Shabbos Parashas Yisro

This week’s parashah recounts the giving of the Torah. The Midrash in Shemos Rabbah 28:1 relates that when Moshe ascended to Heaven to receive the Torah, the ministering angels sought to attack him. The end of the Midrash relates that God recast Moshe’s visage into the form of Avraham’s visage, and challenged the angels: “Are you not embarrassed before him? Is this not the one to whom you went down and in whose house you ate?”
The Maggid explains the matter of the transformed visage with the aid of a parable. In a certain kingdom, the king had a chief minister whom he regarded very highly, so much so that the king always consulted him before taking any major action. The king also had an only son – a young, tender boy. The king loved his son very much, and pampered him greatly. But whenever he needed to consult with his chief minister, he would tell his son to step outside, so that he could discuss affairs of state with due secrecy. The chief minister would boast about this to all the other royal ministers, saying: “See, the king regards me even more highly than his own son. On account of me, he sends his dear son out, and makes time to meet with me privately in his inner chamber. There he tells me everything that is on his mind.”
When the king’s son got word of what this minister was saying, he became depressed. He was pained at the thought that his father had so much more regard for this minister than for him. He fell into such a deep depression that he became bedridden. The doctors came to examine him, and they saw that the boy’s illness was due to depression. They said that the only way to cure the boy was to cheer him up him with uproarious merry-making – this was what was needed to enable the boy to shake off his depression.
The king called in a large group of musicians to play rollicking music for his son, but this had no effect, because the son was already used to such music. So then the king called in his advisors to see if they, in their great wisdom, could suggest a novel way to cheer up his son – something that the boy had never seen before. They responded: “The king should issue a special order to all his ministers and officers: each day one of them must dress up as some animal – a bear, a lion, and so on – and parade in that costume in front of the boy. No doubt your son knows all your ministers and officers. When he sees these dignitaries frolicking before him in animal suits, he will burst out laughing, and after a few days of this he will recover.”
Word of this order reached the chief minister. Having no choice, he dressed up as some animal, and went frolicking and prancing in front of the king’s son. The boy recognized the minister, and was filled with laughter and tremendous joy. When the chief minister left the boy’s room, the king’s other officers and confidantes approached him and said: “Now you can see clearly that the king loves no one like he loves his son. When the boy got sick, the king pulled out all the stops. He even went so far as to order you to dress up in an outlandish costume, although this obviously was very degrading to you. All this was to cheer up his dear son in order to cure him.”
The parallel is as follows. The lofty ministering angels on high felt that there was no comparison between them and corporeal man. For they are exalted beings, stationed in Heaven at God’s service, while man is a lowly being, stationed on Earth. Hence they exclaimed with outrage: “What is a man born of a woman doing among us? … Set Your glory within the Heavens!” God, in His wisdom, responded with an ingenious demonstration to make it crystal-clear to the angels that He cherishes man much more than he cherishes them.
God recast Moshe’s visage into the form of Avraham’s visage, and challenged the angels: “Are you not embarrassed before him? Is this not the one to whom you went down and in whose house you ate?” When Avraham was saddened because no guests were coming to him, God told the angels to come down to Earth in the guise of men, to eat in Avraham’s house. This was a degrading act for the angels, who are purely spiritual beings, elevated above the physical world. Nonetheless, out of love for Avraham, God ordered the angels to act contrary to their nature and eat. Upon pondering this past event, the angels would now see how dearly God cherishes man and treats him like a son – for man is the centerpiece of all creation.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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