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In our previous article, we began exploring the uniqueness of Moshe’s prophecy. To review, the Rambam’s sixth principle of faith states that all the words of the Neviim are true. The seventh principle specifies that the prophecy of Moshe Rabbeinu is true, and that he was greatest Navi of all time, greater than both those that came before him and those that came after (Rambam, commentary on Sanhedrin, perek Chelek.). The sixth principle is obviously crucial; the seventh seems redundant. If all of the Neviim’s words were true, of course Moshe’s were true as well. What is so fundamentally important about the superiority of Moshe’s prophecy that the Rambam deemed it necessary to state it as a separate principle of faith? And more broadly, what does it mean that Moshe was the greatest prophet to ever live?



Clarity of Vision

The first unique characteristic of Moshe’s prophecy was his level of clarity. (See Rambam’s introduction to perek Chelek to see the Rambam’s description of the Moshe’s unique characteristics that are mentioned in this article. See also Mishneh Torah, Yesodei HaTorah 7:6.) The Gemara explains that while all other prophets saw through a clouded lens, Moshe saw through a clear lens (Yevamos 49b).


The Glow on Moshe’s Face

The uniqueness of Moshe’s prophecy and connection with Hashem manifested in other ways as well. When Moshe descended from Har Sinai, his face glowed, to the extent that he had to cover it when interacting with the rest of Klal Yisrael. As physical beings, our bodies are opaque; they do not reflect or reveal our spiritual souls. All we see are each other’s physical exterior and no more. Moshe, however, uplifted himself and his physical body to such a level of spirituality that his face and body reflected his spiritual core. The Midrash explains that Moshe attained the same exalted level that Adam possessed before he ate from the Eitz HaDa’as. However, this was too much for Klal Yisrael to handle, and Moshe was forced to hide his face so as not to overwhelm them. (It was the spiritual equivalent of not being able to look at the sun.)

In Shaar HaGemul of Toras Ha’Adam, the Ramban explains that Moshe completely overcame his physical drives and became fully spiritual. As a result, he no longer saw with physical eyes but with spiritual vision. This means that Moshe no longer saw the physical world, but saw everything as a reflection and manifestation of spirituality. His very perception was fundamentally altered. This is related to the opinion of the Meshech Chochma (in his introduction to Sefer Shemos), who explains that Moshe completely overcame his free will and became a malach living in this world.


Awake vs. Sleeping

The difference between Moshe’s and other Neviim’s prophecy was also expressed in the different times that they received nevuah. While all other Neviim received their prophecy at night while sleeping, Moshe received his nevuah while awake and standing (Bamidbar 7:89). If another prophet received his prophecy while awake, he would immediately collapse and lose consciousness, receiving the prophecy in a trance-like state. This is why the Gemara states that a dream is a taste of prophecy (Berachos 57b). Both occur while you are asleep when the mind transcends the physical limitations of the body. Nevuah is, in a sense, an immensely more elevated form of dreaming.

The reason prophecy cannot occur while one is awake is simple. Nevuah is such a completely spiritual experience that the physical, conscious body cannot contain or sustain it. Moshe’s body, however, was so pure and spiritual that it was able to sustain a direct experience with the spiritual world. This is how he was able to go forty days and nights atop Har Sinai without eating and drinking; his physical body was able to exist in the spiritual world almost as if he were an angel. The Ramchal compares Moshe to Eliyahu HaNavi and Chanoch, both of whom were able to depart directly to the spiritual world without having to die and leave their physical bodies – because their bodies themselves became completely spiritual.


Voluntary and Constant

While other Neviim had to wait to be called upon by Hashem, Moshe was able to call upon Hashem and initiate his prophecy at any point in time he wanted. In Parashas Behaalosecha, when a group of men asked Moshe about their missing out on the Korban Pesach, he simply told them to wait while he asks Hashem (Bamidbar 9:8). He does the same in the case of the B’nos Tzelafchad, accessing his nevuah at will (Bamidbar 27:5). Moshe was able to speak with Hashem whenever he wanted; he was able to tap into the highest of spiritual levels with complete ease.

This is connected to another key characteristic of Moshe’s nevuah, namely, that it was constant. As a matter of fact, since Moshe would receive nevuah at any point in the day, he separated from his wife, Tzipporah, so that he could remain tahor at all times (Rashi, Bamidbar 12:1).


The Content

Interestingly, while other Neviim saw only that which Hashem chose to reveal to them, Moshe was allowed to experience whatever he wanted to see in the spiritual realm. When Moshe asks Hashem to reveal His “Goodness,” Hashem agrees (Shemos 33:19). The Ramchal (Daas Tevunos 156) and the Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim 1:54) explain that Moshe wished to understand the nature and depth of all that exists in the created world. While there were still limits to Moshe’s nevuah, in that he could not see Hashem “Himself” [the “front” of Hashem’s head], Hashem allowed Moshe to see His full expression into the physical world [the “back” of Hashem’s head]. In other words, Hashem allowed Moshe to see as much as a human being could possibly comprehend.


Moshe’s Speech Impediment

This sheds new light on an oft-misunderstood topic. Moshe served as the leader of the Jewish People, yet he had a seemingly ironic flaw: a speech impediment. How can the leader of a nation, a person called upon to represent and guide them, possibly have a speech impediment? Some, like the Rashbam (Shemos 4:11), suggest that Moshe did not have a speech impediment but was limited in his speech simply because he had forgotten the Egyptian language. The Ran on the other hand suggests that while Moshe did indeed speak with a speech impediment, this was to make it clear that Klal Yisrael accepted the Torah for its innate truth and not because Moshe swayed them with inspiring, persuasive speech (Derashos HaRan 3:6-10).

The Maharal suggests an even deeper explanation. He explains that Moshe’s speech impediment was not a defect; rather, it was a reflection of his perfection (Gevuros Hashem 28:1). Speech is the concretization of the infinite into finite packages of words and sentences. Silence reflects the notion that something cannot be formulated or constricted into mere words. When you experience something truly deep and powerful, it is difficult to formulate it into concrete thoughts or words. This is because your mind experiences the idea as it is, in its pure, root state, while words only reveal a limited expression of that original perfection and clarity.

For mathematics, logic, and technical thinking, if one can’t formulate his thoughts in words, he doesn’t understand it. For post-rational, deep spiritual wisdom, it is when one thinks that he can express it in words that he doesn’t understand it. Moshe could not speak because he simply could not bring such lofty and transcendent concepts down into the finite and limited dimensions of this physical world. His speech defect was actually a revelation of his perfection – a reflection of the lofty spiritual state he existed in perpetually.

This is the paradox of the Torah. Hashem took the infinite truth of reality, something far beyond words, and miraculously constricted that endless wisdom into the finite words of Torah. Nevertheless, although the words of the Torah are written down, they still loyally and completely reflect their eternal and infinite truth. And amazingly, once Hashem did this, expressing the eternal truths of Torah in finite form, Moshe gained the ability to speak as well. Why? Because Moshe was the voice of Torah, the shaliach (messenger) of Hashem. When Hashem committed the Torah to words, Moshe gained the ability to speak as well – to fully express the infinite within the confines of speech without betraying the root source that transcends those words. Sefer Devarim begins with the words, “Eileh ha’devarim asher diber Moshe…” (Devarim 1:1). Moshe now gained the ability to speak, i.e., to faithfully express the infinite within the finite.


A Pillar of Faith

We can now explain why the Rambam separates between the sixth and seventh ikarim of emunah. The sixth ikar is our belief in nevuah itself – that nevuah is a message of spiritual truth from Hashem. Moshe’s nevuah, however, was a fundamentally different category: a revelation of absolute truth. One could have easily mistaken Moshe’s nevuah as being no different from any other Navi’s. The Rambam is therefore clarifying that Moshe didn’t just receive prophecy; he received the highest level of prophecy possible. This level of prophecy is Torah. Every other Navi is on a lower level. Therefore, if a Navi contradicts Moshe’s Torah, we know he is a Navi sheker (false prophet). This sheds new light onto why Korach’s rebellion was so severe. By challenging Moshe, Korach attempted to uproot the entire foundation of Torah!


Moshe as a Source of Inspiration

To many, Moshe may not serve as a classic role model. He was as perfect as a human being could possibly become. To some, this may be more overwhelming than inspiring, more daunting than encouraging. But I believe that we can all connect to Moshe in a very deep way. Sometimes you need to see an example of human perfection before you can personalize that ideal to your unique mission in life. True, you can’t be as great as Moshe, but that’s not your job; your job is to be the greatest version of you possible. Perhaps Moshe can inspire us to challenge ourselves a bit more, to add one more layer to our self-expectations, to question our own limits, and to genuinely ask ourselves if we’re giving it everything we have.

Moshe was a complicated figure; when he separated from his wife, Miriam and Aharon didn’t understand or even agree with it. He was not a man of this world. But that was not his role; he serves as a star in the night sky guiding each of us on our own unique journey through life. In moments of self-doubt, in moments of opportunity, in moments of fear, just think of Moshe and remember that in a very deep way, the sky is the limit…or is it?

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Rabbi Shmuel Reichman is the author of the bestselling book, “The Journey to Your Ultimate Self,” which serves as an inspiring gateway into deeper Jewish thought. He is an educator and speaker who has lectured internationally on topics of Torah thought, Jewish medical ethics, psychology, and leadership. He is also the founder and CEO of Self-Mastery Academy, the transformative online self-development course based on the principles of high-performance psychology and Torah. After obtaining his BA from Yeshiva University, he received Semicha from Yeshiva University’s RIETS, a master’s degree in education from Azrieli Graduate School, and a master’s degree in Jewish Thought from Bernard Revel Graduate School. He then spent a year studying at Harvard as an Ivy Plus Scholar. He currently lives in Chicago with his wife and son where he is pursuing a PhD at the University of Chicago. To invite Rabbi Reichman to speak in your community or to enjoy more of his deep and inspiring content, visit his website: