The Almighty’s Special Gift to Us

Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto’s talks are renowned throughout the Jewish world, blending chassidic teachings, philosophy, and practical life advice. We’ve gathered pearls of wisdom from his teachings that resonate with our daily lives. This week, he comments on the Torah section of Bamidbar, read before the holiday of Shavuot.

“And they declared their pedigrees according to their families according to their fathers’ houses.” (Numbers 1:18)

The Yalkut Shimoni (#684) explains:

When the Israelites received the Torah, the nations of the world were jealous. They wondered why the Israelites were deemed more worthy to be close to God. God silenced them by saying, “Bring Me your lineage records,” as stated in Psalms 96:7, “Give to the Lord, families of the nations,” just as My children bring theirs, as it says, “and they declared their pedigrees according to their families according to their fathers’ houses.” This indicates that the Israelites merited receiving the Torah because they had proof of their lineage.

We must understand what “just as My children bring theirs” means. Don’t the nations of the world also have a lineage? Ishmael was the son of Abraham, and Esau was the son of Isaac. If so, when God challenged them, “Bring Me your lineage records,” they could have presented their genealogy records. So, what was the significance of this demand?

The Torah tells us, “I remembered My covenant with Jacob, and also My covenant with Isaac, and also My covenant with Abraham” (Leviticus 26:42). The well-known question is why Jacob is mentioned first, followed by Isaac and then Abraham.

This order excludes Ishmael and Esau from the merit of our ancestors, establishing Jacob as the choicest of the three Patriarchs. To merit our fathers’ blessings, we need a lineage that includes Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, beginning with the choicest. “I remembered My covenant with Jacob,” and then continuing with Isaac and Abraham. God promised Abraham that blessings mentioning the Patriarchs would conclude with him, not with the other fathers.

This verse shows that God excluded the other sons of Isaac and Abraham, Esau and Ishmael, from the promise of their fathers’ special merits. When God told the nations, “Bring me your lineage records,” He meant the special lineage of the Patriarchs, which requires Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham’s names together.

What more did God offer the Israelites when He proposed giving them the Torah than He offered to other nations? We know that God also offered the Torah to other nations. If so, what was their claim against God for bringing the Israelites closer, even though they also had the chance to receive the Torah?

A verse in the Torah answers this: “I will carry you on eagles’ wings and will bring you” (Exodus 19:4). What does “eagles’ wings” refer to? It is mentioned in Pri Etz Chaim (Shaar 21, Chapter 1) that on the night of the Exodus, God bestowed upon the Israelites spectacular revelations of love and awe and perceptions of the Upper Worlds. These great emanations and powers of love and awe for God are the “eagles’ wings” that God gave to the Israelites. To truly learn Torah, one must be inspired with great love and awe of God.

Studying Torah without love and fear of God means the study remains below and does not ascend to the Upper Worlds. At the Exodus, God gave the Israelites “eagles’ wings”—love and fear of Him—that He did not give to the other nations. This was the nations’ complaint: Why did God give this special closeness to the Israelites? Why did He give them these gifts of love and fear of Him, these “eagles’ wings,” which elevated them without their own efforts, while He did not give the nations this gift?

God gave the Israelites this gift of love and awe on the night of the Exodus, but they had to regain these gifts through their own spiritual toil during the 49 days until they were worthy of receiving the Torah. Why did God give these gifts if they had to attain them again?

Without receiving it as a gift initially, they could never have achieved it themselves. Once they had it as a gift, they could reach it on their own afterward. This was part of the nations’ complaint: Once the Israelites had received these revelations as a gift, they could attain them themselves. Why weren’t we given that opportunity too? Why didn’t we also receive it as a gift?

God replied, “Bring me your lineage records.” To qualify for this gift of love and awe, one’s lineage must trace back to Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham. Without the merit of these fathers, it is impossible to attain this gift of love and awe, which the Israelites could regain and strengthen through their toil until the day they received the Torah.

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