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מֹשֶׁה (שמות-דברים, דברי הימים א ה:כט)
Prophet, teacher, and political leader of Israel during its first generation as a nation. משה leads בני ישראל out of Egypt and guides them to הר סיני where they receive the Torah. He presides over the nation for their 40 years of wandering through the desert until they arrive at the border of ארץ ישראל . A member of שבט לוי , משה is the son of עמרם and יוכבד , brother of אהרן and מרים , husband to צפורה , and father to גרשם and אליעזר . Hidden in the Nile by his mother יוכבד , משה is found by בת פרעה who names him (according to the מדרש , the boy's parents named him יקותיאל - פרקי דרבי אליעזר פרק מז ). משה is raised in the palace away from the oppression afflicting his brethren. When משה kills an Egyptian to protect a Hebrew, he is forced to flee to מדין . There he is taken in by the high priest of מדין , יתרו , whose daughter צפורה he marries. משה works as a shepherd for יתרו and one day God appears to him in a vision in a burning bush. God instructs משה to return to Egypt to lead the Israelites out of slavery. משה is reluctant, but God is persuasive and sends משה to Egypt armed with miracles to prove his divine assignment. משה begins his mission at age 80. משה 's initial request to פרעה is met with scorn as פרעה increases his slaves' work load. This discourages משה , but God assures him that פרעה 's punishment will be forthcoming (פרשת שמות ). משה attempts to persuade Israel that God is about to rescue them from slavery, but they are too over-worked to believe him. משה and אהרן appeal to פרעה and threaten to bring plagues to the land of Egypt if their request is not granted. Ten plagues are eventually imposed on the Egyptians and their land before the king finally tells the Hebrews to leave (פרשיות וארא ובא ). משה 's role as lawgiver begins long before the revelation at הר סיני . While Israel is still in Egypt, משה is given instructions to relay to the people for preparing and celebrating the first קרבן פסח (Paschal sacrifice) and סדר פסח (Passover ceremony). References to calculating the new months, the prohibition of חמץ on פסח , the sanctity of the first-born child and animal, as well as the future מצוה of תפילין are all mentioned in Egypt (פרשת בא ). משה leads בני ישראל into the desert and towards ים סוף where God splits the sea on behalf of the nation. Following the miraculous rescue of the nation, משה leads the people in song - a passage known popularly as שירת הים - The Song at the Sea. עמלק attacks בני ישראל and משה appoints his apprentice יהושע as general to lead the ensuing battle. While יהושע engages the enemy on the ground, משה positions himself on the mountain holding his miracle staff. This posture of prayer, combined with יהושע 's more natural approach, wins the war (פרשת בשלח ). The highlight of משה 's career takes place at הר סיני where משה prepares בני ישראל for revelation and mediates between God and the nation during God's pronouncement of עשרת הדברות - The Ten Commandments (פרשת יתרו ). Following revelation משה ascends הר סיני and remains there for forty days and forty nights (פרשת משפטים ). During משה 's absence, the people get anxious and force אהרן to fashion a golden calf which they worship. God informs משה that the people have sinned and משה prays to God not to destroy them. God agrees, but upon his return, משה sees the idolatry the people are engaged in and smashes the לֻחֹת הָעֵדֻת - the tablets of the law that he is carrying. משה burns the עגל , grinds it into powder, mixes it with water and makes בני ישראל drink the mixture. He then rallies שבט לוי to his side and encourages them to kill the idolators. 3000 sinners are slain. משה removes his tent and pitches it outside the camp. This becomes known as אהל מועד , the place where God communes with the prophet. משה asks God to show him His glory and God partially grants this request and shows משה His back. משה prepares a new set of עשרת הדברות on new לחת to replace the originals which he broke. When משה returns after an additional 40 days and nights with God he is unaware that his skin is radiant - כִּי קָרַן עוֹר פָּנָיו (שמות לד :כט ). משה covers his face with a veil to make himself more accessible to the people (פרשת כי תשא ). משה 's position of leadership is challenged by קרח who also argues that אהרן should not have the position of priesthood that he holds. משה turns to God to defend himself, claiming that he has never wronged any of his accusers. God's response to the rebellion is to kill קרח and all his followers (פרשת קרח ). In the 40th year of the desert journey, the people find themselves without water (at a place to be called מי מריבה ) and complain to משה , claiming that it would have been better to die of plague or to remain in Egypt than to die of thirst. God tells משה and אהרן to speak to a rock and to draw water from it. משה hits the rock twice and water pours out. God says that their action shows a lack of faith in Him, and since they did not sanctify Him in front of Israel they will be punished by not being allowed to enter the land of Israel. A popular explanation for this episode is presented by רש "י who states that they should have spoken to the rock instead of hitting it. רמב "ם says that משה 's sin is that he got angry at בני ישראל , calling them rebels (שמונה פרקים פרק ד ). רמב "ן feels that משה 's use of the word נוציא - shall we bring water out of the rock for you, is presumptuous (commentary to במדבר כ :א ). God tells משה to ascend a mountain to view ארץ ישראל from a distance since he will not enter the land. This prompts משה to ask God to appoint a successor so that the nation will not be כַּצֹּאן אֲשֶׁר אֵין לָהֶם רֹעֶה - like sheep without a shepherd (במדבר כז :יז ). God tells משה to present יהושע as Israel's next leader (פרשת פינחס ). Much of ספר דברים is משה 's farewell address to the nation. As a final act, משה establishes three cities of refuge on the eastern side of the river in preparation for Israel's conquest of the entire land (פרשת ואתחנן ). משה views the Land of Israel from הר נבו where he dies at age 120. He is mourned for thirty days (פרשת וזאת הברכה ). The תורה ends with a declaration that משה was the greatest prophet of all time, a man who spoke to God "face to face" (דברים לד :י ). Besides being God's stenographer for the recording of the תורה , משה is also credited with the composition of ספר איוב (בבא בתרא יד :) and the first blessing of ברכת המזון : ברכת הזן (ברכות מח :). According to the Gemara משה also contributed material to תהלים (בבא בתרא שם . רש "י identifies chapter 90 as his handiwork.). The Midrash states that משה died on his birthday - the 7th of אֲדָר (קידושין לח .). For a chronology of the events in משה 's life, see Appendix #2.
Due to the sins of בני ישראל , משה prays to God on the nation's behalf in these instances:
a. While משה is on הר סיני , the people construct a golden calf which they worship. Before משה even descends the mountain he begs God to spare the nation, arguing that God promised the patriarchs that He would bring their descendants to ארץ ישראל : שמות לב :ז -יד .
b. Following the destruction of the עגל , משה further prays on behalf of the nation: שמות לב :לא -לד .
c. At תבערה God punishes the nation for murmuring against Him and משה prays to God to stop a fire from destroying them: במדבר יא :א -ג .
d. When the מרגלים return from Israel and turn the people against God, He threatens to destroy בני ישראל for not trusting Him. God plans to make משה the founder of a new nation. משה argues that all the surrounding nations will claim that God killed בני ישראל because He couldn't bring them to the promised land: במדבר יד :יג -יט .
e. During קרח 's rebellion, God threatens to wipe out Israel. משה and אהרן pray: הָאִישׁ אֶחָד יֶחֱטָא וְעַל כָּל הָעֵדָה תִּקְצֹף - will You be angry at the entire community for the sins of one man? במדבר טז :כ -כב .
f. בני ישראל complain that they have no water or bread. God sends snakes to attack them whereupon the people apologize to משה and beg him to pray to God on their behalf. This he does: במדבר כא :ד -ט .
משה often has to contend with the complaints of the nation of Israel. Here is a list of these episodes:
a. When trapped at the sea - ים סוף - by the Egyptian cavalry, בני ישראל complain that surely there were sufficient graves in Egypt - why did משה take them out of that country to be killed in the wilderness: שמות יד :א -יב .
b. Following קריעת ים סוף the nation finds itself without suitable drinking water. They complain to משה who is instructed by God to throw a specific tree into the bitter water. The episode takes place at מרה : שמות טו :כג -כה .
c. בני ישראל cry for food, leading to the start of the daily מָן ration and the appearance of שְׂלָו : שמות טז :א -לו .
d. The nation again is thirsty for water and cries to משה about it, complaining for having been freed from Egypt. Here at מסה ומריבה , משה is told to strike a rock to produce water for the people: שמות יז :א -ז .
e. בני ישראל murmur against God and are punished by fire at a place called תַּבְעֵרָה : במדבר יא :א -ג .
f. Led by the "אֲסַפְסוּף "- people who have attached themselves to the nation, בני ישראל complain about a lack of variety in their diet: they crave meat and fish: במדבר פרק יא .
g. When the מרגלים return from their mission to ארץ ישראל and the majority of them deliver a negative report about the land, the nation cries to משה and אהרן that death in Egypt or the desert would have been better than being slaughtered in ארץ ישראל : במדבר פרק יד .
i. At מי מריבה the people complain of thirst. משה strikes the rock in an episode which leads to משה and אהרן being barred from ארץ ישראל : במדבר כ :א -יג .
j. The people get fed up with the מן and complain that they have no bread and water. God sends snakes to attack the people. When משה prays to God, He tells משה to fashion a snake of brass and erect it - all who are bitten should look at this snake to live: במדבר כא :ד -ט .