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The well-known Gemoro Shabbos 88b reports the angels protesting against HKB”H giving the Torah to Israel. HKB”H tells Moshe to answer the angels and Moshe shows that the Torah is only applicable to humankind.

So why did the angels object? What did they think?

My ideas were:

The angels saw a different (mystical?) Torah and were not aware of its human application.

The angels thought that the generation was not worthy but it might be given later.

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your first idea is shared by R. M. M. Shlezinger, in Mishmar Halevi Berachos letter 21 –  Matt Jun 9 at 3:44
    
@Matt Found hebrewbooks.org/… but can't see it. What page is it on please? –  Avrohom Yitzchok Jun 9 at 15:41
    
That's not the version I have, sorry (the simanim are different too...) –  Matt Jun 9 at 17:27
    
Found it quoted in another Sefer: hebrewbooks.org/… (that's where it starts) –  Matt Jun 9 at 17:30

2 Answers 2

I recently saw a mashal that applies. I was unable to find it so this is from memory.

A rabbi had been in a major community for many years and was getting old. He wanted to go to a smaller community so as not to be under as much pressure and to have time to learn. The smaller community was of course delighted. He carefully arranged with his current community to get their approval. On the day that the new town sent a wagon for him, the entire community turned out objecting and crying and saying that they would not allow their beloved Rav to leave.

The rav was bewildered as it had all been arranged in advance. The rav was taken aside by one of the elders of the city who explained that in order that the people of the small town should appreciate what they were getting, the people of the city had arranged this demonstration. Had they allowed the rav to leave with no fuss, the people of the small town would never have appreciated what they were getting (even though they would know theoretically what was involved).

Similarly, the malachim knew that the Torah was meant for people, but for Bnei Yisrael to realize what they were getting, they had to see Moshe Rabbeinu have to put up a fight in order to receive it.

There is also a saying that something that is received for free is not as appreciated as something that you have to pay for (or work for).

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The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains this using the idea that תורה לא בשמים היא - The Torah is not in heaven, so the Talmud says that in order to know the Halacha the angels have to ask Beis Din down here.

What the angels wanted is that the Halacha should be decided in Heaven with them, and people down here would follow their psak.

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