In connection with Shavuot and the giving of the Torah, there is a widely discussed section from the Talmud (Shabbat 88b), that relates the following: When Moses ascended to the heavens (to receive the Torah), the angels said to G‑d, 'Master of the universe, what is one 'born of woman' doing among us?' G‑d answered, 'To receive the Torah.' The angels countered, 'This hidden treasure, You want to give it to one of 'flesh and blood'! Why them more than us? Give Your glory to the heavens!' they begged. G‑d told Moses to respond to the angels. [Moses then said,] 'Master of the universe, this Torah that you want to give us, what is written in it? 'I am the Lord your G‑d who took you from Egypt.' Did you angels ever go to Egypt? Were you slaves to Pharaoh? Have you lived among the nations that serve idols? Do you work, do you do business, do you have parents, do you have an evil inclination?' Immediately G‑d accepted Moses's position. Discussion closed.

What would an angel do with the Torah?

At face value it seems silly. What would an angel do with the Torah since it is filled with physical commandments that angels cannot perform? But from a Torah perspective, there is actually a logic to their claim that they should receive the Torah based on the law known as "baal metzra". When a person wishes to sell his property, the "baal metzra" - adjoining neighbor - has first rights to it since it is helpful to him that his field conjoin with his neighbor's. This was the angels' argument: they would learn the Torah as a spiritual text since the Torah is at its source a heavenly document, so why shouldn't they be the ones given the Torah.

To refute the angels' argument, various commentaries provide responses: baal metzra refers only to land, and the Torah is not land. It applies only to something that is sold, and the Torah is a gift. The Jewish people are G‑d's children, and the laws of baal metzra do not apply to transactions with a person's children. Moses was almost like an angel, so he was also a baal metzra for the Torah. Baal metzra does not apply to a partner, and Moses was like a partner to G‑d (See Shabbat 10a).

However, it turns out that each of these defensive responses can be rebutted, making the angels right. But that is because none of them took into account the original response, what Moses actually answered the angels, that the Torah's place must be with a physical recipient, who lives with the challenges of the material world and can perform physical mitzvahs.

The purpose of the Torah is to create a dwelling place for G‑d in this plane….

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that the purpose of the Torah is to create a dwelling place for G‑d in this plane, the lowest of all the created worlds. And just as the essence of a person is in his home more than anywhere else, so also, G‑d wanted His essence to be drawn into this world in order for this to be His 'home'. This divine desire can only be actualized by the Torah being fulfilled in this world. When we do G‑d's commandments and learn His Torah with our physical bodies and minds, we literally bring G‑d's essence into this plane, something an angel is incapable of doing.

This fact automatically negates the angels' pre-eminence also on a legal basis. When a person can choose to sell his property to one of two buyers, one who is a neighbor and wants to plant a field, and the other is a non-neighbor who wants to build a house, the law is to sell to the house builder. The reason is that dwelling on a property is preferable to planting, and the law of baal metzra is pre-empted.

This is what Moses answered the angels. Since an angel does not have a corporeal body with which to perform the commandments and make this physical world a home for G‑d, the entire argument of "a neighbor" becomes irrelevant.

Also, the upper spiritual planes need us to have the Torah too. When this lowest world is enlightened with G‑d's essence, all the upper worlds are enlightened as a result, just as when you lift a tall stack of boxes, you pick them up from the bottom box. This is why the Torah was given to us humans in this world, so we can elevate all of creation in all the worlds.

This year, when we celebrate the Giving of the Torah on Shavuot, let's remember in order to fulfill the purpose of making our world a home for G‑d, we must actualize the Torah on this plane. May we all receive the Torah with joy making it a reality in our essence and our lives.

Chag Shavuot Sameach, Shaul

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