact and, just as it mentions it elsewhere, start with "And God spoke [this Torah] to Moses, saying: "in the beginning..." etc.

Also, this would "prove" that the historical parts were also dictated by God and not passed orally, or invented.

Why doesn't it?

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  • 1
    How would it prove anything? Anyone could have added in that incipit
    – Double AA
    Feb 28 at 2:36
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This is actually discussed in two sources. One is Zohar to Bereshit 15b and afterward. The second is Me’or Einayim to Parshat Terumah 3.

The essence of this is that Moshe is present in all generations. (אתפשטותא דמשה בכל דרא ודרא)

Sometimes that is in a revealed state and sometimes it is in a concealed state.

In the case of the beginning of creation, and Israel which precedes creation, Moshe is in a concealed state in that context.

The explanation of this subject could fill volumes.

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  • You know, I've always thought that the reason for my inability to decipher such claims is in my stupidity, but after 20 years of study, I've changed my approach - if I don't understand it's because the author didn't think it through. Can you please explain how Moses was concealed in Bereyshis?
    – Al Berko
    Jul 28 at 21:32
  • @AlBerko Did you look at the two sources that I cited in the answer? Jul 29 at 2:46
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My opinion.

The Torah doesn't begin with "God spoke to Moses saying:..." because Moses didn't need to exist according to the Torah. The Torah does not seem to take for granted that everything that happens was intended to happen. Somethings are definitely foreshadowed and prophecies are given, but that isn't true for everything.

Case in point is Ishmael. God clearly tells Abraham that he'll have a son, and so Isaac and his descendants are definitely part of "the plan." However, it seems to me that Ishmael wasn't a part of "the plan," and instead became something that God has to work around because Sarah and Abraham were trying to make the prophecy of Abraham having a son come true by introducing Hagar into the mix. But if Sarah and Abraham had just continued to wait and not had Hagar become a concubine, then so many things would have happened so differently and God even has to kind of correct Abraham's expectations or ideas about Ishmael because it's a deviation from the plan.

On that same vein I don't believe it was destined for Moses to exist or for Israel to need a human redeemer. Perhaps if Joseph's family hadn't have had so much infighting, attempted murders, and deceit to the bitter end then things with the famine and Egypt could have played out differently. I also don't recall any prophecy or foreshadowing of a great redeemer taking Abraham's descendants out of Egypt, but instead that they would be enslaved for centuries and God would punish the Egyptians and set the Israelites free, with no mention of a Moses type figure.

Genesis 15:4-14;

ד וְהִנֵּה דְבַר-יְהוָה אֵלָיו לֵאמֹר, לֹא יִירָשְׁךָ זֶה: כִּי-אִם אֲשֶׁר יֵצֵא מִמֵּעֶיךָ, הוּא יִירָשֶׁךָ. 4 And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying: 'This man shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.' ה וַיּוֹצֵא אֹתוֹ הַחוּצָה, וַיֹּאמֶר הַבֶּט-נָא הַשָּׁמַיְמָה וּסְפֹר הַכּוֹכָבִים--אִם-תּוּכַל, לִסְפֹּר אֹתָם; וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ, כֹּה יִהְיֶה זַרְעֶךָ. 5 And He brought him forth abroad, and said: 'Look now toward heaven, and count the stars, if thou be able to count them'; and He said unto him: 'So shall thy seed be.' ו וְהֶאֱמִן, בַּיהוָה; וַיַּחְשְׁבֶהָ לּוֹ, צְדָקָה. 6 And he believed in the LORD; and He counted it to him for righteousness. ז וַיֹּאמֶר, אֵלָיו: אֲנִי יְהוָה, אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתִיךָ מֵאוּר כַּשְׂדִּים--לָתֶת לְךָ אֶת-הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת, לְרִשְׁתָּהּ. 7 And He said unto him: 'I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.' ח וַיֹּאמַר: אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה, בַּמָּה אֵדַע כִּי אִירָשֶׁנָּה. 8 And he said: 'O Lord GOD, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?' ט וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו, קְחָה לִי עֶגְלָה מְשֻׁלֶּשֶׁת, וְעֵז מְשֻׁלֶּשֶׁת, וְאַיִל מְשֻׁלָּשׁ; וְתֹר, וְגוֹזָל. 9 And He said unto him: 'Take Me a heifer of three years old, and a she-goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtle-dove, and a young pigeon.' י וַיִּקַּח-לוֹ אֶת-כָּל-אֵלֶּה, וַיְבַתֵּר אֹתָם בַּתָּוֶךְ, וַיִּתֵּן אִישׁ-בִּתְרוֹ, לִקְרַאת רֵעֵהוּ; וְאֶת-הַצִּפֹּר, לֹא בָתָר. 10 And he took him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each half over against the other; but the birds divided he not. יא וַיֵּרֶד הָעַיִט, עַל-הַפְּגָרִים; וַיַּשֵּׁב אֹתָם, אַבְרָם. 11 And the birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, and Abram drove them away. יב וַיְהִי הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ לָבוֹא, וְתַרְדֵּמָה נָפְלָה עַל-אַבְרָם; וְהִנֵּה אֵימָה חֲשֵׁכָה גְדֹלָה, נֹפֶלֶת עָלָיו. 12 And it came to pass, that, when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, a dread, even a great darkness, fell upon him. יג וַיֹּאמֶר לְאַבְרָם, יָדֹעַ תֵּדַע כִּי-גֵר יִהְיֶה זַרְעֲךָ בְּאֶרֶץ לֹא לָהֶם, וַעֲבָדוּם, וְעִנּוּ אֹתָם--אַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת, שָׁנָה. 13 And He said unto Abram: 'Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; יד וְגַם אֶת-הַגּוֹי אֲשֶׁר יַעֲבֹדוּ, דָּן אָנֹכִי; וְאַחֲרֵי-כֵן יֵצְאוּ, בִּרְכֻשׁ גָּדוֹל. 14 and also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge; and afterward shall they come out with great substance.

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  • Thank you, +1 for trying! Why would we need "and God spoke to Moses" anytime later (besides the dialogs, of course)?
    – Al Berko
    Jul 28 at 19:52
  • @AlBerko Once Moses exists and is selected to be the leader and lawgiver, then the plan comes to give the law and teaching through Moses. But it's worth noting that no one in the Exodus story seems to be awaiting a physical person as a redeemer. Not Moses, not the Israelites, no one; which is why Moses thinks he needs to present proofs to the Israelites.
    – Aaron
    Jul 28 at 21:04
  • I don't understand your perception of the Torah. Are you saying it was written "as you go" - that the Bereyshis was written at one time, Exodus at another, etc?
    – Al Berko
    Jul 28 at 21:15
  • I'm not commenting on when the Torah was written, or whether it was written in stages or if it was "as you go." But as one of my favorite Tanakh teacher likes to say "The Bible comments on itself." The Torah contains future prophecies, but it doesn't claim that everything that happened was bound to happen, but rather that certain things were supposed to happen. Why take the next step and say everything written was bound to happen exactly this way if the Torah itself makes no such claims?
    – Aaron
    Jul 29 at 2:33
  • Or in other words lets say Moses wrote the Torah. But what if Abraham and Hagar never got together. I imagine the Torah would still be written very similarly by Moses, just without the parts that have to do with Ishmael. Because again, there is no prophecy concerning Israel, that was a decision that Sarah, Abraham, and Hagar made, not God.
    – Aaron
    Jul 29 at 2:43
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I might be way off base here, and if so please let me know, but I don't understand why it's a question.

Every time it says "And G-D spoke to Moses" it doesn't say "and he told him to write as follows" it just says what He told him. It is a historical fact of what took place. (I.e. at this or that time, or at this it that place, G-D said the following commandment). Then later, at the end of the 40 years, right before Moses's death, he wrote the sefer Torah with everything that G-D had said to him over the last 40 plus years, and also included the things that took place beforehand, from creation until the time of Moses death.

The entire Torah was given to Moshe on Har Sinai and he transcribed it exactly as it was given to him. The parts that preceded him in history were also given to him, and he transcribed them just like he did with the parts that he took part in as well.

Samuel wrote (according to some) Yehoshua, Shoftim and Shmuel. Nowhere does it say "so says Shmuel Hanavi" because he transcribed what was given to him in prophecy and that doesn't need a preface, it's inherently understood.

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  • Let me be a bit judgemental here. I remember myself at the beginning of my Teshuva being very self-assured and firing those weary doctrines like an automatic firearm. Slowly I realized how incoherent and inconsistent they are and how little they actually explain. You claim both that Moses received the Torah at Sinai and that he didn't, and wrote it before his death. You repeat the Talmudic dispute, (Gittin 60) where both propositions fail to account for existing Biblical phenomena.
    – Al Berko
    Jul 29 at 7:02
  • He received it but didn't transcribe it until later. When prophets receive their prophecies the commandment to write it is never mentioned. When it says G-D spoke to Moses, it's relating an event, just like G-D spoke to Abraham. Just like Joshua and Shoftim were written, it never says G-D spoke to Shmuel saying....
    – Chatzkel
    Jul 29 at 11:49
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Rashi asked this question, too. The famed Bible commentator Rashi wrote:

“In the beginning…,” the Torah should have only had to begin with “This month shall be to you…” (Exodus 12:2) which is the first of the commandments that Israel was instructed. And why did it begin with Genesis?"

Rashi answers:

"Because of “He has told of the strength of Hid deeds to His people, to grant them the heritage of nations” (Psalms 111:6); that if the nations of the world should say to Israel, “You are robbers, that you conquered the land of seven nations,” Israel shall respond to them, “All the land belongs to the Holy One; He created it, and gives it to whoever He deems appropriate. By His will, He gave it to them, and by His will, He took it from them and gave it to us.”

Rashi to Genesis 1:1 (relying on a Midrash)

Rashi is saying that the Torah begins with the Creation story to teach people that G-d created the world, it belongs to Him alone, He can do what He wants with it, and He gave the land of Israel to the Jews (Abraham). No one should argue with G-d's decision. The story narratives about the deluge, patriarchs, and Exodus serve as context and other means. Why didn’t the Torah begin with the first commandment in Exodus? Because the Torah is not a history book. It’s a guidebook, toras chaim. The Torah teaches theological, political, and moral messages about G-d and laws.

In contrast, Rambam felt that the Torah did begin with the first commandment. He did not read Genesis 1 literally but as a parable, teaching that the term, “image of G-d” means that people are like G-d in the sense that they can think.

The Mishneh Torah begins with the first fundamental principle of Judaism:

“The foundation of all foundations and the pillar of wisdom is to know that there is a primary being [G-d] who brought into being all existence.”

Notice that he does not say to believe in G-d, but to know that G-d exists (Exodus 20:2). How does one get to know G-d? By studying the sciences. Thus Genesis 1 promotes the learning of physics.

Maimonides said, “The only path to knowing G-d is through science—and for that reason the Bible opens with a description of the creation.” (See Gerald Schroeder, The Science of G-d, at vi, 17.)

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  • The questioner is asking why the Torah doesn't being with: "G-d spoke to Moses saying 'in the beginning I created the heavens and the earth"
    – Derdeer
    Feb 28 at 1:10
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    This seems like an answer to why start with stories instead of commandments. I understood the question, however, to be asking why (even with starting with stories) the stories are not introduced with the typical preamble that God told it to Moses.
    – Alex
    Feb 28 at 1:11
  • This doesn't answer the question at all.
    – Tesvov
    Feb 28 at 1:34
  • @Derdeer Because Moses did not exist during Genesis 1.
    – Turk Hill
    Feb 28 at 3:10
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    @Eliyahu good point
    – Turk Hill
    Mar 1 at 4:10
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Like all good stories, the Bible, which is not a history book, begins by setting up the time and place before setting up the characters. Just as fairy tales begin with "Once upon a time..." It is so with the Bible.

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