As we celebrate the giving of the Torah to the Jewish People, we also appreciate our status as children of God, which strengthened our “case” against the angels.
This week we celebrate the holiday of Shavuot, which continues for one day in Israel and two days in the Diaspora. On Shavuot we commemorate the Revelation at Mount Sinai and the Giving of the Torah so many years ago.
The Talmud says that when Moses went up to Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, he had a major fight on his hands; the angels in Heaven became all angry and grouchy. They didn’t want the Torah to be given to the Jewish people. They wanted the Torah to remain in Heaven. Moses, in the end, successfully convinced God to ignore the pleas of the angels and to give the Torah to the Jewish people.
There are a number of beautiful interpretations of this cute story, and the details of the fight between the angels and Moses (on behalf of the Jewish people).
One interpretation connects the event in Heaven to the Jewish laws of “Bar Metzra.” According to the rules of Bar Metzra, when a person wants to sell a house or a piece of land, the closest neighbors must be given the opportunity to purchase the house or land in question first, before it goes up for sale to the general public. Only if the neighbor is uninterested in purchasing the property may the owner of the property then go and advertise the sale to the public. The Torah wanted us to give priority to neighbors because they have more to gain from purchasing land adjacent to their property as they can expand the territorial continuity of their land and have a larger, more useful property and living space.
Fighting to Keep the Torah
Taking the laws of Bar Metzra and applying them to the story of the angels fighting to keep the Torah in heaven, we see that the angels had a good case. They were the “Bar Metzra” of the Torah, as the Torah was their “neighbor” up in Heaven! They were indeed entitled to “first dibs” in keeping the Torah for themselves.
So why did the angels lose their case if they were the rightful “Bar Metzra?”
It is explained that there is one exception to the laws of Bar Metzra, and that is, the children of the property owner take priority over the neighbors. If both the neighbor and the children are interested in the property (for the same price), the children get it.
This is why the angels lost their case: The Jewish people are children of God. As such, since both the angels (the neighbors) and the Jews (the children) wanted the Torah, the Jews were the ones to get it.
What a beautiful thought for the holiday of Shavuot! As we celebrate the giving of the Torah to the Jewish People, we must appreciate our close relationship to God.
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel