Sunday 8 July 2018



[Leaving aside the views of some commentators concerning the authorship of the Book of Devarim - as per previous post - let us now turn our attention to R. Avraham Ibn Ezra (1089-1164):]

In Ibn Ezra’s Torah commentary he sometimes referred to a ‘secret’ which he did not wish to elaborate upon.

However, R. Yosef ben Eliezer Bonfils (14th century) wrote a commentary on Ibn Ezra, entitled Tzafnat Pa’aneach and in it, he elucidates at length on what Ibn Ezra only hinted at:

It turns out that Ibn Ezra believed that a number of Torah passages were not actually written by Moshe, but were added in by later prophets!

Rabbi Dr Zev Farber points out six instances where the Tzafnat Pa’aneach indicates that Ibn Ezra believed this to be the case.[1]


In one example, the Torah verse states:

Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, up to the Plain of Moreh and the Canaanites were then in the land.”[2] 
Ibn Ezra then comments on this verse:

It would seem that the Canaanites took the land of Canaan from a different group [during the time of Avraham] [3], but if this [interpretation] is not correct, then there is a secret here, and the wise will remain silent.”

Tzafnat Pa’aneach then explains:

The word ‘then’ (from; The Canaanites were then in the land) implies that at the time of the writing of this verse the Canaanites were no longer in control of the land as they were when Avraham passed through it.

But we know that the Canaanites were still in control of the land until just after the time of Moshe’s death, so had Moshe written that verse there would have been no need to mention who controlled the land as obviously it would have been the Canaanites:

It makes no sense for Moses to write “then,” for reason dictates that the word “then” could only have been written at a time when the Canaanites were not occupying the land, and we know that the Canaanites were not removed from the land until after Moses’ death during the conquest of Joshua.

According to this, Moses did not write that word here, rather Joshua or one of the later prophets wrote it...

It would not be appropriate to reveal this secret to average people, lest they make light of the Torah...

Additionally, because of the nations, who tell us, “your Torah was once the truth, but you replaced it and changed it,” for these reasons he says, “the wise will be silent,” for the wise know that this does no damage, only the fools would attack him (Ibn Ezra) for this.

Amazingly - according to Tzafnat Pa’aneach - Ibn Ezra believed that there was some degree of latitude for extra words to be added to the Torah after the time of Moshe. This broke with the perceived rule that every word of the Torah had to have come directly from G-d!

And the ‘secret’ was that some extra words were inserted into the Torah by either Joshua or a later prophet!


Here is another example:

After the Akeida (where Avraham thought he had to offer his son as a sacrifice) the Torah says:

And Avraham called the name of that place ‘Adon-ai Yireh’ [Hashem will appear], which is today known as ‘on the mountain of Adon-ai Yeiraeh [Hashen has appeared].’”[4]

Ibn Ezra comments:

The reason of ‘on the mountain of Adon-ai Yeiraeh’ is explained in Devarim.”

At the beginning of Devarim[5], Ibn Ezra explained that the ‘Mountain of Hashem’ refers to the Har haMoriah upon which the Temple was later to be built.

Tzafnat Pa’aneach then writes:

 “Now Moses never wrote in the Torah which mountain [the Temple would be built on], he only wrote, “the place which the Lord will choose” (Deut. 12:11). This implies that Moses did not know which mountain it would be, since [God] did not reveal its name until the days of David. So how could [Moses] say here that “on the Mount of the Lord there is vision”, which implies that Moses knew [that this was the mountain.]”[6]

He continues writing that in later generations, when people were acquainted with the Temple in Jerusalem, it was clear which mountain the Temple was situated upon. However, this was some time after the Torah was written and it was impossible for people to have known this during the time of Moshe.

Therefore, Moses could not have written this verse. Instead, the later prophets wrote it, as I explained on the verse, “the Canaanites were then in the land” in Parashat Lech Lecha (Gen. 12:6). Look there and you will understand this.”[7]


A third example:

The opening words of Devarim begin with: “These are the words that Moses addressed to all Israel on the other side of the Jordan.”[8]

Ibn Ezra comments (paraphrase):

“... If you understand the secret of the well as...“and the Canaanites were then in the land” (Gen. 12:6), [and] “on the mountain of Adon-ai Yeiraeh” (Gen. 22:14)... – you will recognize the truth.

Tzafnat Pa’aneach explains:

Know that the secret of the twelve refers to the final twelve verses[9] of the Torah. There [ibn Ezra] says that in his estimation, Joshua wrote the end of the Torah...”

If you understand the ‘secrets’ behind these verses (i.e.: The secrets of the twelve, the secrets of the Canaanites and the secrets of Adon-ai Yeiraeh) - that they were not written by Moshe – then you will also understand that the first five verses of Devarim, were not written by Moshe either.

These five verses are written in the third person as if narrated by someone other than Moshe. Although other parts of the Torah are also written in the third person, here place names are appended, and:  “If Moses had written it, he would not have needed to offer any allusions, since all of Israel had been there and knew these places.


Furthermore, the Tzafnat Pa’aneach continues to state that later on in Devarim it is written: “Moshe wrote down the Torah and gave it to the Cohanim.”[10] 

From the expressions “wrote” and “gave”, which are written in the past tense it “is a proof that this verse was written into the Torah only after the events. Thus Moses did not write it but rather one of the later prophets must have written it.”


All in all, Ibn Ezra suggested six instances where verses or paragraphs were, in his view, added at some later stage to the Torah. Of course, the question then arises as to what about the injunction against adding any superfluous words, or interfering in any way, with the Torah?

Tzafnat Pa’aneach answers this question in the following manner:

“[Ibn Ezra] says that the rule about adding [extra words to the Torah] only refers to mitzvot, meaning, the Torah is only warning us not to add to the number of commandments and their overall structure, but this has nothing to do with [adding] words [to the Torah]. Therefore, if a prophet were to add a word or two to explain something known from tradition, this is not an ‘addition.’...

And if you argue: Our Rabbis in SanhedrinPerek Chelek(99a) said that even if a person were to say that the entire Torah is from heaven except for one verse which the Holy One, blessed be He, did not write but rather Moses wrote down his own words – regarding him scripture states (Numbers 15:31): ‘He has insulted the word of the Lord,’ – this can be responded to, for this only refers to the commandments, as we stated above. It does not apply to the narrative...”

Tzafnat Pa’anech continues in a similar vein:

 “Now if someone were to argue, “But did Rabbi Abraham [ibn Ezra] himself hint towards the beginning of Deuteronomy (1:2) that later prophets added phrases, even verses into the Torah?!” 

The answer: Adding a phrase or a verse to explain that which Moses said, or to add a clarification is not the same as adding an entire parasha. A phrase or a verse is an explanation, but an entire parasha is an addition.”[11]


As one can imagine, not all the commentators were impressed with Ibn Ezra’s radical interpretations.
Ramban, for example, in his commentary on the Song of Songs, writes that anyone who claims that Ezra the Scribe (one of the last of the prophets) added verses to the Torah[12], is considered be to a heretic.

Even though, as R. Chaim Dov Chavel points out, that commentary was not actually written by Ramban but rather by the earlier Kabbalist, R. Ezra of Gerona - still, it indicates a typically hostile attitude to these interpretations put forward by Ibn Ezra.

In short, it would be fair to say that Ibn Ezra’s view - that some sections of Torah were added by later prophets - is very much a minority position.[13] Yet these views still made their way into a position of prominence by being printed in standard editions of Mikraot Gedolot alongside all the classical commentators!


Perhaps what is most fascinating is that Ibn Ezra was reluctant to openly expound upon his thesis - and that only two hundred years later, for some reason the Tzafnat Pa’aneach was quite prepared to speak about such matters (although with the proviso that this was not for ‘average people’).

Furthermore, the expression ‘Sod’ or ‘Secrets of the Torah’ is generally a synonym for lofty, mystical and Kabbalistic concepts. However, here, Ibn Ezra uses it in its literal context. In other words, his hypothesis was really meant to be kept a secret.

Could it be that Ibn Ezra believed that there were, in fact, two truths: one for ‘average believers’ and another for ‘the wise’?

[1] Seven Torah Passages of Non-Mosaic Origin According to Ibn Ezra and R. Joseph Bonfils, by Rabbi Dr Zev Farber.
[2] Bereishit 12:6.
[3] Parenthesis mine. The way I understand Ibn Ezra is that there are two ways to look at this verse:
·     Either it was written by Moshe, who informs us that the Canaanites had conquered the land from a previous nation and at the time of Avraham, they were already clearly in control of the land. (See the various opinions of Rashi on this verse and also on Bamidbar 13:22.)
·     Or it was added later by Joshua (or another prophet) who was writing at a time when the Canaanites had already been expelled from the land during Joshua’s conquest,  after Moshe’s death - and referred to the time of Abraham when they still controlled the land (and which they continued to do as long as Moshe was alive). In other words, Moshe couldn’t have said that the Canaanites were ‘then’ (during Avraham’s time) in control of the land – as they continued to remain in control all the time that Moshe was alive.
[4] Bereishit 22:14.
[5] Devarim 1:2.
[6] Translation of Tzafnat Pa’aneach by R. Dr Faber.
[7] Translation of Tzafnat Pa’aneach by R. Dr Faber.
[8] Deuteronomy 1:1.
[9] According to Makkot 11a, it was the last eight verses which were written by Joshua.
[10] Devarim 31:9.
[11] Tzafnat Pa’aneach on Bereishit 36: 31
[12] As in Bereishit 13:6, Devarim 3:11.
[13] For more informative speculation on Ramban’s position, see Ramban on Ibn Ezra’s Heresy, by Gil Student, May 31 20018.


  1. So interesting. Spinoza understands Ibn Ezra regarding the Canaanites in the same manner. Maybe Tzafnat Paneach is his source. Do you want to see that Spinoza?

  2. You write: "Amazingly - according to Tzafnat Pa’aneach - Ibn Ezra believed that there was some degree of latitude for extra words to be added to the Torah after the time of Moshe. This broke with the perceived rule that every word of the Torah had to have come directly from G-d!"
    I believe your statement is wrong. The fact that words could be added by later prophets in no way indicates that they do not come directly from God.

    1. I dont agree as you will put at the same level Moshe and other prophets, which is not the case. see more on kabbalah on that point. Moshe was a translucid recipient, Moshe WAS the prophecy.. etc


  3. Point taken and that would be the majority view (see previous post).

    However there are some other views such as Abarbanel, regarding the section of the curses in Devarim:
    “One could say that G-d ...did not command him the blessings and curses in detail...

    The rest of the Torah, however, was said by Moses in the same words that he heard and received from the Almighty, nothing having been added or detracted... But this does not apply to the curses, for Moses edited [or arranged] these things."

    Here, according to Abarbanel, Moshe did have some lattitude for adding things 'that were not commanded'.

    Similarly, it could be argued that Ibn Ezra took the same type of approach - especially in light of the fact that that he wanted his view to remain a secret (probably because he knew he was going against mainstream opinion).

    This doesn not mean that Abarbanel and Ibn Ezra were right or wrong - but they did express such views.

    1. Sorry, I still don't agree. You are conflating two totally unrelated issues here. The topic of this post is whether verses were added post-Moshe. I am saying that even if they were, it was done through prophecy. That has nothing to do with the Abravenal. In addition, even according to the Abravenel, the fact that Hashem did not command him the blessings and curses in detail does not mean that after the fact, Hashem did not instruct him to record those blessings and curses in the text as he had said them.

    2. Yehoshua, how does this fit with the concept that Moshe received the Torah על פי הגבורה? This demonstrates an absolute qualitative difference between the prophecy of moshe and other prophets. The evidence for this is the differences between the Torah and the neviim. If one postulates that post mosaic additions to the Torah come from G-d and there is no difference, why do we differentiate between the אב הנביאם and all the others?

    3. Mordechai: I do not understand your question. Wwat do you mean by על פי הגבורה (a phrase i have never heard before)? I don't know what "The evidence for this is the differences between the Torah and the neviim" is supposed to mean. Evidence for what? What does "is the idfferences" mean? In any event, the idea of the Ibn Ezra is limited to non-halakhic phrases inserted here and there to clarify matters in the narrative. So it would not lead to any issues concerning resolving conflicts between the vast majority of the Torah, given to Moshe to write, and these minor parts, given to other prophets to write.

    4. you need to study more nistar. Mashiaj time, new torah, reaarrangements of the letters , all the letters in the torah, Moshe saw in prophecy until the time of Mashiaj, Moshe was the prophecy.. etc etc see those point

  4. Here is Spinozas quote:

    (10) The words of Aben Ezra which occur in his commentary on Deuteronomy are as follows: "Beyond Jordan, &c . . . If so be that thou understandest the mystery of the twelve . . . moreover Moses wrote the law . . . The Canaanite was then in the land . . . . it shall be revealed on the mount of God . . . . then also behold his bed, his iron bed, then shalt thou know the truth." (11) In these few words he hints, and also shows that it was not Moses who wrote the Pentateuch, but someone who lived long after him, and further, that the book which Moses wrote was something different from any now extant.

  5. Sure that could be. It could also be that Ibn Ezra held a different view. And we could still choose to agree or disagree with him. Some agreed some felt he was heretical.
    We are not debating whether words were or were not added post-Moshe. We are simply reading Ibn Ezra through Tzafnat Pa'aneach.

  6. In his letter of instruction to his son Avraham, the Rambam tells him to put aside all other commentaries and study that of Ibn Ezra only which alone, he says, is meaningful and profitable to all who study it. One wonders if the Rambam was sympathetic to Ibn Ezra's "secret of the 12" in light of the fact in his Ikarim he states that a Jew must believe that the entire Torah as we have it now was given to Moshe Rabbeinu at Sinai.

    1. But what is the definition of “the entire torah as we have it now”? The Ramba”m was well aware of transmission errors (as he expended effort to try to get as accurate a copy as he could).

      The Tzaphnat Paneach himself states on Bereishis 36:31 (as per the last quote in the blog) that there is a difference between a word or two and a parsha. Quite possibly the Ramba”m wouldn’t have a problem with that position.

  7. Amazing article. R Judah Hehasid (1150-1217) also makes a comment that indicates post mosaic additions (which of course were later omitted and censored)
    In Genesis 36 by the list of the Kings of Edom ‘before there reigned any king over the children of Israel’ he writes that it was later added by anshei keneset hagedolah.

  8. All this is good, assuming the Tzafnat Pa’aneach is correct. Does anyone argue with him?

  9. I am not aware of any specific challenge to the Tzafnat Pa'aneach but I certainly would imagine that many disagreed with him.

  10. Regarding your question as to why the author of Tzafnat Pane'ach "revealed" the secrets, I refer you to his introduction, where he tells you.