This is a follow-up to "why-didnt-they-ask-aharon-to-lead".

In Parshas Yisro and later we learn that the Jewish People had some kind of "the chain of command" or at least "the chain of judgment": Moses, Aharon, Aharon's sons, the 70 elders, the other judges appointed after Yisro (that was after Yom Kippur but anyway) and the rest of us.

When G-d invited Moses to come up the mountain it was seemingly dangerous, with a good chance of not coming back (why not? the angels wanted to hurt him, G-d was furious sometimes, the weather was bad - fire and smoke, he didn't eat etc).

We all know that every country has a clear protocol defining the chain of command and the order of actions/responsibilities in the case of certain incapabilities of the leader(s) (is it the 25th amendment?).

I would expect Moses to leave clear instructions for such a case: "Eyes on me everybody! If I'm not back on the 17 of Tamus and you don't hear anything from me I herein appoint Aharon to be my replacement. If Aharon somehow is not available his sons ... " etc.

So, was there a clear "chain of command" in the Jewish nation and if (apparently) not, why didn't Moses care for that?

  • If it's the 25th amendment isn't that because no one thought to detail it beforehand,
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 17, 2019 at 14:16
  • 2
    Isn't Moshe giving just that in Shmos 24:14, והנה אהרן וחור עמכם מי בעל דברים יגש אליהם?
    – Meir
    Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 6:15
  • @Meir Wow! I remembered the verse talked about Dinim but It's worth trying to use it to fit my question. As I see no interpreter saw the connection with the Calf. Why?
    – Al Berko
    Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 17:03

1 Answer 1


Moshe isn't in charge; God is in charge. Moshe, therefore, doesn't have the authority to appoint others. If something were to happen to Moshe while he was in God's care (chas v'shalom), then we should expect that either God will appoint a new leader or the brit will be broken and it won't matter who is nominally in charge because chaos is about to commence. (Korach's probably wouldn't be the only faction trying to seize control.)

I don't have sources; I offer the following reasons in support of what I say:

  1. God, not Moshe, chose Yehoshua as Moshe's successor and even controlled the timing.

  2. God, not humans, appointed prophets throughout our history to carry God's word to the people.

  3. The system of "lower courts" for answering questions was for interpreting halacha that had already been given; this is stuff that Moshe could "offload" because it didn't require any further divine input. Cases that do require God's input, like that of the daughters of Tzelofechad, go all the way up.

We cannot assume that, if something had happened to Moshe on the mountain, Aharon would be next in line. God might have chosen somebody else. It's not up to Moshe. The roles of priest and prophet are different.

  • It is very reasonable what you're saying. That brings us to a constant contradiction with understanding Moses' behavior: sometimes he's all prophet and does nothing without G-d's guidance and sometimes he acts on his own first and checking with G-d later. You refer to the first aspect - Moses only did what commanded - if G-d didn't command Moses was quiet. However, on many other, he did act preventively - breaking the Luchos, hitting the rock, adding a day to Shvuos and appointing judges after Yisro's advice etc.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Feb 17, 2019 at 19:23
  • I asked a question once about Moses not being far-sighted - and this is a good example - if Moses would think ahead he would prevent this mess. The question is why didn't he make an Hishtadlus to set what to do "just in case" - who's in command.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Feb 17, 2019 at 19:25
  • @AlBerko the first two of those were actions in anger, so we can assume he didn't make careful decisions. I don't know what you mean by the third. The last was just distributing work that would have otherwise come to him, not appointing new authorities to be Israel's representative to God. Commented Feb 17, 2019 at 19:27
  • Let's do a test I always do to check the validity of any statement - let's assume the Torah would say otherwise "and Moses talked to the israelites saying: I'm coming up to meet G-d face to face and G-d knows if I will come back alive and when. So if otherwise instructed by G-d Himself, please see Aharon as the rightful leader I hereby appoint". Whould you jump and yell "no way!"? I really doubt, it sounds as plausible as your way of thinking.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Feb 17, 2019 at 19:36
  • Did you mean "unless otherwise instructed" there? In any case, yes I would question that if it had happened, which it didn't, which is to Moshe's credit. This whole people just committed to God that they would do and hear; why should Moshe assume that he has any special authority over them other than as instructed by God? If Moshe has doubts on his way up the mountain (and we have no evidence of that), it would be reasonable for him to think that God would appoint a new leader if needed. I'd like to avoid an extended discussion in comments; is my answer unclear in some way? Commented Feb 17, 2019 at 19:41

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