Outside Influences

May 21, 2015 at 6:36 PM , ,

“…You shall not have other gods…” – Shemos 20:3

לֹא יִהְיֶה לְךָ אֱלֹקִים אֲחֵרִים – שמות כ, ג

The Talmud (Shabbos 88b) relates that the angels protested G-d giving the Torah to Bnei Yisrael, insisting that G-d’s wisdom must not be shared with mortals of flesh and blood. In response, Moshe demonstrated that only humans could fulfill the Torah’s commands, and conversely, only humans required the Torah’s warnings, not perfect angels.

Among Moshe’s retorts to the angels were:

“What is written in it? ‘You shall not have other gods;’ do you dwell among the nations that engage in idolatry?”

“What else is written therein? ‘Remember the Shabbos day, to keep it holy;’ do you then perform work that you need to rest?”

“What else is written therein? ‘Honor your father and mother;” do you have fathers and mothers?”

“What else is written therein? ‘You shall not murder, you shalt not commit adultery, you shall not steal;’ is there jealousy among you? Is there evil inclination among you?

Moshe’s argument was convincing, and the Torah was given to the Jewish people on earth below. In addition, a careful examination of Moshe’s words teaches us about the nature of a Jew and his struggles.

Every Jew possesses a G-dly soul, “a veritable part of G-d Above (Tanya, Chapter 2),” which strives to live a life devoted exclusively to G-d. A Jewish body is holy too, chosen by G-d to be a member of His nation (see Tanya, Chapter 49). Therefore, despite its material neediness, the body does not directly conflict with the soul’s ideals. The body’s physicality thus came up in Moshe’s argument only in the sense that it allows for the physical fulfillment of the mitzvos—honor your parents, observe Shabbos, etc., but not as an explanation for why the Torah must warn us not to behave immorally. The relevance of prohibitions not to steal, murder, or commit adultery is due only to the temptations caused by the yetzer hara; in Moshe’s words, “is there evil inclination among you?”

Outside Influences
Yet even the yetzer hara of a Jew has limits, and has no natural inclination to deny G-d’s singular existence. Therefore, regarding the Torah’s prohibition of idolatry Moshe challenged the angels, “Do you dwell among the nations that engage in idol-worship?” For if not for outside influences, Moshe reasoned, the Torah’s warning not to engage in idolatry would be as superfluous for a Jew as it would be for an angel.

—Likkutei Sichos, vol. 8, pp. 17–19


If you enjoyed this post Please ‘Like’ and Share it that many others can enjoy it too






Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.