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Who was the greatest prophet?

Who was the greatest prophet?

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Although only 48 prophets and seven prophetesses are mentioned in the Bible,1 throughout our history our nation has been blessed with tens of thousands of individuals who transmitted the word of G‑d, each of them excelling in his or her unique area.

Nevertheless, the Bible2 tells us that “there was no other prophet who arose in Israel like Moses, whom the L‑rd knew face to face.”

Maimonides3 lists a number of ways in which Moses’ manner of communicating with G‑d was superior to that of any other prophet. He bases these differences upon G‑d’s statement:4 “If there be prophets among you, I, the L‑rd, will make Myself known to him in a vision; I will speak to him in a dream. Not so is My servant Moses; he is the most trusted of all My household. With him I speak mouth to mouth; in a vision and not in riddles, and he beholds the image of G‑d . . .”

  • All others received their prophecy while asleep or in a trancelike state. Moses, on the other hand, was fully aware and conscious when he stood before G‑d.
  • Moses “saw” what G‑d was telling him with the clarity of literal vision. All others only received their communiqués by way of riddles and parables.
  • While most prophets became fearful and agitated while receiving divine communication, Moses remained calm and collected. He spoke with G‑d “as a man would speak to a friend.”5
  • Moses was able to converse with G‑d whenever he so wished.6 Other prophets had to wait for revelations from G‑d; they needed to enter a spiritually aware state in order to receive G‑d’s presence. Moses was constantly on such an elevated plane.

Yours truly,

Rabbi Menachem Posner

Footnotes
1.

Talmud, Megillah 14a.

3.

Laws of the Foundations of the Torah 7:6.

6.

See Numbers 9:8, where Moses tells a group of individuals who expressed their dismay at being excluded from the paschal offering proceedings: “Wait, and I will hear what G‑d instructs concerning you!” See also ibid. 27:5.

Rabbi Menachem Posner serves as staff editor for Chabad.org.
All names of persons and locations or other identifying features referenced in these questions have been omitted or changed to preserve the anonymity of the questioners.
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robin trinidad January 28, 2017

is a prophet a person who can tell the future? Reply

Gershon M KS July 9, 2014

Levi and Moses In the Torah--written by Moses--we have Jacob's rebuke to his sons. Is that not enough? Also, surely we can all agree that most of Moses' words (as well as those of most others) were not recorded in the Torah. As such, it is entirely possible that things were discussed at length but never recorded. Reply

Rafi July 4, 2014

Moses was our greatest prophet. Yet he never expressed contrition over his grandfather Levi for his mass murders of the Hivite males. This is my greatest reservation of Moses being of flawless character. Neither Moses nor any Leviim down the generations has expressed regret or contrition for the genocide comitted by Levi. I cannot understand how Levi's crime is never further mentioned in our literature or by the Levites themselves Reply

pethias June 29, 2014

google Yes Moses did not see God,who then has ever seen God? People help me. Reply

Rafi May 10, 2014

Moses was the greatest teacher, yes, but a prophet? Please name two prophecies of Moses that were realized. Reply

Anonymous September 25, 2017
in response to Rafi:

both diasporas Reply

Efraim Ben Uri Fuengirola November 15, 2012

His real name. His name pronounced in Hebrew is Moshe. Reply

Thomas Mendels Michigan November 14, 2012

Panim But Torah says clearly that G-d spoke to Moses, not just face-to-face, but further clarifies with the words "as a man speaks to a friend.' I take Torah at its plain, clear, common sense meaning (dare I say 'face-value?!) I believe Torah language here is unambiguous and the vocabulary is easy and Torah is not speaking in 'riddles.' When I speak to a friend, especially a close friend, I look at his face and see his face and sense his expression.
Even Ramban says that Moses saw the image of God.
So this whole portion of Exodus remains extremely difficult for me. What does Rashi say about this seeming contradiction in his explanation? Reply

Renelda Moorehead Connecticut November 14, 2012

Thank you for the informative and straight forward article. I have found that one is better to not take Scripture literally. Interpretation is the basis of understanding the wisdom of the lessons in Scripture. Moses saw G-d through his faith. It is faith that can move mountains. Faith IS the centerpiece of religion. Reply

David H. November 13, 2012

The greatest prophet Malachi 4:4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.

5 “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”

Question: Why then does the Lord send 'Elijah' and not Moses to rescue Israel-Judah and 'turn' their hearts? Reply

aphiwe nelspruit, south africa July 8, 2011

greatest prophet Moses was th greatest prophet he knew God face to face Reply

Menachem Posner (author) December 18, 2007

RE: Moses, who knew the L-RD face to face In order to reconcile these two verses telling us that a) G-d spoke to Moses “face-to-face,” and b) that Moses didn’t see G-d's face, we must say that to speak to G-d face-to-face is not the same as seeing His face.

So what does it mean to speak to G-d tete a tete? The Hebrew word for face is Panim; from the same root as the word for inside or core. While all others only experienced external presentations of G-d’s revelation, Moses received the very essence.

However even Moses was not able to ‘see’ the essence of G-d. What does seeing mean? When you gaze upon an object, it appears as if you see it all. You, an objective observer, are seizing it all up and now have it down pat. G-d greatness is so out-of-this-world that no one, not even Moses, was able to peer at it as a peer (excuse the pun!). Reply

Anonymous Houston, TX December 13, 2007

Who was the greatest Prophet? Thanks for answering my question regarding the greatest prophet. Reply

Stephen L. Dubinsky Chicago, IL December 11, 2007

Moses, who knew the L-RD face to face Didn't the L-RD tell Moses to go behind a rock and not to try to see HIS face, "A man may not see MY face and live." Moses could only see the L-ORD from the back. Even then Moses's face was all aglow as he decended from the encounter.

So my question is did Moses actually see or know the face Reply

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