Friday, 13 June 2008

Why Do We, Putzy Humans, Deserve Torah

Talmud Shabbat 88b

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said, When Moses went up on high, the ministering angels said to God, ‘Master of the Universe, what is one born of woman doing among us, God said to them, ‘He has come to receive Torah.’

They said to him, ‘That is a great treasure, hidden by you for nine hundred and seventy four generations before the world was created and you want to give it to one of flesh and blood! What is humanity that you should take note of him, the son of adam that you should account for him (Psalms 1). God, our Master how excellent is your name in the earth, who has set your glory in the Heavens (Psalms 8).

So the Holy Blessed One said to Moses, ‘Give them an answer.’

‘Master of the Universe, I’m scared they will burn me up with their breath.

God said to him, ‘Hold onto the Throne of My Glory and give them an answer.’ As it says, He made him hold onto the face of his throne and spread his cloud over him. (Job 26)

Then he said before them, ‘Master of the Universe, the Torah you give me, what is written in it. I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt. (Deut 5)’ He said to the Angels, ‘Did you go down to Egypt, were you enslaved to Pharaoh, why then should the Torah be yours?

Another one, what is written in it, ‘You should have no other gods (Deut 5). Do you live among nations who worship other Gods?

Another one, what is written in it, ‘remember the Sabbath day and make it holy. You don’t do any work that you would need to rest from.

Another one, what is written in it? Do not take [the name of God] in vain. Do you get involved in business transactions?

Another one, what is written in it Honour your father and mother. Have you fathers and mothers.

Another one, what is written in it, You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal. Is their jealousy amongst you? Is the evil inclination amongst you?

Immediately they acquiesced to the Holy Blessed One... Immediately each of them showed love for him and passed (masar) him a thing/word, as it says, ‘You have ascended on high, you have taken spoils, you have received gifts on account of adam (Psalm 68). As payback for calling you ‘Adam’ you took gifts. Even the Angel of Death passed on a thing, as it says … and he stood between living and death. (Num 48)… Had [the Angel] not told him how to do this, how would he have learnt it?

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