In parashat Korach, Moshe states that I didn't even ask these people for a donkey. Why would he say that? Donkey was the range rover of the time and was something valuable. If moshe wanted to say that I didn't borrow anything, he should have said "I didn't even asked them for a Perutah or a penny" not something expensive.

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    He said "I didn't even ask for anyone's donkey" not "a donkey". חֲמוֹר אֶחָד means "[some]one's donkey" not "one donkey".
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 7 at 18:46
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    Moshe and Aharon were accused of having elevated themselves above the people. According to the Chizkuni, this is a respond and the meaning is that he did not even take a donkey. "He had not even used such an animal to carry his personal belongings. Seeing he had not even used a beast of burden for his own personal use, how could he be accused of using people, i.e. his subjects, for such a purpose?" (Rabbeinu Bahya)
    – Shmuel
    Commented Jul 7 at 19:11
  • The Targum is more like "I didn't confiscate anyone's donkey." He could very easily have argued that the donkey was a business need (for his business of leading the Jews) and therefore should be charged to the people. Just as a king could seize property for governmental use.
    – Shalom
    Commented Jul 7 at 19:35
  • Just to clarify, חֲמוֹר אֶחָד does mean "one donkey" - it's the next word, מֵהֶם, that makes it into "someone's", and it seems fair to read it alternatively as "one donkey of theirs", that is to say, of the whole congregation and not of an individual. Commented Jul 7 at 20:52
  • @JudahOfChelm That wouldn't parallel the second half of the verse. Rather אחד מהם is the subject both times, and חמור is in construct form "donkey of"
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 7 at 22:14

2 Answers 2


Rashi based on the Medrash Tanchuma says it was a reference to when he going from Midyan to Mitzroyim and put his wife and children on a donkey. Even then when he travelling for public purposes he paid his own costs and did not ask them for a donkey. Rashi (second explanation) , The Rashbam and the Ramban say he specified a donkey because that is something that is (was) normal for kings to take (took) from their citizens for their personal use. Moshe was giving it as example of how he wasn't looking to be or act like a king. Kings do not demand trivial items that are of little value from their citizens. The Seperno translates the posuk as saying he didn't take a donkey as a borrowed item.

Note: Shmuel Hanavi said something very similar. Shmuel I 12:3 אֶת-שׁוֹר מִי לָקַחְתִּי וַחֲמוֹר מִי לָקַחְתִּי. Rashi and the Rishonim there explain that he was making almost the exact same point. "I did not use their donkeys even when I was on official business, I did not take donkeys from them like all other kings do. "


Indeed, when King Ptolemy of Egypt forced 72 Elders of Israel to translate the Torah into Greek, each independently, they all tacitly agreed to make certain changes to avoid misunderstandings [Megillah 9a-b, Soferim 1:8]. One of these changes was:

Instead of Moses saying “I have not taken one donkey [ḥamor] from them” [Numbers 16:15], they wrote “I have not taken one item of value [ḥemed] from them”; to avoid giving the impression that Moses may have taken other items.

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