Shabbat Morning Class - Parasha Bamidbar - Shavuot
Rabbi Mansour 2010
Shabbat Morning Class
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The Gemarah in Shabbat Daf 88 describes what took place when Moshe
Rabeinu went up to the Shamayim to bring down the Torah for the Jews. R’ Yehoshua
Ben Levi says that when the angels in heaven saw Moshe Rabeinu they said to
Hashem: "what is this human, born from a woman, doing here"? Hashem answered
that he was here to receive the Torah. The angels protested; the coveted treasure
(Torah) that has been stored with you for nine hundred and seventy four generations
before the creation of the world, you intend to give to flesh and blood?! Hashem said to
Moshe; answer them! Moshe replied; "I am afraid that they will burn me with the breath
of their mouth! Hashem instructed Moshe to hold on to his throne and answer them.
Commencing his argument, Moshe said; "master of the universe, the Torah you are
giving me, does it not say "I am Hashem your G-d who took you out of Egypt"?! Moshe
turned to the angels and asked; did you go down to Egypt? Were you enslaved by
Pharaoh? Obviously not, so why should the Torah be yours?! It also says you shall not
worship other G-ds. Do you live amongst the nations who worship idols? It says to
keep Shabbat. Do you work during the week that you need to rest on Shabbat?! It says
"do not swear falsely". Do you engage in business that would lead you to oaths taken
in vain?! It says respect your parents. Do you have parents?! Don’t kill, steal, or
commit adultery. Is there any jealousy among you that would cause you to do these
things?! Do you even have an evil inclination among you?! Immediately the angels
conceded to Hashem that the Torah is rightfully Moshe’s and should be given to the
This is what took place when Moshe went up to retrieve the Torah. We need to
analyze this debate in light of who it was between: Moshe Rabeinu and the angels of
Hashem! At first glance, the argument of Moshe seems fairly obvious! The Torah
simply does not apply to the angels! What were the angels thinking when they
challenged Moshe?! Did they not realize that they did not have parents or go down to
Egypt etc.?? What exactly did Moshe clarify for them that made them suddenly agree
that the Torah was rightfully his?? We must therefore reanalyze the claim of the angles
and the response of Moshe Rabeinu.
One interpretation is from the Magid of Dubna who explains this with a parable.
There was once a Rabbi of a town who had served loyally for many years. The Rabbi
was advancing in age and decided that he would like to move on to a smaller town that
would be more tranquil for him. The Rabbi sent a letter to the committee asking them
for their permission to be released from his duties so that he can move on. The
committee answered that he was free to go and they thanked him for all his hard work
throughout the years. When the day came for the Rabbi to move, he found many of the
townspeople surrounding his home and they refused to let him go. "What is the
meaning of this?" asked the rabbi. "We changed our mind; we do not want you to
leave." said the people." "I made all my plans already and I gave the new town my
word!" said the Rabbi. He managed to get out of the town, but when he reached the
new town he found the committee members of his previous town blocking the entrance
in protest. After some commotion they finally allowed the Rabbi to enter. "Why did you
do this to me"? asked the Rabbi, I thought we had an agreement? The committee
members privately explained to the Rabbi that they were putting up such a fuss to
show the new town how valuable he was to them and to make them realize just how
special he really was. After all, how would it look if a Rabbi just left town and no one
tried to stop him?! We did this so that they should appreciate you!!
The same idea applies here. The angels knew that the Torah was not really for
them and they never intended that it should remain in the heaven. The reason they
protested, was to show how important and valuable the Torah was, and to make
Moshe and the people appreciate it even more!
Another way to explain the debate is that in reality, the angels did not intend to
keep the Torah in Shamayim. It was that they wanted to be the ones to teach the
Torah to the Jews. After all, what better teacher than an angel who knows everything
and does not tire! Moshe Rabeinu refused, citing a crucial point in teaching: actions
speak louder than words. If a teacher does not practice what he preaches he will be
ineffective in instilling the Torah into the hearts of his students. Like it says in Pirkei
Avot ??? ??? ???? (literally: he used to say) we can also understand it to mean: ??? ???
- he was, then ???? -then he would say. First he would master the trait, only then
would he teach about it.
Moshe was asking the angels; you want to teach about Shabbat, do you keep
Shabbat?! You want to teach about respecting parents, do you have parents?! You
cannot perform the commandments that you would teach, and therefore you are not fit
to be the teachers of the Torah.
This idea is also illustrated by the birth of a baby into this world. Inside the womb
there is an angel that teaches the baby the entire Torah. A moment before the baby is
born the angel taps the baby above his lip and this causes the baby to forget
everything. This area is the dimple above the lip known as the philtrum (the goyim
have this on their faces as well, even though they do not study in the womb, this is so
as not to make an obvious difference between the faces of the Jews and goyim for
anti-Semitic purposes). This tap form the angel coincides with a hormone called:
oxytocin, released by the mother during labor which helps the baby forget the trauma
of being pushed through the birthing canal and coming into the world. The question is:
why does the angel tap the baby? Why not leave him alone and let him be born
knowing the entire Torah?! The answer is that we do not want to retain the Torah
taught by a teacher who himself does not perform the Misvot of the Torah. Therefore
better to forget and learn it all over from one who does perform the Misvot of the
This rule applies in parenting as well. "Spend less time raising children and more
time raising parents"! Meaning, instead of constantly reprimanding and instructing the
child, spend more time focusing and perfecting your own actions. There is nothing
more powerful and influential for a child, then to see his parents acting in the proper
There is a story told of a Rabbi who would try and get his children to recite Birkat
Hamazon after their meals. No matter what the Rabbi said to his children, and no
matter how much he explained the importance of saying Birkat Hamazon the children
would not listen to his words and neglected to recite it. One morning during breakfast
the Rabbi received a phone call and became preoccupied and left his house without
saying Birkat Hamazon. When he reached the Yeshiva, he realized that he had not
said Birkat Hamazon! He went back in his car and drove home to say it. When he got
home, his son answered the door and asked his father; what are you doing home?!
The Rabbi answered; "I forgot to say Birkat Hamazon so I came back home to say it".
"You came back home just to say Birkat Hamazon", exclaimed the son! From then on
the children never missed a Birkat Hamazon. Upon witnessing their father’s devotion to
the Misvah, it was more powerful than all the logical reasons their father had given
Rav Yaakov Kamenatzky comments that this is seen from the Hebrew word
?????" " (to influence). The ??? (root) of this word is like the word " ????? " (incline). Just
like a roof that inclines - whatever falls on it automatically rolls off to the ground, so too
in order to influence children, parents need to set the example themselves and
automatically the children will follow.
Children notice everything and therefore we must be vigilant to behave in the
manner that we would want our children to follow.
Another understanding to the debate between Moshe and the angels is that the
argument of the Angels was that of a law in the Gemarah known as "Bar Metzrah". The
law of Bar Metzrah is that when a man decides to sell his field he must give his the
neighbor the first right to purchase it. He is not allowed to sell it to someone else if the
neighbor wants to buy it. It was with this law that the angels argued that the Torah
should remain in the heaven. The angels were the "neighbors" of the Torah since they
were closer to it in the heaven. They therefore objected to Hashem’s giving the Torah
to Moshe by stating that they had first rights to the Torah since they were its neighbors.
What was Moshe’s response to this justifiable complaint?
One answer Moshe gave was that the Torah is moveable and the law of Bar
Metzrah applies only to property.
Another answer is that the law of Bar Metzrah applies only in the case of a sale
but when a person gives his field as a gift, his neighbor does not receive first right. The
Torah was given to Moshe as a gift and therefore the law of Bar Metzrah did not apply.
Another answer of Moshe was that actually, it is the Jews who are closer to the
Torah than the angels. There are four heavenly worlds, they are (in descending order)
??????, ?????, ?????, ???? . The angels are created in the world of ????? (as evidenced by
the portion in the Shaharit prayers that speak of the angels begins with ???? ??? ). Man is
created in the higher world of ????? . This results in man being closer to the Torah and
Hashem (which are found in ???? ??????? ) than the angels! We are the closer neighbor
of the Torah than the angels! This is hinted to in the prayer of ??? ???? when we say: ????
??? ?????? ?????? ?????? ???????? ?? ?????? ???? ??? ????? ???" "- "blessed are you Hashem,
who created us for his glory and separated us from those who stray and gave us the
true Torah". We now understand it to mean: bless are you Hashem- ?????? that created
us from the world of ????? , and therefore separated us from the ????? - ones who had
erred (the angels), and enabled us to receive the Torah!
Another answer of Moshe was that when an owner of the field is selling it to his
partner, the neighbor cannot stop him. Moshe was himself a judge and also
established a judicial system for the people. It says in Pirkei Avot that a judge who
delivers a true verdict is considered a ???? -partner with Hashem in creating the world.
Therefore Moshe argued that he was a "partner" with Hashem and therefore Hashem
could give the Torah to him and the law of Bar Metzrah does not apply.
There is an additional point in the debate between Moshe and the angels that
needs to be clarified. In arguing that the Torah should remain with them, the angels
asked Hashem "you intend to give the Torah to flesh and blood?! Implying that mans
inclination to sin is a reason that they should not receive the Torah. Part of Moshe’s
rebuttal to the angels was: " ??? ??? ?? ?????? "-"is there an evil inclination amongst
you"?! Isn’t it strange that Moshe should use the very same argument of the angels, to
answer them?! Is having an evil inclination a reason to receive or not to receive the
Torah?! How could it be used as both??
It says in Pirkei Avot " ????? ???? ????? ?? ???? "-"who is one that is mighty? One
who conquers his evil inclination". The Baal Shem Tov asks: why does it use the word
????? - a word that implies that there are different options (as if to say; which option is
the best one to be considered mighty)? The Baal Shem Tov answered that in reality
there is one of two things a person can do to overcome his Yetser Hara. He can either
destroy it or conquer it. What is the difference between destroying and conquering? To
destroy something is to obliterate it, but to conquer is to take it and utilize it for your
benefit. Like the truly mighty armies, instead of killing the enemy they would capture
them and use them as servants. The same idea applies with the Yetser Hara (evil
inclination). We must use the Yeser Hara to serve Hashem instead of just destroying it.
This is why it says; ????? ?? ???? -to conquer his Yeser, as opposed to; -????? ?? ????
How does one use his Yetser Hara to serve Hashem?? By taking the desires and
"fire" of his evil inclination and converting it into the excitement and energy to serve
Hashem. For example, if a person has a weakness for spending money frivolously, he
should convert that into spending money on charities and institutions! The same goes
with every Yeser Hara, we have to channel it from bad to good! There was once a
Rabbi who was watching his student studying Torah with an overly serious attitude.
The Rabbi exclaimed; this boy is not using his Yetser Hara to learn!! He was in a
"mechanical" mode where he was not injecting the excitement and vigor of his Yeser
Hara into his learning!!
This explains many statements in the Gemarah regarding the Yetser Hara. For
example it says: " ????? ??? ??? ????? ???? ????? "-"I created an evil inclination and I
created a Torah as an antidote to it". The word ????? -(antidote) literally means- spice,
meaning that the Torah will spice the Yeser Hara. What does this mean? Why doesn’t
it say that the Torah will obliterate the Yeser Hara? We now understand, that the goal
is not to destroy it, it is to rechannel it for good. To spice a food is to alter the flavor and
change it. So too, the Torah "spices" the evil inclination and changes it into service of
This is also hinted in the 13 methods of R’ Yishmael, in which the Torah is
expounded from. The 13th principle is; "??? ??? ?????? ???????? ?? ?? ?? ?? ???? ?????
?????? ?????? ??????" -"and the resolution of two verses that contradict each other is that
a third verse will come and reconcile them". The word ??? (and also) can also be read
???? -and here, as if to say; if you’ve reached here- the 13th principle –(meaning you’ve
learnt the previous 12 principles and have studied the Torah), the 2 verses that
contradict each other (meaning the two inclinations- the good and the bad- that seem
to contradict each other) can be reconciled. How? From the ???? ?????? (literally; the
third verse) the ???? ?????? alludes to the third month of the year-the month of Sivan
that the Torah was given in, and shows us that it is the study of Torah that enables us
to "merge the two contradicting verses" (the Yeser Hara with the Yeser Hatov) and use
them both to serve Hashem!
R’ Yehudah Hanasi began the Mishnayot (and Shas) with the laws of Shema,
and he ended it with the words " ?' ???? ?? ??? ????? "-"Hashem should bless his nation
with peace". The Shema begins with " ????? ?? ?' ???? ??? ???? "-"love Hashem with all
your heart". The word ???? -literally means your hearts (plural). This means that we
have to love Hashem with both our inclinations, our Yeser Tov and our Yeser Hara.
How are we to love Hashem with our evil inclination? By using it to serve Hashem.
The last words " ?' ???? ?? ??? ????? "-shows us that if one studies and fulfills all that
was written will merit to have true peace. What kind of peace? An inner peace, where
his two inclinations work together to serve Hashem. R’ Yehudah Hanasi began and
ended Shas alluding to this concept because only through the study of Torah can a
person master the ability to conquer his Yeser.
This concept explains the debate between Moshe and the angels. The angels
were complaining that the Jews have a Yeser Hara and will stray from the path of the
Torah! Moshe answered that it is precisely the opposite; they will use this very same
Yeser Hara to serve Hashem with an even greater power! This is what Moshe meant
when he asked the angels if they had a Yeser Hara. Since they do not, the Jews can
serve Hashem on an even higher level than the angels! This is like a seller who wants
to sell his field, but his neighbor is not willing to pay the fair market value. In that case
the field owner may sell it to whoever offers the fair market value. So too in this case,
the Jews were offering more than the angels, since they will serve Hashem and
observe the Torah on a greater level than the angels! Therefore, even using the law of
Bar Metzrah, the Torah rightfully could go to the Jews.
This teaches us that we do not need to shun any non spiritual feelings or
emotions we may have. We must instead use them in our service of Hashem to turn
them around so that they will give us an excitement and "fire" to serve Hashem with a
renewed passion! We must do the Misvot with "both of our hearts" and not let our
religion become dry and boring Chas Veshalom. May we always stay energized and
have the proper thrill and enthusiasm to serve Hashem with great joy and devotion.