Bavli Berachos (32a) contains the following aggadic assertion

{שמות ל"ב:י'} וְאֶעֱשֶׂה אוֹתְךָ לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל וְגוֹ', אֲמַר רִבִּי אֶלְעָזָר: אָמַר מֹשֶׁה לִפְנֵי הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם, וּמַה כִּסֵּא שֶׁל שָׁלֹשׁ רַגְלַיִם (רש"י – אברהם יצחק ויעקב) אֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לַעֲמוֹד לְפָנֶיךָ בְּשָׁעַת כַּעֲסָךְ, כִּסֵּא שֶׁל רֶגֶל אֶחָד, עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה!

In the same verse, God promised Moses: “And I will make of you a great nation.” What was Moses’ response? Rabbi Elazar said: Moses said before the Holy One, Blessed be He: Master of the Universe, if a chair with three legs, the collective merit of the three forefathers, is unable to stand before You in Your moment of wrath, all the more so that a chair with one leg, my merit alone, will be unable to withstand your wrath.

The question is that as Moshe is himself descended from Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov why would a new nation of his be considered a one legged chair and not a 4 legged one?

(Maharsha, owing to this q, indeed writes that the gemara really means a four legged chair, see there. I am looking for another interpretation as it does not seem to be the straightforward meaning of the gemara. I see now that Maharal in Gur Aryeh also addresses this issue and explains that the language connotes a disassociation from the Avos and a kind of restart where Moshe would somehow be considered the sole Av)

  • 1
    @RabbiKaii What's the other interpretation?
    – shmosel
    Commented Feb 27 at 18:59
  • I think I could hear it either way, but I don't think the question bothers me. It seems quite possible that it is not a fulfillment of Hashem's promise to the Avos, to completely exterminate their descendants except for one, generations later, even if that one later grows to be a great nation.
    – MichoelR
    Commented Feb 27 at 19:05
  • 2
    The ben yohada has two different answers. sefaria.org/Ben_Yehoyada_on_Berakhot.32a.7?lang=bi
    – Chatzkel
    Commented Feb 27 at 20:31
  • 1
    hebrewbooks.org/… Commented Feb 28 at 0:34

1 Answer 1


My friend suggested that according to the Astrovtza Gaon when the Jewish nation converted at Mt. Sinai they were forced to do so and that according to Maharal you don't say that such a convert is like a newborn child. But Moshe was on top of the mountain so he wasn't forced, so his conversion made him like a newborn child so he wasn't related to the Avos (Patriarchs).

  • I thought Maharal says that as the nation converted as a whole vs an individual we don't say גר שנתגייר וכו. Do you know where it is?
    – Nahum
    Commented Feb 27 at 19:35
  • So Moshe's descendants don't have zechus avos?
    – shmosel
    Commented Feb 27 at 20:29
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    @Nahum its maharal qouted in hakdama to shav shmaisa os 9. Its gur aryeh vayigash
    – Shlomy
    Commented Feb 27 at 21:30
  • Moshe didnt go up the mountain till after the coercion
    – Nahum
    Commented Feb 27 at 23:20
  • @Nahum it seems its accepted moshe was on top. The cli chemda (vayigash) also understands moshe was on top of mountain. (Though he was challenging the shaimsa because of that)
    – Shlomy
    Commented Feb 27 at 23:28

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