When we have instances of Moshe not knowing how to answer questions in the Torah. One of which happens in this week's Torah portion.

Numbers 9 8 And Moses said unto them: 'Stay ye, that I may hear what the LORD will command concerning you.' {P}

ח וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם, מֹשֶׁה: עִמְדוּ וְאֶשְׁמְעָה, מַה-יְצַוֶּה יְהוָה לָכֶם. {פ}

i can understand the argument that Moshe received so much nevu'ah that he could foretell things, or could write events before they happened, and even those that say he wrote about his own death. However, it doesn't make sense to me that Moshe received every letter, if he then has to ask God to get some answers to questions. A more clear example would be Zelophehad's daughters.

Numbers 27 ג אָבִינוּ, מֵת בַּמִּדְבָּר, וְהוּא לֹא-הָיָה בְּתוֹךְ הָעֵדָה הַנּוֹעָדִים עַל-יְהוָה, בַּעֲדַת-קֹרַח: כִּי-בְחֶטְאוֹ מֵת, וּבָנִים לֹא-הָיוּ לוֹ. 3 'Our father died in the wilderness, and he was not among the company of them that gathered themselves together against the LORD in the company of Korah, but he died in his own sin; and he had no sons. ד לָמָּה יִגָּרַע שֵׁם-אָבִינוּ מִתּוֹךְ מִשְׁפַּחְתּוֹ, כִּי אֵין לוֹ בֵּן; תְּנָה-לָּנוּ אֲחֻזָּה, בְּתוֹךְ אֲחֵי אָבִינוּ. 4 Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he had no son? Give unto us a possession among the brethren of our father.' ה וַיַּקְרֵב מֹשֶׁה אֶת-מִשְׁפָּטָן, לִפְנֵי יְהוָה. {פ} 5 And Moses brought their cause before the LORD. {P} ו וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר. 6 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying:

So my question is, if Moshe received "All the laws of the Torah" then why is he not able to answer these questions himself, why does he then need to ask God if he already knows the answer? Because to say that he has to inquire from God implies that he doesn't know, and if you were to say he knew but was too humble, then it means he was possibly deceitful.

  • While I see a question in your title, I don't quite understand what the real question is. You cite verses, but what is the question as related to the verses?
    – DanF
    Jun 5, 2015 at 17:37
  • How do you know Moshe received all the laws of the Torah at Mt Sinai?
    – Double AA
    Jun 5, 2015 at 18:13
  • i don't know, but i hear that statement thrown around a whole lot. Like the answer below. Or this answer from Ohr Samayach "Moses ascended Mount Sinai where, for forty days, G-d taught him the entire Written and Oral Torah. Later, on Yom Kippur, Moses descended with the second tablets of the Ten Commandments and began to teach the people what he heard from G-d on Mount Sinai...The Written Torah is the word of G-d that He dictated to Moses word for word, and which Moses wrote in the first Torah scroll. It incorporates all the commandments, including the Ten Commandments."
    – Aaron
    Jun 5, 2015 at 18:18
  • ohr.edu/1438
    – Aaron
    Jun 5, 2015 at 18:22
  • Isn't it a Talmudic tradition to believe that the Oral Law was transmitted from G-d to Moses at Sinai to Joshua.... to the elders....to the scribes....? If the Oral Law was the "secret" wisdom of the Torah wouldn't Moses' need to clarify suggest that he did not fully comprehend what Hashem taught him. That would imply the tradition was transmitted with errors. Is that not considered heresy?
    – JJLL
    Jun 7, 2015 at 1:37

4 Answers 4


There is a dispute in the Gemara as to how and when the content of the Torah was given. According to Rashi, both opinions hold that the entire text and content of the Torah was not what was given at Har Sinai:

Gittin 60a:

א"ר יוחנן משום רבי בנאה תורה מגילה מגילה ניתנה שנא' (תהלים מ, ח) אז אמרתי הנה באתי במגילת ספר כתוב עלי ר"ש בן לקיש אומר תורה חתומה ניתנה שנאמר (דברים לא, כו) לקוח את ספר התורה הזאת

R' Yochanan said in the name of R' B'na'ah "The Torah was given piece by piece... Reish Lakish said "the Torah was given sealed...


מגילה מגילה ניתנה - כשנאמרה פרשה למשה היה כותבה ולבסוף מ' שנה כשנגמרו כל הפרשיות חיברן בגידין ותפרן

Piece by piece - as each section was said to Moshe, he would write it, and at the end of 40 years when all the sections were completed, he connected them with sinews and stitched them

חתומה ניתנה - לא נכתבה עד סוף מ' לאחר שנאמרו כל הפרשיות כולן והנאמרות לו בשנה ראשונה ושניה היו סדורות לו על פה עד שכתבן

Sealed - it was not written until the end of the 40 [years], after all of the sections had been said to him, and those which were said to him in the first years remained arranged orally until he wrote them

The Ramban writes the same in his introduction to Bereishis.

The content of the Torah is not what we refer to when we say that Hashem gave the Torah at Har Sinai.

The Ramchal in Da'as Tevunos siman 158 s.v. ומה שיש לנו לדעת (p. 170 in Friedlander edition) explains that the the spiritual ability to keep the Torah is what was given to the Jewish people at Har Sinai. In the following paragraph, ותראי, he writes:

ותראי כי זה מה שעשה האדון ב"ה לישראל בהר סיני, שהנה לא נתן להם שם התורה כולה במעמד ההוא, אבל הייתה הכנה כוללת לכל עבודת המצוות... ואז נתן להם תחילה הכוח לשמור כל מצוותיו, ושמעשיהם בעבודתו יעשו הפרי הטוב המצטרך לתיקון הבריאה

And see, that this is what Hashem did for Yisroel at Har Sinai, as behold He did not give them the entire Torah there in that encounter, but it was the general preparation for the entire avodah of mitzvos... and then He gave them first the ability to keep all the mitzvos, and that their actions in His avodah would have positive effects to repair all of creation...

In footnote [46], R' Chaim Friedlander comments:

לכן אנו מחיסים את קבלת התורה למעמד הר סיני, אף אל פי שרק חלק מן המצוות ניתן בהר סיני וכו

And therefore we associate receiving the Torah with the standing at Har Sinai, even though only a fraction of the mitzvos were given at Har Sinai...

So the ability to keep Torah, and the spiritual connection to the mitzvos which causes our actions to have cosmic effect, were the "giving of the Torah" that are referred to, not the actual content of the mitzvos.

Reclycled from here.

  • Do any refute him? Because it seems odd that the majority of Jews or Rabbis i hear speak on this subject say things like "Moses ascended Mount Sinai where, for forty days, G-d taught him the entire Written and Oral Torah. Later, on Yom Kippur, Moses descended with the second tablets of the Ten Commandments and began to teach the people what he heard from G-d on Mount Sinai...The Written Torah is the word of G-d that He dictated to Moses word for word, and which Moses wrote in the first Torah scroll. It incorporates all the commandments, including the Ten Commandments." What sources r they usin
    – Aaron
    Jun 5, 2015 at 20:33

He didn't get the Sefer Torah. He got the Torah, the laws. The Sefer Torah was either written in his last day or as things transpired. He learned all the laws during the forty days following Matan Torah, obviously excluding those laws that came up later.

  • Perhaps, it's something within the phrasing of your answer that confuses me ... He learned all the laws... by all doesn't that mean all 613? If not, why were certain laws left for later?
    – DanF
    Jun 5, 2015 at 17:46
  • 1
    That's my point, he should know all the laws, and therefore shouldn't need to ask God what to do with Zelophehad's daughters, or tell the people asking about missing the Pesah offering to wait while he asked God. If he received all the laws, then he should just know. If you were to say he knew all the laws, EXCEPT those that came later, then he didn't know ALL the laws
    – Aaron
    Jun 5, 2015 at 17:47
  • The issue didn't come up yet so he didn't learn that. It wasn't from the original plan, so to speak. But, actually by the Bnos Tzlafchad Rashi says that they were Zoche to have it come from them. There was a special reason why it waited.
    – HaLeiVi
    Jun 5, 2015 at 21:56
  • Now that it is part of all the Mitzvos we say that he learned everything besides for those few, which sounds a bit like a stretch. However, at the time he learned all the current laws. The other laws were created afterwards.
    – HaLeiVi
    Jun 5, 2015 at 21:59

The Mishna Brurah 494:12 in hilchos shevous he sources a reason(Couldn't prepare meat on time) why we eat dairy on shevuos and in the sief he writes: [כי בעשרת הדברות נתגלה להם עי"ז כל חלקי התורה כמו שכתב רב סעדיה גאון שבעשרת הדברות כלולה כל התורה]

So according to Rav Saadia Gaon all the commandment can be learnt from the Aseres Hadibros.


There's a machlokes about כללות נאמרו בסיני (that by sinai moshe only got the 13 ways that you can derive things from torah (יג' מידות שהתורה נדרשת בהם) but not the details of each halacha.) According to this we can answer your question and it also explains many arguments that are found all over shas that affect halacha le'maase (for example rashi and rabbeinu tam's tefilin, times for davening (earliest and latest times) etc) because if all the Torah comes from Hashem and He obviously has one "opinion", Moshe received it by har sinai and gave it to yehoshua etc so how did it happen that we have so many opinions about so many basic and fundamental areas of Judaism?

Because Moshe by har sinai only received the general rules of how to learn the torah and from then on the specifics of the mitzvos were learned out through these 13 ways. so one rabbi learned out his opinion with a certain limmud and another rabbi used a different limmud to learn out a differing opinion.

This also explains what it says כל מה שתלמיד ותיק עתיד לחדש ניננה בסיני (any chiddush that someone will be mechadesh in torah was already given to moshe at har sinai.) seemingly this is a contradiction in itself, if it's a chiddush it wasn't given by sinai and if it was given by sinai then its not a chiddush? again we can answer that its takke a chiddush and this that it was given to moshe was only the general paths of learning out different limmudim from torah.

In summary the answer is that Moshe got the general directions of how to learn out the specifics from Torah but he didn't get all the details and therefore when someone asked a question and he "couldn't" figure out with which limmud to use to answer the question, he asked Hashem. (The reason for the quotations is because I don't understand how Moshe really didn't know the answer, I'm sure there's a deeper answer to explain this.)

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