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The Rambam writes in Hilchos Yesodei hatorah (chapter 8),

משה רבינו לא האמינו בו ישראל מפני האותות שעשה שהמאמין על פי האותות יש בלבו דופי שאפשר שיעשה האות בלט וכשוף. אלא כל האותות שעשה משה במדבר לפי הצורך עשאם לא להביא ראיה על הנבואה. היה צריך להשקיע את המצריים קרע את הים והצלילן בתוכו צרכנו למזון הוריד לנו את המן צמאו בקע להן את האבן כפרו בו עדת קרח בלעה אותן הארץ וכן שאר כל האותות. ובמה האמינו בו במעמד הר סיני שעינינו ראו ולא זר ואזנינו שמעו ולא אחר האש והקולות והלפידים והוא נגש אל הערפל והקול מדבר אליו

The rambam asserts that all the miracles Moses performed were technical (or practical) in nature, it was not to establish the veracity of his prophecies; he needed to get rid of the Egyptians so he split the sea, he needed to get rid of Korach and his followers so the earth swallowed them. But I find his words extremely perplexing, since the Torah clearly states (bamidbar 16:28-30) that the purpose of the miracle with Korach was to establish that Moses is a genuine prophet,

ויאמֶר משֶׁה בְּזֹאת תֵּדְעוּן כִּי יְדֹוָד שְׁלָחַנִי לַעֲשׂוֹת אֵתו כָּל הַמַּעֲשִׂים הָאֵלֶּה כִּי לֹא מִלִּבִּי (כט) אִם כְּמוֹת כָּל הָאָדָם יְמֻתוּן אֵלֶּה וּפְקֻדַּת כָּל הָאָדָם יִפָּקֵד עֲלֵיהֶם לֹא יְדֹוָד שְׁלָחָנִי (ל) וְאִם בְּרִיאָה יִבְרָא יְדֹוָד וּפָצְתָה הָאֲדָמָה אֶת פִּיהָ וּבָלְעָה אֹתָם וְאֶת כָּל אֲשֶׁר לָהֶם וְיָרְדוּ חַיִּים שְׁאֹלָה וִידַעְתֶּם כִּי נִאֲצוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים הָאֵלֶּה אֶת יְדֹוָד

How can the Rambam state that the motive behind this miracle was not to establish the veracity of his mission when the Torah clearly says that this was indeed his motive? And to add more confusion the Rambam contradicts himself in his commentary to the Mishna (beginning of Sanhedrin 10)

היסוד השמיני: היות התורה מן השמים, והוא שנאמין כי כל התורה הזאת הנתונה ע"י משה רבינו ע"ה שהיא כולה מפי הגבורה, כלומר שהגיעה אליו כולה מאת ה' יתברך בענין שנקרא על דרך השאלה דבור ואין ידוע היאך הגיע אלא היה משה ע"ה שהגיע לו, וכי הוא היה כמו סופר שקוראין לו והוא כותב כל מאורעות הימים הספורים והמצות ולפיכך נקרא מחוקק וכו'. והמאמר המורה על היסוד הזה הוא מה שנאמר (במדבר טז) ויאמר משה בזאת תדעון כי ה' שלחני לעשות כל המעשים האלה כי לא מלבי

Over here the Rambam clearly uses this verse to support the ikar that Moses did not invent his own Mitzvot as he already proved to Korach with his miracle that he is a genuine prophet! The Rambam brings this verse as evidence that Moses was not a false prophet. But in yesodei hatorah he seems to say that this miracle was just a practical way of getting rid of his opponents! What is going on here?

  • I believe he writes somewhere that Kri'as Yam Suf established his veracity as a navi, and the others were, as you say here, technical in nature. Is your question what the point of Moshe's miracles was, how to resolve the contradiction in the Rambam, or how the Rambam can contradict the Pesukim regarding Korach? Perhaps you should narrow it to just one for this question - no harm in posting the others separately. – DonielF Jun 25 '17 at 19:39
  • @DonielF it is asking both. Mainly i want to know how the Rambam can contradict the Pesukim in Korach, secondly how can we resolve the contradiction in the Rambam itself. I think they're well related, and that if one can be answered the other difficulty will be resolved as well. – Bach Jun 25 '17 at 23:32
  • How so? IMHO i think you should leave out the Korach question, and once you've gotten an answer to the others see if you still need an answer there. I could definitely see how resolving the contradiction in the Rambam wouldn't help the passuk. – DonielF Jun 25 '17 at 23:40
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+100

First I will attempt to address the contradiction with the verses, as Rambam could theoretical change his opinion, or modify his view, but he cannot disagree with a verse. Therefore, an answer for the contradiction to the verse is more pressing.

In summary two answers (discussed more below) are as follows:

  1. In Yesodei HaTorah he says that miracles arent the reason to believe that someone is a prophet. The verse never says that the miracle was a reason to believe Moshe was a prophet. Rather, it was meant to show that Moshe was the rightful leader.
  2. While a miracle is insufficient proof to believe someone is a prophet (or leader), it is a good reason to doubt someone. By process of elimination, Moshe was believed; not by dint of the miracle itself, but because Korah was disqualified, and he was left.

First Answer: Let us carefully read his words in Yeosodei HaTorah. He says that the point of miracles was not as the ultimate confirmation, but to achieve some end, לפי הצורך עשאם. What then was the point of the Earth swallowing Korah et al. at all? He himself describes there כפרו בו עדת קרח בלעה אותן הארץ, that when they denied Moshe, that the solution was for the Earth to swallow them. So, Rambam himself in Yesodei HaTorah acknowledges that the event was meant to solve the problem of denial of Moshe; likely, by bolstering his credentials.

The question is, what about Moshe were they denying. It appears form the simple reading of the verses (or at least the verses could be understood), that Korah wasn't making a theological point against the Torah, its way, a particular prophecy of Moshe, or even against Moshe's status as a prophet. After all, they already experienced Sinai, at which Moshe pretty clearly played a central role (See Yesodei HaTorah 8:1-2), rather, it was a fight over who the leader of the people was supposed to be.[i]

Rambam's point is Hilkhot Yesodei HaTorah (ch. 8) is that belief in a prophet and his prophecy, cannot be justified by a supernatural event alone. After all, maybe its just a magic trick. However, that is not what took place with the Korah affair. Prophet Moshe and his Torah were never under assault; it was Moshe Rabbenu; Moshe the leader, who was under assault, and it was to support his role as leader; not his status as a prophet, that the ground swallowed Korah. Note Moshe's words: ויאמֶר משֶׁה בְּזֹאת תֵּדְעוּן כִּי יְדֹוָד שְׁלָחַנִי לַעֲשׂוֹת אֵתו כָּל הַמַּעֲשִׂים הָאֵלֶּה כִּי לֹא מִלִּבִּי. The event is supposed to be evidence for Moshe's activities; no mention is made of proof for his statements, prophecies, or the Torat Moshe which he preached. The other verses imply this or can be read this way as well: לֹא יְדֹוָד שְׁלָחָנִי vs. כִּי נִאֲצוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים הָאֵלֶּה אֶת יְדֹוָד. Neither one focuses on the nature of the religion or prophecy or its teaching, but whether Moshe is the one sent by God, or whether Korah is a rabble rousing rebel. Accordingly, there is no contradiction between Yesodei HaTorah and the verse.


Second Answer: There is another reason which it may not be a contradiction, which is that in the Korah affair, there seems to have been two options; Moshe, or Korah. While a miracle is not sufficient proof to belief a supernatural claim; that God communicated a message to someone, and that we must act accordingly, in the case of Moshe vs. Korah, where Korah was swallowed by the ground, it is safe to assume that he is not the leader / prophet (even though a miracle isn't a positive proof). Accordingly, by process of elimination, Moshe was considered the messenger. A miracle isn't good proof in a vacuum, but here is was just meant to disqualify Korah.


Regarding the PHM to Sanhedrin. We can suggest the fact that the Torah was given to the prophet Moshe is taken for granted. However, who says Moshe didn't tamper with things, adding or taking away. The focus of the ikkar isn't that Moshe was a prophet, or that he received the Torah, but rather that the whole Torah is holy, and doesn't have less important additions by anyone; namely Moshe. Note his words:

שנאמין שכל התורה הזו הנמצאת בידינו היום הזה היא התורה שניתנה למשה

That is, the fact that Moshe received the Torah is taken for granted. The point is, as he goes on to say that Moshe faithfully transcribed the whole thing:

ושהוא במעלת לבלר שקורין לפניו והוא כותב כולה...וזהו ענין אין תורה מן השמים, אמרו שהוא האומר שכל התורה כולה מפי הקדוש ברוך הוא חוץ מפסוק אחד שלא אמרו הקדוש ברוך הוא אלא משה מפי עצמו...והוא רק מוביל שליחות נאמן במה שהביא, והדבור המורה על היסוד הזה השמיני הוא אמרו בזאת תדעון כי ה' שלחני וכו' כי לא מלבי

Accordingly, this doesn't run afoul of his statement in Yesodei HaTorah, since in PHM the issue is not whether Moshe was a prophet, but whether he added less holy parts to the Torah. Regarding this issue, Rambam invokes the Korah incident. Moshe declares that his actions as a leader have been vindicated by the earth swallowing Korah. This credibility that he gained should be sufficient to quiet baseless conspiracies that he tampered with the Torah. This is different from establishing him as a prophet in the first place, or the Torah as true in the first place. Those monumental claims require a higher degree of proof.


[i] Although admittedly, Moshe was commanded (Exodus 28:1) to designate Aharon's sons as the priests; not Korah, and Korah clearly implies (Numbers 16:10) that this was of Moshe's initiative , his point wasn't that Moshe wasn't a Navi in general but that he shouldn't be in charge. He didn't care about the nature of the prophecy, but about the conclusion; who was in charge.

  • Well done! A few points: Item: I find it difficult to see in the language of Rambam כפרו בו עדת קרח בלעה אותן הארץ that this was done to bolster his credentials. Similar to what you noted below that knocking out Korach doesn't necessarily imply that all of Moshe's claimed prophecies are indeed Divine in origin. However, it should be noted that the language of the verse does indicate that בזאת תדעון כי ה' שלחני לעשות כל המעשים האלה כי לא מלבי- Moshe is using this event as a demonstration that he acts only as Shaliach of God and not on his own. – Shaul Goldman Aug 10 '17 at 7:50
  • Item: It is clear from the simple reading that Korach, D&A, ObP and the Levites with them had a problem with Moshe's leadership in some vague way, and more specifically that Moshe's brother and his family attained Kehunah. This last point is what forces Moshe's hand because that is contradicting what Moshe said as a Nevuah- that Aharon and his sons were Kohanim, not the other Levi'im. – Shaul Goldman Aug 10 '17 at 7:53
  • Item: The reason why this ends up an attack on God is because Korach and his Leviim cannot accept that their Sevara, that they deserve Kehunah, isn't God's Will- rather Aharon is chosen. If they're wrong about Moshe it's really because they lacked the humility to entertain that maybe their way of thinking isn't absolutely correct, and God may have other thoughts on the matter... – Shaul Goldman Aug 10 '17 at 7:57
  • Item: Rambam makes clear that, as it was presented to his very own generation, the question is not Moshe's authorship as opposed to other individuals (see Tefillah 13:6...) but either it's MiPi HaG'vurah or it's Moshe MiPi Atzmo- Toch and K'lipah. That's why it's not an issue of the supremacy of Nevuas Moshe but Torah min HaShamayim- the Divinity of every word of Toras Moshe. – Shaul Goldman Aug 10 '17 at 8:09
  • +1. I prefer your second approach (which i think is more correct), and i think you should elaborate more on that. Your first approach is not very comprehensive, and i had to reread it a few times til i understood what you were trying to say... consider editing and revising. – Bach Aug 10 '17 at 17:10
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In Cheilek the issue is not the idea of Nevu'as Moshe as ultimate, direct national revelation- which is itself addressed in the earlier Ikar/Yesod. It's "Torah Min HaShamayim"- and though it may seem as if some parts are Divine and others not, rather from Moshe himself, ironically such a claim does not give honor to God but rather "D'var HaShem Bazah". It is up to us to rediscover and appreciate the Divinity: Moshe added nothing.

Rambam's prooftext for his 8th article is "B'Zos Teid'un" by Korach. The fact that Korach et al.'s K'firah was seen to Moshe himself as necessitating he initiate an Os of having them swallowed by the Earth whole was because he, Moshe, was responsible for being the Moseir Ne'eman, therefore specifically, Moshe, not God originally, needed to respond to their K'firah in such a drastic way. Moshe could have left it up to God to punish them as He'd see fit, but Moshe didn't.

This is the meaning of כל האותות שעשה משה במדבר לפי הצורך עשאם לא להביא ראיה על הנבואה... כפרו בו עדת קרח בלעה אותן הארץ

The Os wasn't meant to prove anything. Nothing short of another Maamad of mass national revelation by God himself, yet again would prove this- and "Been there, done that!" Korach and Co. decided to use Kushyos and allegations of nepotism to undermine "V'Gam B'cha Yaaminu L'Olam"!

They, and we, have the B'chirah to allow ourselves to doubt the Divinity of parts of the Torah that are Peleh to us, or just seem to indicate human interference and thus claim that Moshe's claimed prophecy indeed trumps all other purported claims of prophecy- but perhaps Moshe interfered and contaminated Torah with his own ideas, not God's.

The statement of Sh'mos 3:18 'V'Sham'u' is referring to 3:16-17- the Jews in Egypt will believe in Moshe's Sh'lichus. Earlier, 3:12, God mentioned the Os for the Sh'lichus would be the National communal 'Avodah on the mountain. This implies that there will be some kind of unique Maamad which will not allow for any other explanation but that Moshe is indeed God's Shaliach. Rambam claims Moshe understood this. However, when God claims they'll listen in Egypt, before any such Maamad, Moshe has a real Kashya.

Short of such a Maamad- why would they believe Moshe on his say-so alone?! Despite the legitimacy of the Kashya, God is angered at Moshe's Ch'shad that the Jews will lack Bitachon in God and Emunah in their Massores. God then gives Moshe 3 Osos to be both Mechazeik the Jews' Emunah and Bitachon- but not as Raayah, only Chizuk- as well as a Chizuk to Moshe that the Jews will indeed believe in his Sh'lichus even then. This is why Moshe only asks that they won't listen after God says they'll do so even in Egypt, though he didn't say anything after 'Ta'avdun'.

Korach's rebellion proves that 'V'Gam etc.' is not exactly a Havtachah...

It is saying that this Maamad will prove sufficient to establish Moshe's Sh'lichus and that it would also be sufficient to prove that since such a Maamad clearly demonstrates Moshe's Sh'lichus, even were Moshe to have B'chirah regarding his Nevuah (unlike Meshech Chochmah, Hakdamah to Sh'mos and elsewhere) God's demonstration of the truth of his Sh'lichus by having the people know firsthand that God was speaking to Moshe "Moshe, Moshe- Go tell them..." just could not be undermined by the possibility of Moshe's tampering with Torah.

That's why Rambam defines in Iggeres Teiman עמדו אבותיו על הר סיני as referring to those who, at hearing God speak to Moshe, committed themselves to the B'ris, committed to 'Na'aseh V'Nishma', and committed all their future generations. For them God committed Himself that the power of the Truth of the Maamad would remain throughout the generations of those select few at Har Sinai so described. It is these few descendants of the few who will make up the 'S'ridim Asher HaShem Korei'...

  • "They, and we, have the B'chirah to allow ourselves to doubt the Divinity of parts of the Torah that are Peleh to us, or just seem to indicate human interference": Do our sources really say we may do this? Is it proper to do so? Thanks. – SAH Nov 23 '18 at 13:55

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