It is the Rambam's 8th Principle of Faith that the entire Torah (possibly except the last several verses) was dictated by God to Moses. Why do we believe that? Why, for example, can't we say that the book of Genesis was written by Jacob, for example, and has the level of holiness and authenticity as a book of the Prophets? Perhaps the forefathers had those scriptures before Moses, and they were canonized with the rest of the Torah as a prequel? Not that they are not holy writings, but why do we have to say that Genesis was written by Moses?

Or, for example, in the last few chapters of Deuteronomy, there are discussions of Moses concluding the writing of the Torah and putting it for safekeeping among other events that would make more sense as an addendum but not as part of the Torah discussed there. Why can't we say it's included with the Torah as an addendum but not that God told that part to Moses?

Is it simply because by the time of the Gemara it was a relatively central and widespread belief, and, in the absence of any major compelling reason to say otherwise, that became recognized as a core belief?

Edit: I know that the Torah includes phrasing like "this entire book of the Torah," which the Torah says was given to the Jewish people by God through Moses. I am not asking how we know that is true. I am asking why we have to say that what we currently consider the Torah doesn't include prophetic prequels or addenda beyond what was given at Sinai.

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    Who would you suggest wrote Bereishis? Would you say Levi as the last surviving member of the Shevatim? Why would you suggest this? Even if Levi had brought the history up to date, Moshe Rabbeinu was commanded explicitly to write the Torah and give it to Bnei Yisoel at the end of his life. Thus Hashem would have dictated at that time what was to go into the Torah. I have never seen anyone discuss the possibility the Bereishis was written earlier. Jan 24, 2016 at 2:45
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    As I'm fairly certain you're aware, the reason why Orthodox Jews believe in the Divinity of the Torah is due to the Revelation at Sinai. As a result, the reason why we say that "the entire Torah...was dictated by God to Moses" is because that's actually how it happened. Jan 24, 2016 at 3:15
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    The Torah refers to itself repeatedly as the book that was given to Moshe and the Jewish people by HaShem (e.g. Sh'mos 24:12, B'midbar 31:21, D'varim 1:5, 4:8, 4:44, 17:19, 27:3, 27:8, 27:26, 28:58, 28:61, 29:20, 29:28, 30:10, 31:9, 31:11-12, 31:24, 31:26, 32:46, 33:4). Is this what you mean: How do we know that what we call the Torah corresponds precisely to what those verses mean by "this entire sefer Torah", i.e., how to we know that doesn't simply mean (for example) Sh'mos through much of D'varim, and that the remainder was an addendum not originally meant as part of "the Torah"?
    – Fred
    Jan 24, 2016 at 5:58
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    Regarding Sefer B'reishis, there are various reasons to think it is part of what the Torah refers to as "this Torah." For one, Sefer Sh'mos begins with a vav hachibur ("And these are the names of the children of Israel..."), suggesting that Sh'mos is a continuation. Also, verses in Sh'mos first mention some ideas in a manner that seems to imply that they were already introduced earlier in that text - which they in fact were in Sefer B'reishis (e.g. Yosef's position of importance in Egypt and Hashem's oath to the forefathers).
    – Fred
    Jan 24, 2016 at 6:07
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    @Salmononius2 It is not at all clear that the whole Pentateuch was dictated at Sinai. Accordingly, the revelation at Sinai does not settle the question of the Provenance of the entire Pentateuch.
    – mevaqesh
    Jan 25, 2016 at 3:40

3 Answers 3


Ramban in his introduction to Sefer Bereishis writes that it is true and clear that the entirety of the Torah, from the first verse to the last, was said by Hashem to Moshe to write.

אבל זה אמת וברור הוא שכל התורה מתחלת ספר בראשית עד לעיני כל ישראל נאמרה מפיו של הקב"ה לאזניו של משה, כענין שאמר להלן (ירמיה ל"ו): מפיו יקרא אלי את כל הדברים האלה ואני כותב על הספר בדיו.

However this is true and clear, that the entire Torah from the beginning of Bereishis to the [last verse of] "before the eyes of all of Israel" were said from the mouth of HaKadosh Baruch Hu into the ears of Moshe. Similar to what it says in Yirmiyahu 36: From His mouth he recites to me all these words and I write them in this sefer in ink

However, he doesn't demonstrate how he knows this to be true. Rabbeinu Bachaye to Devarim 29:6 gives an explanation, and perhaps this is where the Ramban is coming from.

שהרי קבלה בידינו שכל התורה כלה מבראשית עד לעיני כל ישראל הכל כתב משה מפי הגבורה

Behold it is a tradition in our hands that the entire Torah, from the first word Bereishis until the last words Leinei Kol Yisroel, they were all written by Moshe as directed by the Mighty One.

He says clearly that it is knowledge we have that came through mesorah, tradition. That's the source.

  • Note that this tradition isn't worth much. How much value do you generally place on"traditions" that violate. Views in the Talmud? Who is this tradition even from? The Talmud didn't know of it. Is there a secret hitherto unknown tradition connecting Sinai with R. Bahya, unbeknownst to everyone in between including Hazal?
    – mevaqesh
    Sep 6, 2017 at 0:04
  • @mevaqesh I'm sure you're aware R. Bachaye isn't a lone opinion regarding the single authorship of the Torah. If you want another Rishon who holds so, R. Yehoshua Ibn Shuaiv, a student of the Rashba, in parshas Bechukosai says it's obvious Hashem authored the entire Torah. Or are you specifically referring to Moshe writing everything. Perhaps the bar plugtah of the one who says the last 8 verses were written by Yehoshua is the progenitor of R. Bachaye's mesorah.
    – robev
    Sep 6, 2017 at 3:22
  • But the bar plugta never claimed a tradition. Im kabbala nkabel. And let's say he did originate such a "tradition" (unknown to all earlier rishonim) it is still useless. It isn't stronger than the opinion itself which is the subject of dispute. It just begs the OPs question of why anybody believed this in the first place.
    – mevaqesh
    Sep 6, 2017 at 12:53
  • @mevaqesh I'm finding these two comments confusing. You're stating that this contradicts the Talmud, but I don't see a quote from the Talmud to back it up. What are you referring to?
    – MichoelR
    Feb 8, 2021 at 13:55
  • I think that Menachos 30a is a pretty good source for this Rambam. "Till this point, Hakodosh Boruch Hu spoke, and Moshe repeated it and wrote it. From here on [last eight verses in Devarim] HKBH spoke, and Moshe wrote it in tears."
    – MichoelR
    Feb 8, 2021 at 13:58

Really I think this is a very important question, one that I have struggled with.

To me, it comes down to the question of free will. If we are to accept that the whole Torah in its current form was dictated by Hashem to Moses at Sinai, then he would have been tasked with describing the events of the future, which, although we can assume that Moses would have accepted as Hashem's plan, would have been troubling for him to say the least, given the events in the Bamidbar and D'Varim.

So if we are to imagine Moses, on Sinai for forty days, grappling with visions of his own future, and the struggles described in Bamidbar / Numbers, we can believe that the Torah was revealed to Moses entirely, but not necessarily assume that Moses fully even believed all of it himself.

For example, when he and Aaron disobeyed Hashem's instructions to speak to the rock and bring forth water from it, and thereby brought about his own downfall, (which Rashi tells us was forseen by Pharoah's astrologers), we must assume that although the whole Torah was revealed to Moses, he did not fully accept the parts of it pertaining to himself, or perhaps he forgot, or in his anger/frustration, neglected what he had been instructed to do. Hence many years in the wilderness.

So the question, if I might suggest a clarification, is "in what form was the Torah given on Sinai, and to what extent did Moses record it?" This is where Christianity and Judaism split very clearly, as Christians believe that only the Ten Commandments were given at this point, which is, I believe, along the lines to your original question.

At Sinai, the Torah is not completely written down until Deuteronamy, which is three books later. So we must assume it took Moses years to express everything that had been revealed to him, and even in the end, as we saw with the water and the rock, he seemed apparently predestined to fail, and was denied access to he promised land, along with the generation that wandered in the wilderness. So there must have been some pre-and-post rationalisation on Moses part.

12 HASHEM said to Moses and to Aaron, "Because you did not believe in Me, to sanctify Me in the eyes of the Children of Israel, therefore you will not bring this congregation to the land that I have given them". 13 They are the waters of strife, where the Children of Israel contended with HASHEM, and He was sanctified through them.

So we must each ask ourselves - am I the waters of strife? Is my lack of faith going to cause unpleasant consquences like these?

This is why Jews believe that the whole Torah was revealed to Moses at Sinai, (in its entirety), in my humble opinion. Thanks for reading, I've learned a lot myself by just writing this comment.


Shemot 24:12 states that God wrote the Torah. Practically speaking Torah can be divided in three parts: Bereshit - Shemot 12 (written Hebrew tradition), Shemot 12-Devarim 29:1 (Covenant at Horeb) and Devarim 29:1 - end (Covenant at Moab). We need all parts of the story to provide complete picture. Torah is about life of Moses but Genesis explains who God is, how it was created, why, e.t.c. Necessary backstory so to speak.

  • I don't see how Shemot 24:12 (וַיֹּאמֶר ה' אֶל מֹשֶׁה עֲלֵה אֵלַי הָהָרָה וֶהְיֵה שָׁם וְאֶתְּנָה לְךָ אֶת לֻחֹת הָאֶבֶן וְהַתּוֹרָה וְהַמִּצְוָה אֲשֶׁר כָּתַבְתִּי לְהוֹרֹתָם) proves anything. The rest of your answer is irrelevant to the question. Jan 25, 2016 at 8:43
  • It says there כתבתי I wrote Jan 25, 2016 at 9:11
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    1. The OP said that he knows about these types of phrases. 2. What are you going to do about the rest of the book that happened later? Jan 25, 2016 at 12:24
  • @AleksandrSigalov Okay, you're asserting beliefs, but you're not doing more to demonstrate why we need to believe that other than suggesting that the beliefs make sense.
    – A L
    Jan 25, 2016 at 19:46

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