Moses is the most important prophet in the Jewish tradition. The biblical account holds that he was born in Egypt as a member of the large Hebrew community of slaves. When the pharaoh ordered that all newborn male Hebrews be killed, Moses’ mother set him adrift on a small craft on the Nile. The royal family found him and raised him as their own. As an adult, Moses killed an Egyptian slave-master and fled across the Sinai, where he witnessed the miracle of a burning bush that would not be consumed, from which God instructed him to return to Egypt and free the Hebrews. When the Pharaoh refused Moses’ request, God unleashed ten plagues upon Egypt. Moses led his people out of Egypt and across the Red Sea to Mount Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments. He continued to lead the Hebrews through the desert in search of the land God had promised to them but died before reaching the land of Israel.
Jews revere Moses as their greatest teacher. It is even a principle of faith for Orthodox and Conservative Jews to believe that Moses’ prophecies are true and that he is the greatest of the prophets. It was to Moses that God first revealed his name—Yahweh—to the world. Moses is also the only person to have beheld the face of God and to have spoken with him directly instead of through an intermediary as all other prophets did. By delivering the Hebrews from bondage in Egypt, Moses made them a sovereign people again and enabled them to eventually reach the Promised Land. In Judaism, it is traditionally believed that God dictated the Torah—the first five books of the Bible—to Moses and that he wrote the book of Deuteronomy in his own words. These books form the basis of Jewish ethical and legal precepts. For these reasons, though Judaism predated him, Moses established the Jewish tradition and the Hebrew nation that history would come to know. Moses is also revered as a prophet in Christianity and Islam.
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