In Vayikra Rabbah 32:5 the Midrash Rabbah is explicit that one of the reasons the Jews were redeemed from exile is because the did not speak Lashon Harah (slander) about each other while they were in exile.

ולא אמרו לשון הרע, שנאמר (שמות יא:ב): דבר נא באזני העם, אתה מוצא שהיה הדבר מופקד אצלן כל שנים עשר חדש ולא הלשין אחד על חבירו.

"And they did not speak Lashon Harah, as the verse states (Shemos 11:2) "speak please in the ears of the people." We find that the matter was entrusted to them for twelve months and none of them slandered their fellow.

(see full context there)

However, in Shemos Rabbah 1:30 the Midrash Rabbah is explicit that the reason the Jews were enslaved in Egypt was because they were speaking Lashon Harah.

ורבותינו בשם רבי אלכסנדרי אמרו, היה משה מהרהר בלבו ואומר מה חטאו ישראל שנשתעבדו מכל האמות, כיון ששמע דבריו אמר לשון הרע יש ביניהן היאך יהיו ראויין לגאלה, לכך אמר: אכן נודע הדבר, עתה ידעתי באיזה דבר הם משתעבדים.

"And our masters said in the name of Rebbi Alexandri, Moshe was thinking in his heart and saying, what sin did the Jews do that made them deserve to be enslaved more than any other nation? Once he heard this man's words he said, there is slander among them, how can they be fit to be redeemed? Therefore he said 'now the matter is known', now I know why they are enslaved."

What was it? Does the Midrash Rabbah learn that they were slandering each other the whole time and that was why they were being enslaved or does the Midrash Rabbah understand that they were not slandering each other at all and that was how they merited to be redeemed?

  • 3
    Just wondering if perhaps it was different generations. When Moshe said they were saying loshan horah it was at least 40 years before the geula, and in fact they were still in shibud mitzrayim, whereas at the time of geula they weren't and were in fact taken out at that time.
    – Chatzkel
    Jul 15, 2021 at 13:39
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    @Chatzkel Midrash Tanchuma on Shemot 10's version of the Shemot Rabbah passage quoted in the question seems to agree with your thinking. It says (in translation): "And Moses became fearful and said: Surely this thing is known. He said to them: 'You tell tales on each other, how can you be worthy of redemption?' And when Pharaoh hear this thing. Apparently Dathan and Abiram informed against him (Moses), and he fled to Midian, where he remained twenty years, until Israel became worthy of redemption".
    – Tamir Evan
    Jul 16, 2021 at 6:39
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    @tamir evan thank you for that, very helpful
    – Chatzkel
    Jul 16, 2021 at 10:34

3 Answers 3


Moshe thought they all spoke lashon hara.. but really it was only Dasan and Aviram. The rest of klal Yisrael didn't. (Kli Yakar Shemos 2:14)

  • 2
    +1 For a good, sourced answer. But it's hard to accept that Moshe made a comment like that, accusing the entire nation of slander, which it turns out, was itself slanderous on Moshe's part. And he got away with it, unlike Yeshaya who was actually correct in saying Klal Yisroel had impure mouths. Seems very strange.
    – user6591
    Jul 15, 2021 at 16:09
  • #user6591 someone once explained to me since there were lots of bystanders when they said they'll go to Pharoh.. and no one protested. They seemed ok with it.
    – Shlomy
    Jul 15, 2021 at 17:58
  • I don't think we would have this in the mesorah if Moshe "made a mistake".
    – pcoz
    Jul 15, 2021 at 22:41
  • @pcoz you're saying the Torah shouldn't write the mistakes of the great?
    – Shlomy
    Dec 5, 2021 at 21:33
  • @Shlomy You are obfuscating writing sins (/mistakes) of the great with writing incorrect information in the Torah.
    – pcoz
    Dec 5, 2021 at 21:47

From Wikipedia:

The designation "Rabbah" was first applied to the midrash to Genesis, and then applied to the midrashim to the other books of the Pentateuch (Vayikra Rabbah, Shemot Rabbah, etc.) which were copied, with Bereshit Rabbah, even in (later) manuscripts. This collection eventually came to be called "Midrash Rabbot" (i.e., "Midrash of the Rabbot"), to which the midrashim most in use in connection with prayers—to Shir HaShirim, Ruth, Esther, Lamentations, and Ecclesiastes—were subsequently added.


Still more inexact and misleading is the term "Midrash Rabbah to the Five Books of the Pentateuch and the Five Megillot," as found on the title-page of the two parts in the much-used Vilna edition. After Zunz, it is not necessary to point out that the Midrash Rabbah consists of 10 entirely different midrashim.

Thus, despite the name, Shemot Rabba and Vayikra Rabba are separate midrashim, by different authors. Shemot Rabba is fairly late, post-Rashi. (See here for a 1200 CE authorship date.) Vayikra Rabba is fairly early. (See here for a 500 CE authorship date.)

So "Midrash Rabba" doesn't learn one way or another. Different Midrashim on the Chumash, which were eventually labeled "Rabba", took different positions on whether they spoke leshon hara.


The Zerah Shimshon (Va'eira 13. He also says similar in Bo 4) answers that Bnei Yisrael did Teshuva. In the beginning they were speaking Lashon Hara so they deserved to suffer, However, over time they did Teshuva and stopped speaking Lashon Hara causing them to deserve to finally be saved.

(For completeness' sake I will add that he also brings from the Yefeh Toar that the two Midrashim are not in agreement with each other. I like the Zerah Shimshon's answer much better.)

Zerah Shimshon Va'eira 13

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