It is a common theme in aggadic literature that

  • The Avos were incredible tzadikim
  • They more-or-less kept the entire Torah, including some derabannans

If the mitzvos were already known and kept, and the full text was not necessary for them to have perfection in their middos, why was Revelation necessary?

(I would guess that a potential answer is that their descendants forgot it, but that also seems strange. See also here.)


2 Answers 2


1) Revelation at Har Sinai was necessary to make it mandatory. As Mizrachi explains, the reason Avraham waited, until commanded, to perform circumcision is because there is greater merit in fulfilling a commanded mitzvah than an uncommanded one.

2) See the Rashba's explanation / understanding of this idea, that they were spiritually sophisticated and understood and intuited the fundamentals, applying it to their unique circumstances. This is not the same as keeping all the mitzvot.

3) But even according to the common explanation, Chazal said regarding Avraham "that his two kidneys expressed to him chochma like two teachers". This is intuition and knowledge of how to act, in according with Biblical and even Rabbinic law. Without a fixed text and methods by which to understand principles and derive law, one cannot expect subsequent generations to be similarly sophisticated and intuit how to act.

  • 1
    Re 3 - you don’t need to look further than Sefer Shoftim, which repeatedly says that איש הישר בעיניו יעשה - each man did what was proper in his eyes. It wasn’t what he should have been doing, but what he felt was correct.
    – DonielF
    Dec 14, 2018 at 13:17

For the first twenty-five centuries of history, there existed a gezerah—a “decree” and “schism”—which split reality into two self-contained realms: the spiritual and the material. Torah, the divine wisdom and will, could have no real effect upon the physical world. It was a wholly spiritual manifesto, pertaining to the soul of man and to the spiritual reality of the “heavens.” While its concepts could, and were, applied to physical life, physical life could not be elevated—it could be improved and perfected to the limits of its potential, but it could not transcend its inherent coarseness and subjectivity. Nor could the spiritual be truly brought down to earth—its very nature defied actualization.

At Sinai, G-d revoked the decree which had confined matter and spirit to two distinct “realms.” G-d came down on Mount Sinai, bringing the spirituality of the heavens down to earth. He summoned Moses to the top of the mountain, empowering physical man to raise his physical self and world to a higher state of existence. The Torah could now sanctify physical life.

Quoted from: https://www.meaningfullife.com/the-breakthrough/

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