Dispute of Moshe with the Angels

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4. The dispute between Moshe and the supernal angels and his convincing response:[1]

The Gemara[2] states that when Moshe went up to the heavens to receive the Luchos the Supernal angels turned to Moshe and asked him “What is a mortal being doing amongst us.” Moshe replied, “Hashem has sent me here to receive the Luchos.” This caused a great commotion above, as the angels wanted the Torah to remain by them and not descend to the earthly beings. Hashem turned to Moshe and told him to answer the claim of the angels. Moshe said to the angels “What does it state in the Torah? I am Hashem your G-d who took you out of Egypt! Did you angels leave Egypt? Another command: “Do not serve other G-d’s.” Do you angels have other G-ds? Can you angels keep Shabbos, or honor your father and mother, or fulfill the command of do not murder? Do you angels have a father or mother to honor, do you angels have a Yetzer Hara that you must be warned against murder. The angels had nothing to reply and therefore due to his victorious rebuttal Moshe descended with the Torah to the Jewish camp.

This Midrash is puzzling on many facets. What was the initial claim of the angels to begin with? Didn’t they already know that the laws of the Torah are only applicable in the physical world? The Alshich Hakadosh explains that in truth, the same way the Torah exists down here in the physical world it also exists on a spiritual level, in the spiritual worlds of angels and souls. Before the Torah was brought down to this world, it existed in a completely spiritual form. Due to this, the angels claimed, “Why must the Torah descend and be invested within the coarseness of this physical world?” This explanation however is problematic being that according to it the reply which Moshe gave to the angels is not understood. How did his reply reject their claim? To understand this matter we must first introduce the purpose of the world’s creation: Why did G-d create the world? Of the various recorded reasons, the reason accepted in Chassidus and Kabala is as stated in the Midrash that G-D desired a dwelling place in the physical world, a Dira Bitachtonim. This means, that Hashem desired to be revealed in the world. It is for this purpose that the Torah was given. The Torah and Mitzvahs that we perform with physical objects elevate those objects towards G-dliness and invite Him to come dwell amongst us. Based on this, we can now understand Moshe’s reply. Moshe told the angels that since they are not within the boundaries of the physical world they cannot possibly fulfill the task of bringing G-d’s revelation within our world, and hence the Torah will only fulfill its true purpose below on earth.

Alternative Midrash:[3] The final rebuttal, or comeback, which closed all litigation and allowed the Torah to be given was as follows: After the angels told Hashem that they desired to keep the Torah for themselves, Hashem answered the angels that it states in the Torah “Thou shall not eat a kid in its mother’s milk.” Now, you angels surely remember the meal you ate in the home of Avraham Avinu? You ate meat and milk together during that meal as the verse[4] states “Vayikach Chema Vechalav,” so how can you now ask to receive the Torah? This, states the Midrash, was the final comeback which refuted any claims from the angels, and allowed the Torah to be given. [An even deeper approach is stated in the name of the Alter Rebbe:[5] The law is that while one may not eat dairy after meat, one may eat meat after dairy.[6] The above Midrash is hence puzzling, as the verse explicitly states that it offered first dairy and then meat to the guests, and they therefore performed no transgression. The explanation is as follows: The reason for the prohibition against eating meat and milk together is because milk is from Chesed and meat is from Gevura, and their combination can be catastrophic. However, this only applies if the Gevura overpowers the Chesed, while if the Chesed overpowers the Gevura then it is actually a positive matter. Now, we have a general rule of Tatah Gavar, the bottom overrules, and hence if one first eats dairy, he may eat meat afterwards, as the bottom which is dairy/Chesed, overrules the meat/Gevurah. However, if one eats meat first, then the Gevurah overpowers the Chesed. This system however only applies in this world, in which we hold that the lower realms are of greater importance than the higher realms, and hence the lower item overpowers. However, in the Heavens, they believe that the higher realm is greater than the lower realms, and therefore the rule of Tatah Gavar does not apply. Accordingly, Hashem told the angels that if the Torah is given to them, and thus the higher realms prevail, it would end up that they ate meat and milk together, hence transgressing the Torah. Furthermore, by the mere fact that by Avraham they agreed to eat first dairy and then meat shows that they too agree that the lower realms overpower, and hence they have no claim to receive the Torah. Accordingly, we can explain the custom of eating a dairy meal on Shavuos, and then eating a meat meal, as this commemorates the victorious rebuttal which gave us the Torah to begin with. It also emphasizes that the purpose of the Torah is for the lower realms.]

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[1] Likkutei Sichos 18 p. 34

[2] Shabbos 88a

[3] Midrash Tehillim 8; Daas Zekeinim on Vayeira ibid

[4] Vayeira 18:8

[5] Brought in Sefer Pardes Haaretz [Horawitz] Vol. 3 p. 548 in footnote

[6] See Michaber Y.D. Chapter 89

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