Why did the elders believe that G-d sent Moses (Sh’mot / Exodus 3:16)?
Was it because Moses performed miracles?
Was it because Moses just "showed up?"
The elders of Israel believed Moses because Moses told them a secret message -- one he himself may not have realized was special.
Moses repeated to the elders the very words G-d had spoken through Ya'akov / Jacob and Yoséf / Joseph as a promise long before they were enslaved.
This secret message which Ya'akov / Jacob told his sons and Yoséf / Joseph told his brothers had been passed down to their children and theirs -- a treasure held by the elders of Israel.
Here is what G-d told Moses to say to the elders of Israel:
“'Go, gather the elders of Israel, and say to them, HaShem, the G-d of your fathers, appeared to me - the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He said, 'I have granted you special providence (פָּקֹ֤ד פָּקַ֙דְתִּי֙ / remembered you) regarding what is happening to you in Egypt.” – Sh’mot / Exodus 3:16.
What is so special about that statement from G-d?
Why is it more powerful than a miracle as proof that Moses was sent by G-d?
Yes, G-d gave him a staff that turned into a snake and back again.
Yes, G-d turned his chest diseased and back to health as a sign.
But those were not the reasons the elders believed G-d had sent Moses.
Read Sh’mot / Exodus 3:16 closely and then Read B’reshit / Genesis 50:24:
“Joseph said to his close family, 'I am dying. G-d is sure to grant you special providence (פָּקֹ֧ד יִפְקֹ֣ד / will remember you / will attend to you) and bring you out of this land, to the land that he swore to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.'”
There is a secret code there – the words of Ya’akov / Jacob are repeated by Moses and this was how the elders knew G-d had sent him.
The secret password (as it were) are the words פָּקֹ֤ד פָּקַ֙דְתִּי֙ / special providence (surely remembered or surely visited)…
Yosef / Joseph tells his brothers (the sons of Ya’akov / Jacob) that G-d will grant special providence / פָּקֹ֧ד יִפְקֹ֣ד.
The verb פָּקֹ֧ד / pakad can have several meanings; according to Bolozky in "501 Hebrew Verbs":
to hold a census
And G-d does not merely use this word once.
He uses it twice.
In a row.
This repetition of the verb implies "surety" – it is said twice!
G-d will "surely remember!"
In other words this is an extremely powerful statement “I will remember! I will remember!!!”
In fact the phrase "פָּקֹד פָּקַדְתִּי" translates as "I have surely remembered!".
When the Torah repeats something, it is because the message is critically important.
In the case of this phrase the repetition of these two verbs appears no less than five times in the T’nach:
"פָּקֹד פָּקַדְתִּי" at Sh’mot / Exodus 3:16;
"פָּקֹד יִפְקֹד" at B’reshit / Genesis 50:24 and 25, Sh’mo t / Exodus 13:19;
"פָּקֹד יִפְקְדֵנִי" at Shmuel Alef / 1 Samuel 20:6.
This coded message is so critical that the Torah repeats it: “Joseph then bound the Israelites by an oath: 'When G-d grants you [this] special providence (פָּקֹ֨ד יִפְקֹ֤ד / will remember you / will attend to you), you must bring my remains out of this place.'” B’reshit / Genesis 50:25.
Moses tells the elders that G-d has granted them special providence / פָּקֹ֤ד פָּקַ֙דְתִּי֙ – just as was prophesied by Jacob not once, but twice.
This is no coincidence – it is G-d letting the Israelites know that Joseph’s words were prophetic – and that prophecy is being fulfilled in the person of Moses.
Go back a bit further to B’reshit / Genesis 21:1: “G-d granted special providence to (remembered / attended to) Sarah as He said He would, and G-d did what He promised for Sarah.”
Rashi in his note on the words וְשָׁמְעוּ לְקֹלֶֽךָ (“and they will listen to your words”) in Sh'mot / Exodus 3:16 wrote: “And they will listen to your voice”—by themselves [i.e. without any further proof of your authenticity]; they will listen to you as soon as you say to them the words: “pakod pakad'ti”, because they have long had a tradition that their chosen redeemer would identify himself by using this specific expression [i.e. the doubled use the verb / pakod / פקד, literally ‘to visit’, “attend,” or ‘remember’]: Ya'akov / Jacob had told them v'élohim pakod yifkod ĕt'chĕm (“and G-d will definitely bear you in mind” [see note below] and Yoséf also told them pakod yifkod ĕlohim ĕt'chĕm “G-d will definitely bear you in mind” (B'réshıt / Genesis 50:25).
Did you notice that in Rashi’s statement both Ya'akov / Jacob and Yoséf / Joseph said “G-d will definitely bear you in mind”?
Yet the Torah has both statements made by Yoséf / Joseph.
Why does Rashi say that the first is by Ya’akov?
Sh'mot / Exodus Rabbah 5:16, a midrash (story) says: “...they had this tradition from Ya'akov / Jacob, because Ya'akov / Jacob had transmitted the secret to Yoséf / Joseph and Yoséf / Joseph had passed it on to his brothers.”
This appears to be the source for Rashi’s statement that both Ya'akov / Jacob and Yoséf / Joseph repeated this important code to the brothers – the sons of Israel (Ya’akov / Jacob)…
Rashi’s claim seems since the prediction about the doubled use of the verb פקד contains an element of prophecy and Yoséf / Joseph was not one of the 48 prophets listed in the Talmud, while his father Ya'akov / Jacob —in common with both of the other Patriarchs—was listed as a prophet.
Whether both Ya'akov / Jacob and Yoséf / Joseph or only Yoséf / Joseph stated the important phrase not once but twice (and Torah, when it repeats, does so because there is something very important to be learned) this very important message was remembered by the generations in slavery – taught from one generation to the next…
These words were said to the children of Ya’akov before they were enslaved.
The important root word used is פָּקֹ֤ד / "pakad."
Although usually translated as “remembered” it actually has a number of meanings including "bear in mind" and "count", not just “remember."
These were special instructions…
Special instructions from a death bed…
Yoséf / Joseph did not tell his brothers יִזְכּוֹר אֱלֹהִים אֶתְכֶם / yizkor elohim et'chem ("G-d will remember you"); what he said was פָּקֹד יִפְקֹד אֱלֹהִים אֶתְכֶם / pakod yifkod elohim et'chem, using the unusual verb פָּקַד pakad – a verb only ever used of G-d – and even more striking the Torah uses a doubled form of the verb, too (פָּקֹד יִפְקֹד / pakod yifkod).
And these are the words used by Moses when he approached the Elders of Israel – and they knew he was sent by G-d. G-d had given them special providence – He had remembered His people in merit of the patriarchs.
Moses was not a member of the Elders – and he did not grow up being taught these secret words.
Moses grew up in Pharaoh’s palace.
During his first outing from the palace he killed the Egyptian taskmaster and went into exile.
How could he have known the phrase that was used?
The Egyptian prince's repetition of the unusual phrase to the elders, who surely remembered Yosef's last words, were proof of prophecy (knowing things that a person could not have known).
And therefore the elders believed him.
Moses had quite a few names, but this name is from his Egyptian name. "When the child matured, [his mother] brought him to Pharaoh's daughter. She adopted him as her own son, and named him Moses (Moshe / משה). 'I bore (mashe) him from the water,' she said.” (Sh'mot / Exodus 2:10).
There were even a number of Pharaohs with similar names including Thutmose who was the third pharaoh of the 18th dynasty of Egypt. He received the throne after the death of the previous king, Amenhotep I.
Some of our sages (including חזקוני / Chizkuni of the13th century) state that his mother named him and told the Egyptian princess the name...
The footnote from The Living Torah says: "In Egyptian, Moshe means a son. Thus, his naming is prefaced by a phrase that is literally translated, 'he became to her as a son' (cf. Ibn Ezra; Hadar Zekenim). Significantly, the suffix moshe is found (and exclusively so) in the names of many Pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty, such as Ka-moshe ('son of [Ra's] majesty'), Ach-moshe (Ahmose; 'son of the moon,' or 'the moon is born') and Toth-moshe (Thutmose; 'son of Toth'). The word moshe may indeed be of Semitic origin (see next note, this verse, 'bore'), introduced by the Semitic Hyksos.
"According to other ancient sources, the name Moses comes from the Egyptian mo (water) and uses (drawn from) (Josephus, Antiquities 2:9:6, Contra Apion 1:31; Philo De Vita Moses 2:17; Malbim)."
Some sources state that Moses' Egyptian name was Monius (Ibn Ezra; cf. Abarbanel; Josephus, Contra Apion 1:26, 28). Other ancient sources claim that Moses' name was preserved among the Gentiles as the legendary Musaeus, teacher of Orpheus, from whom the Muses obtained their name (Artapanus, in Eusebius, Preparatio Evangelica 9:27).
Artscroll's footnote says: "She gave him the Egyptian name Monios, which means that he was drawn from the water. Moses/Moshe is the Hebrew translation of that word (Ibn Ezra)."
Vayikra Rabbah 1:3 (midrash probably compiled around the fifth century CE) tells us that Moses had ten names:
Miriam (his sister) gave him the name Yered (ירד).
His grandfather called him Avigdor (אבי גדור).
Some say his father named him Chever (חבר).
His mother called him Yekutiel (יקותיא‑ל).
His brother Aaron called him Avi Zanoach (אבי זנוח).
Another name was Tuviah (טובי‑ה).
The Jewish people named him Shemayah (שמעי‑ה).
Ben Evyatar (בן אביתר) and finally
From Vayikra Rabbah 1:3:
The Holy One said to Batya, the daughter of Pharaoh: "Moses was not your son, and yet you called him your son. So too, you are not my daughter, but I call you my daughter."
Moses was known by 10 names: Jered, Chever, Yekutiel, Avigdor, Avi-Socho, Avi-Zanoch ... Tuvia ... Shmaya ... Levi ... and Moses, which makes 10.
The Holy One said to Moses, Behold! From among all the names from which you are known, I only refer to you by the name that Batya, Pharaoh's daughter, named you.
1. Yered (ירד), implying descent. According to one opinion, Miriam gave him this name, for because of him, she went down (yarad) to the Nile to see what would become of him. Alternatively, Moses was called this name because he brought the Torah down to the Jewish people, and the Divine Presence back down to this physical world.
2. Avigdor (אבי גדור), master of the fence. According to the Yalkut Me'am Loez, he was called this (by his grandfather, Kehat), because "since Moses' birth, G‑d has fenced in Pharaoh, not allowing him to continue his decree to drown Jewish infants."
3. Chever, (חבר) meaning, companion, or connector. Either because Moses connected the Jewish people with their heavenly Father, or because he prevented Heavenly retribution for their sins. Some say that Amram, his father, gave Moses this name, because Moses was born after his father had once again joined his wife after having divorced her.
4. Avi Socho, (אבי סוכו) Father of Seers. He was given this name by his grandfather, Kehat (alternatively, by the nurse who helped Moses' mother raise him), because Moses would grow up to be the "master" (avi) of the seers (sochim) and prophets.
5. Yekutiel (יקותיא-ל), from the root kavei (קוה) meaning hope. His mother Jochebed called him this name because she had hope and trust in G‑d that He would return Moses to her. Alternatively, because she foresaw that Moses would be the Jewish nation's great hope.
6. Avi Zanuach (אבי זנוח), literally, "master of rejection." Aaron, Moses' brother gave him this name, saying "My father rejected my mother, but took her back because of this child." Alternatively, because Moses would make Israel reject idols.
7. Tuvia (טובי'ה), implying goodness.
8. The Jewish people called him "Shemaya (שמעי-ה) ben [the son of] Nethanel." They predicted that in his days, G‑d would hear (שמע) their prayers.
9. Ben Avitar (בן אביתר), son of pardon, since Moses was the Jewish son who would solicit G‑d's pardon (ויתר) for the Jewish people's sin of the Golden Calf.
10. Levi (לוי), so named after the tribe to which Moses belonged.
(Source: Rabbi Eliezer Danzinger, Chabad.org)
"My people has been eliminated for lack of knowledge; for you have spurned knowledge and I will spurn you from serving Me; and as you have forgotten the Torah of your G-d, I too, will forget your children." Hoshea / Hosea 4:6.
Throughout history Jews have turned their backs on G-d and followed false gods -- many out of ignorance. This was true in the days of the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel, and it has been true throughout history.
Jews converting to Christianity tend to epitomize two things:
1. A lack of decent Jewish education
2. An underlying issue (mental, emotional, wanting to escape antisemitism and "fit in" with the society around them).
By underlying issue I mean that converts to Christianity tend to be swayed by emotions -- either the "Christian love" they are shown by the missionaries trying to convert them, or sometimes a "personal revelation" that sways them emotionally to believe in Jesus. They only tend to try to support their conversion with "proof texts" after the fact, but I have yet to meet even one who converted based on studying Christianity and making an intellectual choice.
The Torah warns us to not be swayed by personal visions and revelations -- all religions except for Judaism are based on personal revelations.
This warning is found in many places, but is shouted loud and clear in D'varim / Deuteronomy 13: "The entire word that I command you, that shall you observe to do; you shall not add to it and you shall not subtract from it.  If there should stand up in your midst a prophet or a dreamer of a dream, and he will produce to you a sign or a wonder,  and the sign or the wonder comes about, of which he spoke to you, saying "Let us follow G-ds of others that you did not know and we shall worship them!"  do not hearken to the words of that prophet or to that dreamer of a dream, for HASHEM, your G-d, is testing you to know whether you love HASHEM, your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul.  HASHEM, your G-d, shall you follow and Him shall you fear; His commandments shall you observe and to His voice shall you hearken; Him shall you serve and to Him shall you cleave."
1. If there is a dreamer (visions -- from others or your own) do not believe them.
2. If they even show you miracles do not believe them.
G-d is testing you.
3. Observe his mitzvot (do not desert them to "believe" in Jesus or Mohamed or anyone else).
Which brings us to one Max Wertheimer.
Max Wertheimer was an early 20th century Reform Rabbi. He was born in Germany and eventually moved to the United States.
Apparently quite a few American Reform Jews (non-observant) of the late 19th and early 20th century converted to Christianity. There is a question as to "why" -- there was a concerted effort at the time to convert Jews, and many European Jews who had suffered pogroms and prejudice wanted to assimilate (become part of the country in which they lived). They began to abandon Jewish practice, and Jewish education suffered. These assimilated Jews had little to no religion, and perhaps this is why quite a few became Christians.
It was these uneducated Jews who, to a very great extent, began to immigrate in large numbers to the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
This certainly seems to fit Max Wertheimer who converted in the early 20th century (possibly late 19th) to Christian Science, and later became a Baptist. He seems to have turned to Christian Science upon the death of his wife...
He was definitely uneducated and must not have been able to read Hebrew. He is quoted as saying that after his wife died of an illness he began to “search.”
“he began reading the New Testament, comparing its content with that of the Old Testament, and stumbled across Isaiah 53, Isaiah 50:6 (“I gave my back to the smiters”), Psalm 110 (“The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”), and Isaiah 9 (“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given ….”). Messianic Judaism from the 6th to early-20th Century: Textual Evidence by Hélène Dallaire, Ph.D.
No one who could read Hebrew would be persuaded by the mistranslations in any of those passages. For example, T’hillim / Psalm 110:1 actually says that G-d said to an earthly (human) master (the word is adoni – it is never used to speak of G-d)… So he had to have been terribly uneducated – and early Reform Jews did not use Hebrew at all – they were pretty much churches without Jesus in the early days… (Reform has much improved, but still is very far from traditional, observant Judaism)…
I am speaking of historical Reform Judaism as it was founded in the 19th century in Germany and its early years in America where it was founded in 1841 by Isaac Mayer Wise (1819–1900), a German emigrant. Scrolls: Essays on Jewish history and literature, and kindred subjects, Volume 1 by Gotthard Deutsch (died 1921 -- a Jewish historian) discusses "rabbis" in the 19th century often referenced by missionaries as converting to Christianity. From the book starting on page 116:
"the present chief rabbi of London referred to the fact that three reform rabbis had converted to Christianity. He preferred not to give the exact number, because he probably had reason to fear the exact memory of those who remembered a previous statement of his that he could fill a book with the names of the disciples of Isaac M. Wise (founder of Reform Judaism) who has become converts to Christianity."
Wise, the founder of American Reform Judaism declared that he didn’t believe in a personal messiah or in bodily resurrection. He created a Reform prayer book which eliminated prayers for a return to Israel and the rebuilding of the Temple. The 1885 Reform official declaration was anti-Zionist and even rejected Judaism as a people :
"We consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community; and we therefore expect neither a return to Palestine, nor a sacrificial worship under the sons of Aaron, nor the restoration of any of the laws concerning a Jewish state."
Max Wertheimer was educated at Wise's "seminary" and was one of those three Reform rabbis Deutsch mentions converted to Christianity... BTW, the first graduation ceremony of this "seminary" served shrimp (trief -- not kosher)...
Many, many of the early Reform Jewish adopters had children who became Christians.
The early Reform movement also disavowed the divinity of the Torah, saying it was written by men. They gave up being kosher, and shrimp was often served at official meetings (including the first graduation ceremony -- along with clams -- also not kosher). The early Reform movement moved Shabbat to Sunday (to be like the Christians). The services were held in German, not Hebrew. They had choirs and organs, like the Christians...
A Reform rabbi of this period would not be expected to be a great Jewish expert -- and this certainly includes Wertheimer who attended the Reform seminary and this is where he claimed his semicha (rabbinical ordination).
Max Wertheimer claimed to have been born and raised Orthodox in Germany (highly unlikely if he became a Reform Rabbi). When you look at Jews who missionaries hold out as Jews who have converted to Christianity they often inflate their backgrounds.
Why do I doubt that Wertheimer was raised Orthodox?
There are contradictions in the information we have about Wertheimer. His obituary states that he came to America at the age of 13 (in other words, he wasn’t old enough to have been raised in an observant home as is the claim that he was Orthodox). His autobiography claims that he left his German secular high school for a mercantile apprenticeship while he attended night school, eventually coming to America where he completed high school (seemingly as a young adult). So was it 13 or adult? No way to know...
Upon the death of his young wife he says he had a revelation and became first a Christian Science member (thinking they could heal) and then dropped it to become a Baptist.
Some said he was mentally unstable.
The American Jewish Archives supplied me with a copy of an article written by Leo Wise in 1900. Leo Wise was the son of Isaac Wise, the father of American Reform Judaism (and the founder of the Hebrew Union College). Leo Wise wrote about Wertheimer in 1900:
“The general impression…is that Mr. Wertheimer is mentally unbalanced, an opinion which has prevailed among his friends in Dayton and elsewhere for some time past. Mr. (not Dr.) Wertheimer appears, according to what he says, to have left the Jewish Church without having lost a particle of his faith in its teachings, and to have affiliated himself with a Christian sect, without having the slightest belief in any of the cardinal doctrines of Christianity, such as the immaculate conception, vicarious atonement, etc.
(note that Leo Wise wrote this in 1900 when Wertheimer was a Christian Scientist, before he became a Baptist in 1904)…
“Mr. Wertheimer’s days of usefulness in the Jewish pulpit have long been over; it would not be far from the truth to say that they never really began…The new Rabbi soon evinced peculiarities, wild eccentricities, that led those who came in contact with him to believe that he lacked mental balance. He was soon at loggerheads with his congregation, and as time went on the relations between them did not improve…
“When the proper length of time after his graduation had expired, Rabbi Wertheimer presented to the faculty of the Hebrew Union College (the Reform school for rabbis) a thesis as a candidate for the degree of D.D. (Doctor of Divinity). This paper was declared by the faculty not up to the required standard, and the degree was not conferred. Another application had a similar result. This angered Mr. Wertheimer very much. His vanity, which by the way, is one of his marked idiosyncrasies, led him to believe that the refusal to grant the degree was brought about by personal prejudice against himself, not by his lack of requisite scholarship.
“He thereupon joined the enemies of the Hebrew Union College in their attacks upon the good name of the institution, the scholarship of the faculty and the character and capacity of the graduates – a rather extraordinary proceeding toward his alma mater and fellow alumni, especially as in addition to free tuition he had, during his college career, been a pensioner, and had been fed, lodged, clothed and generally cared for gratuitously. This naturally seems abominable to an American, but Mr. Wertheimer is a Frenchman by birth…”
(Wertheimer’s autobiography claims he was German, not French)…
“As time passed Mr. Wertheimer grew more eccentric…after the sad death of his wife he became more erratic than ever… Finally, at the expiration of his last term of office his congregation…informed him that he could not remain with them any longer. This was followed by a dismissal in the usual delecate way, i.e., by re-electing him for a further term and then accepting his resignation, which he tendered.”
Now that is interesting – because Wertheimer’s autobiography states that he resigned because he was leaning towards Christianity – yet it appears that he was fired – this was not voluntary. He was simply allowed to resign to “save face”.
(He) “then became a candidate for various Jewish pulpits that were without incumbents, but in every instance his reputation for being exceedingly erratic had preceded him and he was not selected.”
Wise then goes on to state that he thinks Wertheimer chose Christian Science because it was closest to Judaism of the various Christian denominations.
“Rabbi Wertheimer’s defection is mainly due to the fact that his peculiarities of disposition and character disqualified him for the Jewish ministry, and he very wisely, left it, as it…He was an applicant for (a position of a rabbi) about a month ago.
“I have known Mr. Wertheimer from the time he entered the preparatory department of the Hebrew Union College, and have watched his career since he graduated. With full knowledge of the facts, I have no hesitation in saying, that, unpleasant as it is to have a Rabbi become an apostate…it is far better that he should have withdrawn in this manner than to have remained in it. As he stands today he is a mild annoyance, for some time past he has been a source of harm to Judaism.”
This certainly is an interesting perspective and seems closer to the truth than Wertheimer's autobiography. It seems that he had many eccentricities including a large ego -- with a brain that didn't match (he never received is D.D. from the Hebrew Union College). He was forced out of the Reform rabbinate and had to find a way to survive after his young wife died and he had debts to pay. In 1904 Wertheimer became a Baptist having accepted the trinity based on Greek translations of the Hebrew bible. No kidding.
From “A Rabbi who Turned,” by Alfred Segal, The American Israelite (an English-language Jewish weekly newspaper published in Cincinnati, Ohio), May 9, 1957:
"One day he found something in a Greek translation of our Pentateuch (written 275 years before Jesus); it persuaded him that even that long before Jesus was born the Greeks foresaw Jesus’ coming. In that translation they spoke of Joshua as Yesous and to Max Wertheimer “Yesous” suggested “Jesus.” Wertheimer wrote: “I could hold out in unbelief no longer…I was convinced of the truth of G-d as it is in…Jesus… I cried, “L-rd, I believe that Thou as Jehovah Yesous has made the atonement for me. I believe that Jehovah Yesous died for me!"
That is certainly not stable -- why would a man who could, supposedly, read Hebrew turn to a translation of the bible and then, dependent on some unknown translator's choice for the name Joshua uses this to convince himself of Jesus as a god and part of the trinity?
That is not reasonable, let alone stable!
Perahaps Gotthard Deutsch (a professor of Jewish history at Hebrew Union College - Reform Movement) who was a contemporary who knew Wertheimer, put it best:
"I have been connected with Hebrew Union College for 20 years, and know all its graduates, and therefore can state positively that there were no more than three conversions among its graduates. Samuel Freuder, the first of the converts, returned to Judaism, declaring the whole missionary business a fraud, and is now living a retired life, earning only a modest livelihood. Max Wertheimer turned out a failure as a Christian Science practitioner, and entered the Baptist ministry..." The Jewish Archives, Gotthard Deutsch.