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Biblical Personalities: Moshe: Derivations

The Talmud (Chullin 139b) describes a strange conversation between the Papuna’ai and Rav Matna: “From where in the Torah can we derive Moshe?” Rav Matna responded: “And God said, ‘My spirit shall not contend evermore concerning Man since he is but flesh.’” (Genesis 6:3) The Hebrew words are “Bishegam” and the numerical value of that word is equal to that of Moshe. The verse ends by saying: “His days shall be one hundred and twenty years”, and Moshe lived 120 years! (Rashi)

How could anyone ask from where in the Torah do we “derive” Moshe, when his name fills the Torah from his birth until his final breath?

Perhaps, these men of the Babylonian village, Papuna, we asking Rav Matna whether the Torah is a reflection of Moshe or is he a reflection of the Torah? We can read their question as “From where do we learn that Moshe derived himself from the Torah and not vice versa?”

This would also explain why the Shabbat of Moshe’s Yahrtzeit is always Titzaveh, which is the only portion after Moshe’s birth, in which his name does not appear!

The greatest Torah teacher, the Rebbi of all who study Torah – Moshe Rabbeinu – allowed the Torah to shape him. The Torah shaped his character, his responses, and his speech.

Torat Moshe – The Torah of Moshe – means The Torah that made Moshe who he was, as it should with us. (Machberes Avodas Hashem)

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