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    Parashat Yitro tells of
    Ma’amad Har Sinai –
    Hashem’s revelation
    to Beneh Yisrael at
    Mount Sinai, and Moshe’s ascent to the
    mountaintop after the revelation in order
    to receive the Torah.
    The Gemara in Masechet Shabbat (88b)
    tells of Moshe’s confrontation with
    the angels when he was in the heavens
    receiving the Torah. The angels objected
    to G-d’s decision to give the sacred
    Torah, which had been in the heavens
    for millennia, to lowly mortals. Hashem
    instructed Moshe to respond to the angels’
    argument, and Moshe retorted that the
    angels have no need for the Torah’s laws.
    For example, the command of Shabbat is
    relevant only to those who work during
    the week, and the angels do not work;
    the prohibition of theft is relevant only to
    those who experience jealousy and have
    an instinct to compete, which angels do
    The Hid”a (Rav Haim Yosef David
    Azulai, 1724-1806), in his Peneh

    David, explains the rationale behind the
    angels’ contention based on a Halachic
    rule known as “Bar Masra.” This rule
    establishes that if a person wishes to sell a
    piece of property, he must grant the right
    of first refusal to the person who owns the
    neighboring property. Since the owner of
    a neighboring property will benefit from
    the property more than others, it is only
    proper to grant him first rights to purchase
    it. Accordingly, the angels argued that if
    Hashem was “selling” the Torah, He was
    obliged to first offer it to them, as they
    reside in the heavens and could thus be
    regarded as the Torah’s “neighbors.”
    Many later writers have elaborated
    further on this approach, and offered
    various explanations for why the angels’
    claim was not valid.
    Rav Meir Shapiro of Lublin (Poland,
    1887-1933) explained by noting an event
    that preceded Ma’amad Har Sinai, and
    which, in a sense, served as a prelude
    to the giving of Torah. During Beneh
    Yisrael’s encampment in Mara, they
    were taught several Misvot (Shemot

    15:25). Specifically, Rashi writes, they
    were taught the obligation of honoring
    parents, the obligation to observe
    Shabbat, and the obligation to maintain a
    just legal system. Rav Shapiro noted that
    the common theme shared by these three
    Misvot is the idea of our partnership with
    Hashem. The Rabbis teach that whoever
    observes Shabbat properly is considered
    as though he has partnered with Hashem
    in the world’s creation, and they similar
    comment that a judge who rules truthfully
    is considered G-d’s partner. And when a
    person honors him parents, he gives honor
    to all three partners who took part in his
    creation – his mother, his father, and G-d.
    Thus, before Beneh Yisrael arrived at
    Sinai, they were made Hashem’s partners
    through these three Misvot.
    This is precisely the flaw in the angels’
    argument. One of the exceptions to the
    law of “Bar Masra” is that the seller’s
    partner takes precedence to a neighbor.
    If the seller’s partner wishes to purchase
    the property, then he receives first rights,
    even if the owner of the neighboring
    property is also interested. Hence, Beneh

    Yisrael were entitled to the Torah even
    if the angels wanted it. We are not
    only Hashem’s subjects – we are His
    “partners,” in that we represent Him in
    the world and conduct our lives according
    to His will. Therefore, we deserve first
    rights to the Torah. Although the angels
    reside in the heavens, and we are mere
    mortals living here on earth, we were
    nevertheless granted the precious gift
    of the Torah, because we are Hashem’s
    partners, who enjoy a special relationship
    with Him, by virtue of which He showers
    us with His blessings, including, and
    most importantly, the sacred Torah.