My article in the Shavuot To Go, soon to be published by YU/Center for the Jewish Future [update: now available here], looks at the special association between Avraham and Matan Torah [the presentation of the Torah at Sinai], and what it can teach us about our own relationship with Torah. Before that article sees the light of day, though, I’d like to hear what you would do with the midrash in Shemot Rabbah that was my jumping-off point.
Shemot Rabbah 28 describes Moshe on Har Sinai, and an attempt by ministering angels to deny him the Torah. The starting point of defiant angels appears on Shabbat 88b-89a as well, but there Moshe replies to the angels that the Torah is meant for us, not for them. Here, Gd provides the answer, and it’s rather different:
באותה שעה בקשו מלאכי השרת לפגוע במשה עשה בו הקב"ה קלסטירין של פניו של משה דומה לאברהם, אמר להם הקב"ה אי אתם מתביישין הימנו לא זהו שירדתם אצלו ואכלתם בתוך ביתו, אמר הקב"ה למשה לא נתנה לך תורה אלא בזכות אברהם שנאמר לקחת מתנות באדם, ואין אדם האמור כאן אלא אברהם שנאמר (יהושע יד) האדם הגדול בענקיםAt that moment the ministering angels sought to harm Moshe. G-d shaped Moshe’s face to appear like that of Avraham, and G-d said to the angels, “Are you not embarrassed before him? Is this not the one to whom you descended and in whose home you ate?” G-d then turned to Moshe and said, “The Torah was given to you only in the merit of Avraham.”
I was confused by this midrash, on several levels:
• We are taught (Bava Metzia 86b) that the malachim did not actually eat in Avraham’s home; rather, they merely pretended to do so. If that is true, then they owed Avraham no debt.
• We are further taught (Bava Metzia ibid) that the malachim who visited Avraham were Michael, Raphael and Gavriel. The malachim who protested were a set of anonymous “מלאכי השרת, ministering angels.” Are we to assume that the general angels should have felt gratitude for Avraham’s service of their three compatriots?
• What connection is there between offering food to the angels, and forcing them to forego their right to the Torah?
You can go to my article to read my answer, but I’d like to know what you make of this.