According to the Gemoro in Yuma (28B) the forefathers already observed the Torah in it's entirety (according to the understanding of Ramban and the Shaloh in Toldot Adam, Beit HaBechira 4), additionally Noah must have had a certain concept of Jewish law since he was commanded about the ark in terms of the pure and impure animals.

It therefore follows logically (I think) that the average Jew was at least aware to some degree of the life/laws/wisdom of the Torah and may have even abided by it.

If so what happened by Matan Torah that we celebrate each year? It seems that it can't just be the teaching of the Mitzvot (informationally) because that wasn't new to the Jew. Is it just that it became "generally accepted practice"?

Looking for some insight

Thanks in advance

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    It therefore follows logically (I think) that the average Jew was at least aware to some degree of the life/laws/wisdom of the Torah and may have even abided by it. I don't think it logically follows. Furthermore, the Jews don't seem to be so religious in Egypt. As well, the patriarchs weren't obligated in the commandments. That only started at Sinai...I don't really understand what's the problem.
    – robev
    May 16, 2021 at 4:36
  • @robev are you suggesting that the achievement of Matan Torah was the general obligation May 16, 2021 at 4:38
  • @NochieWolf "are you suggesting that the achievement of Matan Torah was the general obligation". Why not? One who is commanded and performs a mitzva is greater than one who is not commanded and performs it.
    – Tamir Evan
    May 16, 2021 at 5:54
  • Related (Regarding the premise of "the forefathers already observed the Torah in it's entirety"): "Avot keeping Mitzvot".
    – Tamir Evan
    Oct 15, 2021 at 6:53

3 Answers 3


I think there are three points that each bring us a long way in answering this question.

  1. Just because the Avos, and other great people knew and kept the Torah does not mean that the ordinary people did as well or even knew what it was.

  2. There is a great gap between a commandment, that one is required to keep, and a good practice that one is not. The Avos and others, were eino metzuveh v'oseh. They were missing a large component of keeping mitzvos, the service of Hashem who commanded them. And indeed, as merely good practices, they were subject to exceptions (such as Yakov marrying two sisters).

  3. Matan Torah was a present to the Jewish people. Not merely giving over information. Now the Torah belonged to us. It was no longer in heaven but in the hands of Israel, mere mortals. Our decisions, our interpretations, govern. We are celebrating that gift.


On shavuos clal yisrael and the Torah became one. We became partners with hashem in creation. Some things that come out of that is Torah lo bashamayim hee. The sages control the law and other things. That's shavuos.

You're asking if Avraham and the avos knew the Torah so what did Hashem teach Moshe on har sinai? Perhaps Hashem taught Moshe all the machlokeses. As the ritva says in eruvin 13 that eilo vielo divrei elokim chaim means Hashem didn't say to Moshe whose right. He brought before him the shitas.


Rashi, based on Midrash wrote that Abraham observed the entire Torah[1]. This seems reasonable since G-d blessed Isaac “because Abraham listened to my voice and kept my charge, commandments, statutes, and laws.” (See Genesis 26:4 and 5).

Nachmanides agreed with Rashi (see his commentary on Leviticus 18:25). He felt that Abraham knew the Torah by prophecy. Accordingly, the patriarchs, although not obligated, asked G-d if they could keep the entire Torah, even though it would not be revealed centuries later.

Maimonides disagreed. According to the Rambam, Abraham did not have the Torah. He felt that Abraham had only the Seven Noahide Laws plus eight for circumcision (eight mitzvot)[2]. It is possible that the rabbinical opinion that the patriarchs observed the Torah was hyperbolic; designed to highlight the importance of Torah observance. It is not meant to be taken literally. The Torah did not exist during the days of the patriarchs. If Abraham or Noah kept the Torah the Torah would have mentioned it.

[1] See Genesis Rabbah 79:7, 92:4, and 95:2, the Babylonian Talmud, Yevamot 21.

[2] See Mishneh Torah (Hilkhot Shmitah v’Yovel, 13:11).

  • Can you confirm whether you have the correct source for number 2? What I'm seeing here does not seem to be related to your answer: sefaria.org/… Oct 14, 2021 at 21:12
  • @Salmononius2 I may have used the wrong source. I will try to find the correct one. Thank you for pointing this out to me.
    – Turk Hill
    Oct 14, 2021 at 22:30
  • Hilkhot Melakhim u-Milchamot 9:1-3 (9:1 in most printed editions) says: "על שישה דברים נצטווה אדם הראשון ... הוסיף לנוח אבר מן החי ... אברהם נצטווה יתר על אלו במילה" ("Six precepts were commanded to Adam ... The prohibition against eating flesh from a living animal was added for Noah ... When Abraham arose, in addition to these, he was commanded regarding circumcision"). @Salmononius2
    – Tamir Evan
    Oct 15, 2021 at 5:18

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