In the terminology of Tanya, if I understand it correctly, a tzadik is someone who has so perfected himself that his yetzer hara (inclination to do evil) never rears its head, whereas a benoni still has a yetzer hara. (More information on tzadik and benoni in Tanya.) There are relatively few tzadikim.

Was Moshe rabenu a tzadik? That is, was he someone who had so perfected himself that his yetzer hara never spoke up, or was he not quite at that level, so his yetzer hara did, in fact, make itself heard, but Moshe was able to quash it?

I ask because someone, discussing tzadikim and benonim as defined in Tanya, used Moshe as an example of a tzadik, to which I asked whether he was one in fact. The person said Moshe must have been one, but offered no evidence.

  • Who is an example of a Tanya tzaddik? (like the term btw!) Feb 16, 2014 at 4:34
  • @Efraim, no idea. (And I guess the terminology comes from my math background. "Integrable in the sense used by Riemann" is called "Riemann integrable" or "Riemann-integrable" for short, and likewise with other instances of "[term] in the sense used by [author]". I'm not sure whether that's used much outside of math. Perhaps so.)
    – msh210
    Feb 16, 2014 at 4:35
  • @Efraim, in Tanya (see ch. 10) Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai is the example given. Later on, Hillel is also cited as an example.
    – Yishai
    Feb 16, 2014 at 4:40
  • @Efraim Based on Yerushalmi Berakhot 9:5 (67b), I'd say Avraham Avinu and David ha-Melekh would be prime examples. Regarding the latter, see also towards the end of Avodah Zarah 4b, and Rashi there.
    – Tamir Evan
    Feb 16, 2014 at 5:36
  • 1
    Is it possible for a tanya-tzaddik to sin? We know Moshe sinned in the desert after Mattan Torah (eg. parashas chukkas), so perhaps that indicates he still had a Yetzer Hara.
    – Double AA
    Feb 17, 2014 at 18:37

3 Answers 3


Yes. Off the tip of my tongue, I don't know where it says that black and white (although I believe it does), but see Likkutei Torah (from the same author):

הנה נודע שנשמת משה רבינו עליו השלום היתה מבחינת אצילות וכן נשמת אברהם והיינו שבמשה רבע"ה ובאברהם היה מאיר בהם אצילות בבחינת גילוי למטה

It is known that the soul of Moshe Rabeinu Alav Hashalom was from the level of Atzilus, and similarly the soul of Avraham. That is ... it shined in them Atzikul in a revealed way below.

The idea of having a Neshama of Atzilus is the idea of Bnei Aliya that Tanya speaks about in Chapter 10.

In addition see here in Likkutei Torah:

אך ע"ז התפלל דוד המע"ה כן בקדש חזיתיך (עיין בזהר תרומה דק"מ תחלת ע"ב) שיהיה אהבה כזו גם בקדש דהיינו במעלת ומדרגת הצדיקים כי הנה אהבה זו היא מבחי' בע"ת ובמקום שבע"ת עומדים אין צדיקים גמורים כו'. אלא שמשה רבינו ע"ה קודם מותו זכה לבחי' תשובה ומעלת המשיח הוא לאתבא צדיקייא בתיובתא דהיינו שתהי' מעלת ומדריגת התשובה מתגלה בצדיקים גמורים שזה תלוי בביאת משיח דוקא. וזהו כן בקדש חזיתיך שיהי' בחי' לאתבא צדיקייא כו'. כי כללות ישראל צריכים לחזור בתשובה קודם ביאת המשיח וביאת המשיח תלוי בזה כמארז"ל אם ישראל עושים תשובה נגאלין כו'. אבל צדיקים שיזכו למעלת התשובה יהי' אחר ביאת המשיח דוקא

To paraphrase, Moshe was at the level of a Tzaddik, and thus didn't achieve the level of Teshuva (in the idea that the place where Baalei Teshuva stand Tzaddikim are unable to stand), until he merited to receive that level before his death. Other tzaddikim will only achieve that level after Moshiach comes.

  • If Moshe was from atzilus how did he sin?
    – larry909
    Mar 3, 2017 at 19:16
  • 1
    @larry909 actually there are lots of proof that moshe rabenou didn't sin, I know there's a midrash which explain that the sin of the rock was "wanted" by hashem
    – L770
    Jan 2 at 1:17

From the introduction of the Meshech Chochma to sefer Shemos:

וא״כ איך צוה השם שיאמינו לעולם במשה הא הכל בידי שמים חוץ מיראת שמים ואין הידיעה מכרחת הבחירה ושמא יבחר משה אחר זה חלילה להוסיף מדעתו ועל כרחין שהשי״ת שלל ממנו הבחירה לגמרי ונשאר מוכרח כמלאכים

Meaning: How could it be that the Jewish people were commanded to believe in Moshe following the giving of the Torah? He could always change his mind and decide to make his own additions! It must be that at the time of the giving of the Torah, Moshe was removed from free-will and remained like an angel.

Note: His question is about following the giving of the Torah. Not at the giving.

רק שמשה שמצד עצמו עמל ויגע כל כך עד שהעלה עצמו למדרגה הגבוה שבמדרגות האנושי השלימית היותר האפשרי לכן זכה שיבטל ממנו הבחירה

Meaning: Moshe, through his effort and toil, elevated himself to such a level that he merited that free-will be nullified from him.

A second source:

Nefesh HaChaim Sha'ar Gimmel Perek Yud Daled, describing Moshe Rabbeinu's level:

כי התבטל בעיני עצמו ממציאות כלל ורק השכינה לבד המדברת לכן אמר ונתתי

Meaning: He completely nullified himself from existence, to the point that there was only Hashem.

ולזאת המדרגה בשלימות עדיין לא זכה אליה שום אדם זולתו מעת חטא אדה׳׳ר וגס לא יזכה אליה,שום אנש על יבשתא עד ביאת הגואל ב"ב

Meaning: No one ever reached the level of Moshe in understanding Hashem, and no one afterwards ever will until the coming of the Redeemer.

ולכן אמרו בתד״א חייב אדם לומר מתי יגיעו מעשי למעשי אבותי אברהם יצחק ויעקב ־ ולא אמרו למעשי משרע׳׳ה

Meaning: It is for this reason that a person should say "When will my actions reach the level of my forefathers Avraham Yitzchok and Yaakov," and does not say to the level of Moshe Rabbeinu [because that level is unreachable for us].

It seems that Moshe reached the highest level possible, and saw nothing other than Hashem's existence.

  • 1
    Problem is, those who you've shown think Moshe was on the highest level possible probably don't even think that a Tanya-Tzaddik is a category in Judaism.
    – Double AA
    Feb 17, 2014 at 5:12
  • @DoubleAA I pointed that out moments after I answered. chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/468/vdibarta-bam Feb 17, 2014 at 13:48
  • @DoubleAA Although I'm not sure what you meant by "Problem is" Feb 17, 2014 at 13:49
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    @YEZ You showed that combining two opinion leads to possibly describing Moshe as a temporary Tzaddik for the 40 days he was on the mountain, a time which was sui generous already. The Meshech Chochma says God took away his Bechira, not that he conquered it. Language has nothing to do with it; if your answer is "duh" then that is not what the OP sought.
    – Double AA
    Feb 17, 2014 at 18:32
  • 1
    @DoubleAA And regarding your words "not that he conquered it," again I would ask you to take a peek inside the Meshech Chochma - he clearly says that it was through Moshe's efforts that he reached the point where Hashem took it away. You might want to see it before you continue this discussion. Feb 17, 2014 at 18:39

Well, no.

בבא בתרא יז א

תנו רבנן ארבעה מתו בעטיו של נחש ואלו הן בנימין בן יעקב ועמרם אבי משה וישי אבי דוד וכלאב בן דוד

Our Rabbies thought, four died because of the snake (the ancient cures of death, that was set upon humanity, and not because of sins) Benyamin son of Yaakov, Amram father of Moshe, Yishai father of David and Kilav son of David.

Moshe is not in this luxurious list.

  • 1
    Don't think that follows. In the comments on the OP, R' Shimon ben Yochai is mentioned as an example of a Tanya-tzaddik, and he's not on this list.
    – Meir
    Dec 4, 2019 at 15:43
  • @Meir It could be that this Beraita is prior to R' Shimon ben Yochai, you know. Dec 5, 2019 at 14:57

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