Moshe Rabenoo

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk


Moshe Rabenoo - Moses, Our Teacher


After Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677), it became fashionable among “intellectuals” to engage in the “higher criticism” of the Torah. The purpose of that criticism was to “debunk” Torah and prove that the stories, people, events and places there described never existed. Included in that “criticism” was the effort of Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), the founder of psychoanalysis, whose book Moses and Monotheism subscribes to the thesis that Moses was an Egyptian prince who may or may not have led the Israelites out of Egypt and hence into the desert. Freud did not go as far as others who claimed that they definitely knew that the Exodus is only a legend and that Jewish history is fiction until at least 900 B.C. (the reign of Solomon).

The motive to destroy the credibility of Torah was largely fueled by the Jewish belief that anti-Jewish hate would cease if and when all religion is destroyed, Christianity as well as Judaism abandoned in face of this “higher criticism” so that all distinctions could disappear and Germans love Jews.

Now it is not necessary to say once more what became of that hope, that wishful thinking, that utopia.

After the liberation of Israel in 1948 the “higher criticism” was dealt another blow. That was and is Israeli archeology. During the half century ending now, innumerable digs have proven that a good part of the Torah is indeed a fact and provable. This is not only true of the “Dead Sea Scrolls” but is also true of many other findings. Therefore it is now highly speculative to claim that any part of Torah is not true since it may well be that today, or tomorrow, or next year, someone will find yet more evidence for the accuracy of Torah. In fact, it is certain that this will happen because Israeli archeology continues day after day. So before anyone is so sure that Moshe Rabenoo never lived, wait. Wait and see. The evidence may contradict that view any time.

There is, however, a third dimension to this argument. We said that first, the effort to end all religion so that Jews could be equals with their neighbors failed miserably in the holocaust. Second, we see that much of what the Torah claims has been proven true absolutely.

The third dimension is the fact that Moshe Rabenoo lives on and on even if no further evidence is found to prove his erstwhile existence. That evidence is the manner in which Moshe (a child in Egyptian) has been a role model among us Jews for 3,200 years. Moshe Rabenoo exemplifies all that is just and right in man. His teachings have lasted and will continue to last. His legacy is Torah and all the good that comes from it for us and for non-Jews as well. An entire ethical literature has developed around Moshe Rabenoo which upholds us and makes Jewish life possible. All of man’s ethics depend on the opinion that Moshe was our exemplary teacher.

For centuries great Jews have carried the name Moshe. It was said of the great Moses ben Maimon (1135-1204) that “from Moses to Moses there is none like Moses.”  Jews call Rabbi Moses ben Maimon the RAMBAM. Non-Jews have called him Maimonides. His great merit lay in his ability to reconcile belief with reason. In this he was imitated by philosophers of other religions. Rambam used Aristotelian logic to deal with the major issues in theology. The Rambam left his native land, Spain, lived for a time in Egypt and died and was buried in Tiberias, which is in Israel.

There were of course many other greats and not so greats among us whose name was and is Moses. General Moshe Dayan, one of the liberators of Jerusalem in 1967, had that great name as did the important Polish Rabbi Moses Isserles, who wrote the addendum to the Shulchan Aruch. Moses Hess, the Zionist leader, was blessed by the name as well. So were many others.

Non-Jews have found a great deal of comfort and excitement in the life and example of Moshe Rabenoo as well. Consider only that every year the motion picture The Ten Commandments is repeated at Pesach time. Its principal actor, Charlton Heston, is surely not Jewish. Yet, his portrayal of Moshe has given Heston a life-long reputation as one who knows how to portray a role model for all mankind.

So we see that Moshe is a wonderful and proud name for which we who live with such common American names as Gerhard envy those who carry it.

May Moshe always be an inspiration to us.

Shalom u’vracha.


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