Ki Tissa: Why Moses Remained Celibate

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Moses did three things of his own accord, but which received the full approval of God.

He separated himself from his wife, because, said R. Simeon b. Yochai, Moses thus reasoned to himself: 'If in connection with Mount Sinai, which was hallowed only for the occasion [of Revelation], we were told: Come not near a woman (Exodus 19:15), then how much more must I, to whom He speaks at all times, separate myself from my wife?'

R. Akiva said: [No!] it was God Himself who told him [to separate himself from his wife], for it says, With him do I speak mouth to mouth (Numbers 12:8)

R. Judah also said that it was told him directly by God. For Moses too was included in the injunction, ' Come not near a woman,' thus all were forbidden; and when He afterwards said: 'Return you to your tents' (Deuteronomy 5:27) He permitted them [to their husbands].

Moses then asked: ' Am I included in them?' and God replied: ‘No; but As for you, stand here by Me' (Exodus 33:28).

Another inference which Moses deduced was this: ‘If God did not speak to me even on Sinai, which was hallowed only for the occasion, prior to calling me,' as it says, And the Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying... (Exodus 19:3), ‘then assuredly He will also call me when He wishes to speak to me from the Tent of Meeting.'

God read his thoughts, and called him, for it says, "And He called to Moses."

Moses deduced yet another inference: ‘If of the Paschal lamb, which was holy only in a minor degree, it says, There shall no alien eat of it (Exodus 12:43), then shall those who serve idols have any connection with Tables which are the work of God?'

For this reason did he break them.

See the excellence of Moses. Both Aaron and the seventy elders tried to hold back the hands of Moses, but could not prevail; moreover, it was even God's will, [at first,] that he should not break them, as it says, In all the signs and the wonders... and in all the mighty hand (Deuteronomy 34:11). The Holy One, blessed be He, said: ‘Let there be peace to that hand,' as it says, 'And in all the mighty hand.'

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