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Moses - Simply Another Prophet?

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

Maimonides codified what he believed to be thirteen fundamental principals of faith. His sixth principal is the belief with perfect faith that all the words of the prophets of Israel are true. Nonetheless, Maimonides codifies as his seventh principle the belief with perfect faith that the prophecy of Moses was true and that Moses is the father of all prophets. Moses was also a prophet and, therefore, certainly included in the sixth principle, making the seventh redundant?

In Parshat Beha’alotcha, the Torah states clearly that the quality of Moses’ prophecy was fundamentally different from the prophecy of other prophets. The prophecy of Moses did not come in a vision or dreamlike state. God spoke to Moses ‘mouth to mouth’ as one person converses with another. A professor’s students may redeliver their teacher’s message in many different formats. The fundamental message remains the same but is colored with each student’s personality. If the students would play a video recording of the professor’s class to their audience, the message would be given over in its original form, unaltered by their personalities.

This is what Maimonides is pointing out. The messages of all the prophets are indeed true, however, their personalities color the message they received in a dream or vision. Moses, on the other hand, was simply recording the lecture delivered by God word-for-word. The Torah (Five Books of Moses) is not colored by Moses and his personality. It is simply a dictated transcript of the word of God, given mouth to mouth. The Torah testifies that Moses was the humblest of all men. In his humility, he dictated the unaltered ‘mouth to mouth’ word of God.

This is what Maimonides considers a fundamental pillar of faith. If a later prophet were to contradict the Torah (Five Books of Moses) or claim that parts of the law are no longer relevant, we would have a situation of the word of one prophet against another. Perhaps the second prophet should be believed over the first. Maimonides states that when the entire nation heard God speaking to Moses and dictating the first two of the Ten Commandments on Shavuoth, they had evidence of this reality. Therefore, we know that the words of Moses are true and that he was the greatest of all prophets. Thus, the words of a later prophet contradicting Moses must be rejected. This explains why the holiest book we have is the Torah – The Five Books of Moses.