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Yisro: Shabbos Demonstrates our Right to Receive the Torah

אנכי ד' אלקיך אשר הוצאתיך מארץ מצרים מבית עבדים.

“I am Hashem your God who took you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery.” (Shemos 20:2)

The commentators ask why Hashem doesn’t say, “I am Hashem your God who created you.” The Exodus showed Hashem’s might in a specific era, whereas by pointing out that He created us we would be even more convinced of our obligation to serve Him.

The Gemara says (Shabbos 88b) that when Hashem wanted to give the Torah to the Jewish people, the heavenly angels objected by demanding, “Give your beauty to the heavens!” Why did the angels demand the Torah for themselves only now, when Hashem decided to give it to man? They could have requested it before.

The Chida answers in the name of the Rishonim that when a person puts his house for sale, his neighbor must be given the right of first refusal to purchase the house. This halacha is known as the law of bar metzra (Bava Kama 114a). The angels never requested the Torah because it was not “for sale,” but now that it was about to be given away, they claimed that as neighbors, they deserve a chance to purchase the Torah before anyone else can make an offer.

If so, why indeed did Hashem give the Torah to the Jewish people, when the angels had a valid claim to it based on the law of bar metzra? According to most halachic authorities, when a person sells his house, his neighbor has the first right to buy it, unless the person is selling it to his own son. If the owner wishes to give the house to his child, he may do so despite his neighbor’s desire to purchase it. So now we understand that since Bnei Yisroel are Hashem’s children, as it says “My firstborn son Yisroel” (Shemos 4:24), they had a right to receive the Torah despite the angels’ objections.

With this explanation, we can understand what the Gemara says (Shabbos 87a) that Moshe added another day before Matan Torah on his own accord. According to all opinions in the Gemara the Torah was given on Shabbos (ibid. 86b). Why did Moshe feel that it is so important for the Torah to be given on Shabbos? The reason for this is that when we observe Shabbos we demonstrate that we are Hashem’s children. When a non-Jew observes Shabbos he commits a capital offense. This is so because Shabbos is compared to Hashem’s staff, and when someone uses the king’s personal staff he deserves to be killed (Sanhedrin 2:5; Derech Hashem 3:2). The Jewish people are entitled to observe Shabbos, because a son is permitted to use his father’s staff. When we observe Shabbos, we demonstrate that we are Hashem’s children.

This is why the Torah was given on Shabbos, to demonstrates that the Jewish people are Hashem’s children and the angels can have no claims to the Torah due to the law of bar metzra.

Therefore, Hashem is telling the Jewish people: “I am Hashem your God who took you out of Mitzrayim.” The word Mitzrayin (Egypt) hints at the word metzra. Hashem is telling us that although the angels desired the Torah and claimed that it belongs to them, Hashem “pulled us out of the law of bar metzra” by declaring us His children. And therefore, since we are His children, we are required to serve Hashem and we may not worship any foreign deities.


It says in Bamidbar (28:6): “The Steady Offering that was done at Mount Sinai.” Why does the verse say “at Mount Sinai” when in fact the daily offering was not brought at Mount Sinai?

Indeed, the Steady Offering was not brought at Mount Sinai, but this verse is reminding us that whenever it is being offered it must be brought with the same unity as when Bnei Yisroel stood at Mount Sinai. The Jewish people camped at Sinai with complete unity of spirit. This unity must remain “steady” – forever. This message is also hinted at in the verse “and you shall sanctify yourself today and tomorrow” (Shemos 19:10). The Bnei Yisroel were required to maintain the same level of sanctification and achdus “tomorrow,” in later times.

Hashem told Moshe: “When you will take out the nation from Egypt they will serve God on this Mountain.” (Shemos 3:12) What service was required of the Jewish people at the Mountain? All they had to do was accept the Torah; Hashem was the One who did everything.

The service required of Bnei Yisroel was to be united together as one. This is hard work; it is difficult for the Jewish people to shed all of their differences and stay together. But we managed to be united at Matan Torah, which shows us that it is possible; it could be done. May Hashem help us that we should once again unite “as one person, with one heart,” Amen.

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