Photo Credit: Jewish Press

“I am Hashem, your G-d, Who has taken you out of the land of Egypt …” (Shemos 20:2-3)

Our sages tell us (Shabbos 88b) that when Moshe Rabbeinu ascended to heaven to receive the Torah the angels protested before Hashem, “How can this human being be among us?”


“He came to receive the Torah,” said Hashem.

The angels said, “You are now going to give away that secret treasure that You have hidden for 974 generations before the world was created?”

“Respond to them,” said Hashem to Moshe.

“I am afraid that they will burn me with the fiery breath of their mouths,” said Moshe.

Hashem instructed him, “Grab on to My Heavenly Throne for protection and provide them with an answer!”

Moshe said to the angels, “In the Torah it is written, ‘I am Hashem Who took you out of Egypt.’ Did you go down to Mitzrayim? Were you enslaved to Pharaoh? In the Torah it is written, ‘Remember the Shabbos to keep it holy.’ Do you perform work that you need rest?” asked Moshe. “The Torah says, ‘Do not take the name of Hashem in vain.’ Do you conduct business with one another that may lead to swearing falsely?” asked Moshe. “It says in the Torah, ‘Honor your father and mother.’ Do you have fathers and mothers? It also states, ‘You shall not murder; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal.’ Is there jealousy among you, or is there an evil inclination within you?” inquired Moshe.

At this point the angels conceded to Moshe Rabbeinu.

R’ Yechezkel Abramsky questions Moshe’s argument. Indeed, the angels cannot fulfill the mitzvos. They are not human, i.e. they don’t have parents to respect, arms for tefillin, or an evil inclination. However, they desired the wisdom of the Torah, just as humans do. As Dovid HaMelech states (Tehillim 119:97), “Oh, how I love Your Torah! All day long it is my conversation.” Especially as spiritual beings, they had an even deeper appreciation for the Torah and wanted to keep it in the heavens.

To respond, R’ Yechezkel cites a fundamental of Judaism from R’ Chaim of Brisk that the wisdom and depth of Torah can be best understood only by those who fulfill the mitzvos. Since the angels cannot fulfill any mitzvos there was no compelling reason for them to have the Torah. The Sefer Yechi Reuven offers further insight into this statement by citing the words from Tehillim (111:10), “Good understanding is granted to those who do,” i.e. through fulfilling mitzvos a person is able to grasp the wisdom of Torah.

The pasuk from Mishlei (6:23), “For a commandment is a lamp and the Torah is light,” is cited as well. Just as the lamp, with its wick and oil, is a receptacle for the light to be kindled, so too the mitzvos are the receptacle which kindle the light of Torah. By fulfilling the mitzvos a person gains the enhanced ability to grasp the wisdom of the Torah.

The Psikta d’R’ Kahana relates that R’ Yochanan and R’ Chiya bar Abba were once walking through Teveriah and when they passed a field, R’ Yochanan remarked, “This field once belonged to me, but I sold it to support myself while I was studying Torah.” They walked a little further and passed another field, and R’ Yochanan made the same remark again. R’ Chiya asked him, “Why didn’t you leave yourself some property and income for your old age?” R’ Yochanan responded, “I sold that which was given to man after six days and bought that which was given to man after forty days.” This sentiment became the paradigm for love of Torah for all to emulate.

A young Torah scholar related the following incident that had occurred many years earlier when he was a student in yeshiva ketana.

“One day I woke up late and could not make it on time to shacharis with the yeshiva. I therefore went to a nearby shtibel. When I came to class, the principal asked why I had missed davening, and I answered truthfully that I had overslept. The principal admonished me, noting that attendance at davening was part of the schedule, and I was penalized. For the next seven days I had to come a half hour earlier every morning to learn in yeshiva.

“The penalty was extremely difficult for me since, by nature, I was not an early riser. Fortunately, though, my chavrusa agreed to learn with me at that early hour, very slightly mitigating the misery.

“The first two days I calculated the portion of my punishment that I had already fulfilled. It was painful. But on the third day, a strange thing happened. An elderly man who lived down the block from the yeshiva, and was a familiar figure in the bais medrash, came over and effusively praised us. “You began to come to learn before davening. How meritorious you are. You are surely very special young men.” He then asked us to give him a bracha that he too should merit such diligence.

“Needless to say, in the days that remained, we got up with a different attitude. Our entire study session was imbued with joy and geshmak. When the week of punishment was behind us, my beloved learning partner suggested that perhaps we should continue our amazing routine.

“I agreed with him, and we continued to learn early in the morning, eventually finishing the entire mesechta that the yeshiva was learning that year. We continued to learn early in the morning, for many years, through yeshiva gedolah and even afterwards.

“Over the years together we were able to make a siyum on the entire Talmud. It was all in the merit of a ‘good word,’ the encouragement and commendation that the elderly man gave us so many years ago.”


Previous articleThe Morgenstern Bookstore On The Lower East Side And Its Famous Visitors
Next articleA Kabbalistic Guide To Writing
Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, a prominent rav and Torah personality, is a daily radio commentator who has authored over a dozen books, and a renowned speaker recognized for his exceptional ability to captivate and inspire audiences worldwide.