In parshas Nasso Rashi brings a medrash to explain the verse:

Numbers 7:23:

וּלְזֶ֣בַח הַשְּׁלָמִים֘ בָּקָ֣ר שְׁנַ֒יִם֒ אֵילִ֤ם חֲמִשָּׁה֙ עַתֻּדִ֣ים חֲמִשָּׁ֔ה כְּבָשִׂ֥ים בְּנֵֽי־שָׁנָ֖ה חֲמִשָּׁ֑ה זֶ֛ה קָרְבַּ֥ן נְתַנְאֵ֖ל בֶּן־צוּעָֽר:

And for the peace offering: two oxen, five rams, five he goats, five lambs in their first year; this was the offering of Nethanel the son of Zu'ar.

And Rashi explains:

אלים כְּבָשִׂים ועתדים: שְׁלֹשָׁה מִינִים כְּנֶגֶד כֹּהֲנִים וּלְוִיִּם וְיִשְׂרְאֵלִים, וּכְנֶגֶד תּוֹרָה נְבִיאִים וּכְתוּבִים, שָׁלֹשׁ חֲמִשִּׁיּוֹת כְּנֶגֶד חֲמִשָּׁה חֻמְשִׁין וַחֲמֵשֶׁת הַדִּבְּרוֹת הַכְּתוּבִין עַל לוּחַ אֶחָד וַחֲמִשָּׁה הַכְּתוּבִים עַל הַשֵּׁנִי; עַד כָּאן בִּיסוֹדוֹ שֶׁל רַבִּי מֹשֶׁה הַדַּרְשָׁן:

Rams…he-goats…lambs: Three types, corresponding to Kohanim, Levites, and Israelites, and corresponding to the Torah, the Prophets, and the Holy Writings. The three fives [in this verse] correspond to the five books of the Pentateuch, to the five commandments inscribed on the first tablet, and the five commandments inscribed on the second one. Until this point, [my comments were] in the name of Rabbi Moses Hadarshan [the preacher].

I understand that Moshe learned the whole Torah but that was just the Klalim, the rules of how to teach and understand the Torah, not the books themselves.

Therefore, how do we understand the sacrifices corresponding to Nevi'im if the books of Nevi'im were not yet written?

  • 1
    Where does it say that Moshe knew what the numbers meant?
    – magicker72
    Commented Feb 13 at 3:09
  • @magicker72 why wouldn't he?
    – Moishe
    Commented Feb 13 at 3:33
  • You're the one claiming that he does, in order for your question to make sense. If Moshe just learned the klalim, then why should he definitely know why the particular numbers of animals were chosen?
    – magicker72
    Commented Feb 13 at 4:27
  • Why not take it as a bit of derash and/or a mnemonic? Similar to those whose custom is to use 3 masoth for the seder to homiletically connect it to the 3 abhoth or the division of Kohen, Lewi, Yisrael... the guy who came up with it was משה הדרשן after all Commented Feb 13 at 13:30

1 Answer 1


This is drawn from Rav Moshe HaDarshan, Sefer Yesod, though I don't know if that part is still extant. Bemidbar Rabba seems to be from Rav Moshe HaDarshan, where we see this spelled out.

The idea behind this is not a mnemonic, as one commenter suggested, though perhaps a "bit of derash" works. The theme in the midrash is as follows. Each Nasi is giving an identical gift towards the Mishkan. While identical in surface form, each gift has its own underlying intended meaning related to his tribe's deep identity. So one Nasi's three corresponded to the three crowns; another to the three forefathers; another to the three generations after Yosef, and so on.

I don't think Rav Moshe HaDarshan was specifically worried about anachronisms, like that the books of Neviim and Ketuvin had not yet been written. Regardless, it isn't that Moshe had this in mind. Rather, this is on the 11th day, the Nasi of Yissachar (the strong-boned donkey), who is generally associated with the burden of learning Torah. (For instance, consider the oft-misunderstood Yissachar-Zevulun partnership.) Therefore, the deep meaning of his gift will correspond to Torah in all its forms as it existed and will exist; in the five commandments on each tablet; on the five-fold (chumash) divided Torah that Moshe wrote / would write, but which was still developing as they experienced it; and in the threefold structure of TaNaCh. This was the deep meaning behind it, and wasn't Moshe's intent, maybe not even Netanel ben Tzuar's intent.

If it was an intent instead of a deep mystical meaning known by Hashem, then Moshe perhaps knew that there would be prophets after him, and perhaps knew that there would be different levels of Divinely-inspired writings. I don't see why Rav Moshe HaDarshan would require that Moshe knew the content of those eventual writings.

As an alternative answer, perhaps one could investigate textual variants. As it appears in Bemidbar Rabba, they actually have a different text for the davar acher for the meaning of the three. That is:

(במדבר ז, עז): אֵילִם חֲמִשָּׁה עַתֻּדִים חֲמִשָּׁה כְּבָשִׂים בְּנֵי שָׁנָה חֲמִשָּׁה, אֵלּוּ שְׁלשָׁה מִינֵי שְׁלָמִים, כְּנֶגֶד כֹּהֲנִים לְוִיִם וְיִשְׂרְאֵלִים. דָּבָר אַחֵר, כְּנֶגֶד שָׁלשׁ גְּדֻלּוֹת שֶׁנָּתַן לָהֶם הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא בִּשְׂכַר שֶׁקִּבְּלוּ אֶת הַתּוֹרָה, וְאֵלּוּ הֵן: סְגֻלָּה, מַמְלֶכֶת כֹּהֲנִים, וְגוֹי קָדוֹשׁ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות יט, ה ו): וִהְיִיתֶם לִי סְגֻלָּה מִכָּל הָעַמִּים כִּי לִי כָל הָאָרֶץ וְאַתֶּם תִּהְיוּ לִי מַמְלֶכֶת כֹּהֲנִים וְגוֹי קָדוֹשׁ. הֵם הָיוּ הַשְּׁלשָׁה מִינִין מִן חֲמִשָּׁה חֲמִשָּׁה, וְעוֹלֶה חֶשְׁבּוֹנָם חֲמִשָּׁה עָשָׂר, כְּנֶגֶד הַתּוֹרָה שֶׁהִיא חֲמִשָּׁה סְפָרִים וַעֲשֶׂרֶת הַדִּבְּרוֹת שֶׁקִּבְּלוּ שֶׁנִּכְתְּבוּ עַל שְׁתֵּי לוּחוֹת, חָמֵשׁ עַל לוּחַ זֶה וְחָמֵשׁ עַל לוּחַ זֶה.

That is, rather than 3 == TaNaCh, 3 == the greatnesses that Hashem granted them for accepting the Torah.

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