My kid asked:

Ki Sisa 32:1 says that, when Moshe didn't return from Mount Sinai when the people expected him to, they said "this man Moshe who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we don't know what has become of him". Rashi comments that "this" means that they saw Moshe: specifically, [as Shabas 89 amud 1 makes more explicit,] that the satan showed them Moshe's corpse being borne.

Why, then, did they say "we don't know what has become of him"? They (thought that they) knew what had become of him: he had died.

  • I posted one answer but hope others will post others.
    – msh210
    Feb 28, 2016 at 5:41
  • Maybe they didn't know the Midrash.
    – mevaqesh
    Feb 28, 2016 at 15:58
  • @mevaqesh, I don't see how that helps. But if you can explain it, perhaps post an answer.
    – msh210
    Feb 28, 2016 at 19:26

3 Answers 3


The Maharsha (Chidushe Agados to Shabas 89) says that they had a slight doubt whether, perhaps, the image they saw of Moshe was actually an act of the satan's.

  • 1
    Does Maharsha provide any support for his assertion? (eg. a linguistic oddity in the Midrash)
    – Double AA
    Feb 28, 2016 at 5:47
  • @DoubleAA, not there.
    – msh210
    Feb 28, 2016 at 6:28

The lashon of the passuk is odd, ki zeh Moshe ha'Ish. It should say ki zeh ha'Ish or ki Moshe eineno (or similar).

The implication is they were grappling with the idea of mortality, this man Moshe who represents mortals in the heavenly sphere.

Showing his bier may therefore be an indication that his corporeal self had been left behind in which case he could no longer lead them.

  • Interesting idea. Is it your own?
    – msh210
    Mar 30, 2016 at 2:03

Shemos Rabbah 41:7 says that when satan showed them Moshe, Hur (the son of Caleb) arose and rebuked them:

רבנן אמרי השטן מצא את ידיו אותה שעה, שהיה משה נראה תלוי בין השמים והארץ והיו מראין אותו באצבע ואומר: כי זה משה האיש. אותה שעה עמד עליהם חור ואמר להם קציעי צואריא, אין אתם נזכרים מה נסים עשה לכם הקדוש ברוך הוא, מיד עמדו עליו והרגוהו.

According to my reading, it seems that after receiving this rebuke (and had killed him), they were still in doubt if what they saw was true or not, so they said "we don't know what has become of him".

  • I don't understand the relevance of this midrash to your reading of the verses. Or is that your reading of this midrash itself? How do you read that in it?
    – msh210
    Apr 3, 2016 at 23:31
  • I believe it's relevant b/c IMO the midrash brings out Caleb's rebuke against the view of Moshe's death shown by satan and this would may suggest a remaining doubt of the people whether it really had happened or not, and consequently, the reason why they possibly said לא ידענו מה היה לו . Apr 4, 2016 at 0:10

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .