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The Gemara in Shabbos 88b, shows a famous dialogue between Moshe Rabbeinu and the melachim, when Moshe ascended to the Heavens, after Matan Torah.

And Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: When Moses ascended on High to receive the Torah, the ministering angels said before the Holy One, Blessed be He: Master of the Universe, what is one born of a woman doing here among us? The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to them: He came to receive the Torah. The angels said before Him: The Torah is a hidden treasure that was concealed by you 974 generations before the creation of the world, and you seek to give it to flesh and blood? [...] The rightful place of G-d’s majesty, the Torah, is in the heavens.

[...] The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to Moses: Provide them with an answer as to why the Torah should be given to the people. [...] Moses said before Him: Master of the Universe, the Torah that You are giving me, what is written in it? G-d said to him: “I am the Lord your G-d Who brought you out of Egypt from the house of bondage” (Exodus 20:2). Moses said to the angels: Did you descend to Egypt? Were you enslaved to Pharaoh? Why should the Torah be yours? Again Moses asked: What else is written in it? God said to him: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). Moses said to the angels: Do you dwell among the nations who worship

There are sources that discuss the legal basis of the statement of the angels, and why they, in first instance, "protested" the fact that G-d wanted to give the Torah to mankind. The Sfas Emes (parashas Yisro), for example, explains that the legal basis of this can be found in the laws of the Bar Metzra.

The main focus of the laws of Bar Metzra is, as the Rambam puts it, that:

the property should be acquired by the neighbor, instead of the person living further away

So, this was the problem the angels had. They were "the neighbours" of the Torah so to speak, they were closer to it than mankind, so why give it to them.

However, the Gemara in Bava Metzia 108b says that a gift is not subject to the laws of Bar Metzra:

With regard to a gift, it is not subject to the halakha of one whose field borders the field of his neighbor, as one can give a gift to whomever he chooses.

The question is: does the law of bar metzra applies to Torah? Torah is considered a gift (berachos 5a for example). Are there sources that explain that the laws of bar metzra still apply to Torah, or can't this be, since it is an gift?

(When answering, please support it by sourcing it :))

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  • Are you asking if bar Metzra applies since torah was a present or because it’s metaltilim or it’s not mitaltilim? The wording is confusing
    – Chatzkel
    Commented May 24, 2023 at 17:26
  • I edited it. Hope it is more clear now, please let me know.
    – Shmuel
    Commented May 24, 2023 at 17:29
  • The sfas emes himself uses the issue of matana as part of his answer. Mitaltimim means movable not tangible. That’s what is confusing. The relevance of the Sefer story is also perplexing. The issue of bar Metzra on a gift is a big part of the sfas emes reasoning. He says it’s both a purchase and a present and it depends on how we act. Read the whole piece
    – Chatzkel
    Commented May 24, 2023 at 17:55
  • Does the Sfas Emes say that at first, the Torah is as a gift for us, and that we need to be transformed by it. Later on, we are on another level, and thus able to acquire it on a level of bar metzra? Please excuse me if I'm reading this wrong.
    – Shmuel
    Commented May 24, 2023 at 17:59
  • He says that, but he says that Moshe was the opposite. He was looking to take it not as a gift and that’s why they brought up bar Metzra
    – Chatzkel
    Commented May 24, 2023 at 19:42

2 Answers 2

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The Torah is not only a gift. It's also referred to as an inheritance (מורשה קהלת יעקב, Deut. 33:4) and as a sale (מכרתי לכם תורתי, Shmos Rabbah 33:1). So the issue of bar metzra would still apply to the last of these.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe (Likutei Sichos vol. 18 pp. 28-34, adapted here) ends up explaining that what negated the angels' argument was that the purpose of the Torah is "to make a dwelling for G-d in this world," and when the non-neighbor plans to use the property to build a house, they have precedence (Bava Metzia 108b).

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  • Great find. Then yes, the principle in BM 108b does apply.
    – Shmuel
    Commented May 29, 2023 at 10:19
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The Sfas Emes that you mentioned in the question addresses this. Here is the background of the piece:

בלקיחה ניתנה לו יכול יתן דמים ת"ל מתנות כו'. כי מרע"ה הי' מוכן לקבל התורה בבחי' לקיחה… אבל הקב"ה נתן התורה במתנה…. ומן ההר בזכות אבות. לאמר פי' בשביל לאמר לכל הכלל אפי' אותן שאין זוכין לקבל בבחי' לקיחה. רק במתנה. ובזכות אבות. וזה עצמו הב' לשונות כה תאמר כו' ותדבר. כי בית יעקב בבחי' מתנה. ושם ישראל לי ראש בבחי' לקיחה. ובב' הבחינות ניתנה תורה לישראל. לכן מברכין ב' ברכות על התורה אשר קדשנו וצונו לעסוק בד"ת. בבחי' יגעתי ומצאתי לקיחה. ואשר בחר בנו ונתן לנו במתנה.

as a purchase it was given. Can it be that he actually gave money for it? That’s why it says “gifts” etc. Because Moshe Rabbeinu was ready to receive the Torah with the concept of a purchase… but Hashem gave the Torah to him with the concept of a gift… from the mountain, meaning, in the merit of the forefathers. To say, includes the entire nation even those who can’t merit to receive it as a purchase, rather as a gift in the merit of the forefathers. This is really the two modes of speech that the Torah was given, to say and to tell. Because bais Yakov represents the gift concept and the name Yisroel represents the purchase concept. The Torah was given to the Jews with both concepts and that is why there are two blessings on the Torah. “Who commanded us to toil in torah” represents the purchase concept, “who chose us and gave us the Torah” Is the gift concept

With this background he goes on to explain the piece your bothered by:

דאיתא שהמלאכים לא הניחו ליתן התורה לתחתונים. כי באמת הם קרובים אל התורה. ואית בזה משום דינא דבר מצרא. אבל במתנה ליכא דינא דבר מצרא. משום שרוצה ליתן לזה ולא לאחר. אבל במכירה כל שהמצרן נותן כמו הלוקח הוא קודם. ולכן מרע"ה שכחו יפה כמ"ש נתגששת עם המלאכים. וזכותו רב מזכות העליונים. לכן ניתן לו בלקיחה.

for it says that the Angels didn’t want to allow Moshe to receive the Torah because in truth they are closer to the Torah and there is a din of bar Metzra. But for a gift there is no din bar Metzra because he wants to give to this one and not the other. But by a purchase, as long as they both want to pay the same price, there is a din of bar Metzra. So Moshe Rabbeinu who had strong merits was quarreling with the angels, and his merit was greater than the angels, so he was receiving a purchase (and that’s why the din of bar Metzra applied)

P.S. the translation is my own so please excuse any errors

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  • Interesting. So on the one hand, he says it was a gift, so bar metzra does not apply. On the other hand, it was a purchase and hence the principle of bar metzra does apply?
    – Shmuel
    Commented May 25, 2023 at 16:32
  • Correct. Their claim of bar metzra was on the purchase concept which was how Moshe himself wanted to receive it
    – Chatzkel
    Commented May 25, 2023 at 16:35
  • Understood. So maybe the following also applies: who gets a gift? The one who wants it the most, right?
    – Shmuel
    Commented May 25, 2023 at 16:38
  • Is "Because bais Yakov represents the gift concept and the name Yisroel represents the purchase concept." an excisting principle discussed? I've not heard of it before tbh.
    – Shmuel
    Commented May 30, 2023 at 17:54
  • He seems to be referring to rashi that bais Yakov is the women which for them it’s a gift and Yisroel which is the men and for then they can get toil and earn it. So he extrapolates from there that the names refer to the different concepts
    – Chatzkel
    Commented May 30, 2023 at 18:08

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