In the first parsha of Shma, the Torah commands ודברת בם that there is a mitzvah to speak in Divrei Torah both the Written and the Oral Law. Mefarshim write that this interpretation is hinted in the acronym of the word בם . The Written Torah begins with the letter bais בראשית and the Oral Torah begins in the first Mishnah of Meseches Berachos with the letter mem מאימתי.
We would also like to present a novel interpretation of the acronym of this word בם, but not serving as an interpretation identifying what we should learn, but rather how did we merit to receive the Torah in the first place.
The Medrash teaches that Am Yisrael proclaimed נעשה ונשמע that they would unconditionally accept the Torah before they even heard exactly to what they are committing themselves, the malachim in shamayim claimed give Your Torah to us. The claim of the angels is explained with a Halacha (Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 175) that if one is selling a field he must first give the opportunity for the person who already borders your field to purchase it before anyone else. In this way he can enlarge his area, an opportunity which does not lend itself to a distant buyer. This din is called בר מיצרא someone who shares the same boundary.
The giving of the Torah was also a purchase and sale for Torah is called a לקח as found in the passuk כי לקח טוב נתתי לכם. The Medrash (Shmos Rabba 28) describes Moshe Rabbeinu’s ascent on Har Sinai by applying the passuk (Tehillim 69,19)עלית למרום שבית שבי לקחת מתנות באדם emphasizing the word לקחת , which means a purchase. If so the malachim argued that they have the right of בר מיצרא to merit the Torah before Hashem gives it to Am Yisrael since the Torah is coming from shamayim down to earth.
However, in the same halacha there are two exceptions to this rule of בר מיצרא . One is that if one sells his land to his son the claim of בר מיצרא is of no value. Since Am Yisrael are called בנים אתם לה’ אלקיכם we are Hashem’s children and therefore merited the Torah before the angels. This is the intention of the gemarrah (Shabbos 88b)
וְאָמַר רַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן לֵוִי, בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁעָלָה מֹשֶׁה לַמָּרוֹם, אָמְרוּ מַלְאֲכֵי הַשָּׁרֵת לִפְנֵי הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם, מַה לִילוּד אִשָּׁה בֵינֵינוּ? אָמַר לָהֶם, לְקַבֵּל הַתּוֹרָה בָא. אָמְרוּ, לְפָנָיו חֶמְדָה גְּנוּזָה, שֶׁגְּנוּזָה לָךְ (מששת ימי בראשית) תְּשַׁע מֵאוֹת שִׁבְעִים וְאַרְבָּעָה דּוֹרוֹת קוֹדֶם שֶׁנִּבְרָא הָעוֹלָם, אַתָּה מְבַקֵּשׁ לִיתְּנָהּ לְבָּשָׂר וָדָם”? (תהלים ח) “מָה אֱנוֹשׁ כִּי תִזְכְּרֶנוּ? וּבֶן אָדָם כִּי תִפְקְדֶנוּ?” (שם) “ה’ אֲדוֹנֵינוּ מָה אַדִּיר שִׁמְךָ בְּכֹל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר תְּנָה הוֹדְךָ עַל הַשָּׁמָיִם”. אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְמֹשֶׁה, הַחְזֵר לָהֶם תְּשׁוּבָה! אָמַר לְפָנָיו, רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם, מִתְיָירֵא אֲנִי שֶׁמָּא יִשְׂרְפוּנִי בְהֶבֶל שֶׁבְּפִיהֶם. אָמַר לוֹ, אֱחוֹז בְּכִסֵּא כְּבוֹדִי, וְהַחְזֵר לָהֶם תְּשׁוּבָה. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, (איוב כּו) “מְאַחֵז פְּנֵי כִּסֵּא פַּרְשֵׁז עָלָיו
When the angels argued that they wanted the Torah Hashem told Moshe החזר להם תשובה give them an answer by holding on to my Kisay Hakovod. This could also be interpreted to mean that the response of Moshe addressing their claim is Teshuvah. Teshuvah reflects that our relationship with Hashem is father to son, in contrast to the other nations of the world where it is king to servant. The halachah is that a father can forgo on his kovod but not so a king (Kesuvos 17). Since we are commanded to do teshuvah this conveys that we are called Hashem’s children and He is our father.
Corresponding to this concept is that our neshamos were carved out from below the Kisay Hakavod. This too indicates that we are an extension of Hashem like a son who is an extension of his father. That is why Chazal say on the passuk שובה ישראל עד ה’ אלקיך that תשובה מגעת עד כסא הכבוד teshuvah reaches the Kisay Hakavod since the Kisay Hakavod represents the origins of Yisrael who are called בנים a relationship with Hashem that allows for teshuvah. Both reasons Teshuvah and Kisay Hakavod which relate exclusively to Am Yisrael demonstrate our unique relationship of being His children. This refutes the claim of the angels of בר מיצרא since it doesn’t apply to the seller’s children.
A second refutation of the angels’ claim of בר מיצרא is that it does not apply when the owner is giving it away as a מתנה, a present. A buyer cannot coerce the benefactor of a gift to sell it to him. Therefore Hashem gave the Torah to Yisrael in the form of a matanah as the passuk says (Mishlei 4,2)כי לקח טוב נתתי לכם that even though Torah was a purchase it was given in the form of matanah in order to refute the claim of the angels. The refutation of matanah is also alluded to in the passuk the Medrash brought upon Moshe ascending Har Sinai for the purpose of לקחת מתנות to purchase presents. This seeming contradiction parallels the passuk כי לקח טוב נתתי לכם for in truth Torah is a purchase which one can only acquire with self sacrifice yet it was given in the manner of a matanah in order of refuting the heavenly claim that they are the בר מיצרא.
This that מתנה and בן uproot any claim of the angels’ priority in receiving the Torah is alluded to in the gematriah form as well. The gematriah of הבר מיצר (the individual who dwells by the border) is 547. The gematriah of מתנה and בן equals 547.
The third refutation to the angels’ demand of being the exclusive recipients of the Torah is the claim of בר מיצרא itself. The gemarrah (Shabbos 88b) relates that when the malachim claimed they wanted the Torah, Moshe responded by asking them Did you go down to Mitzrayim? Do you do any work that you are commanded to rest from it on Shabbos?
So what then was the angels’ intention when they demanded first priority to receive the Torah which they could not possibly fulfill?
The Yefai Toar explains that of course the malachim never had any intention to fulfill the pshat of the Torah. What they did demand was the exclusivity to the secrets of the Torah which they could understand and appreciate. For instance, to Moshe Rebbeinu alone was revealed the secrets ofפרה אדומה. The malachim wanted to be privy to the secrets of all 613 mitzvos. The answer to the malachim was that since Bnei Yisrael alone can fulfill the pshat of the Torah then they alone have priority to understand even its secrets. Why? By using the very same claim of the malachim of בר מיצרא . Since we already own the pshat of the Torah then the bordering interpretations of derush, remez, and sod also belong to us.
With this we can understand the proclamation of נעשה ונשמע (Shmos 24,7). The first נעשה alone (Shmos 18,19) was a proclamation that they were willing to accept to fulfill all the mitzvos. The second proclamation which included the word נשמע was a refutation of the angels’ claim of בר מיצרא which they could have heard from Moshe Rabbeinu. What Yisrael were really saying was that we can refute the claim of the malachim for we have the נעשה which is the physical fulfillment of the 613 mitzvos of which entirely does not relate to them. This then gives us the claim of בר מיצרא to procure also the נשמע part which corresponds to the secrets of the Torah which was the part of Torah which malachim desired to receive.
This interpretation elucidates a deeper understanding to the word mitzvah which means to suck out ((מיץ and to accompany. By living a life of Mitzvos fulfillment we are enabled to connect to the other deeper levels of the mitzvah drawing out their most inner meanings and inspirations resulting in greater deveikus with Hashem.
Let us now return to our passuk in parshas Shmah ודברת בם. The word בם is not only explaining that one’s speech should occupy the Written and Oral Torahs as we have pointed out. It is also explaining the three fundamentals from which we merited to receive the Torah in the first place and that is by refuting the malachim’s claim of priority. The first letter ofבם the letter ב stands for בנים which is our refutation that the Torah is an expression of Hashem’s love to his children which gives us the privilege to be first in line to receive the Torah. The second letter of בם the letter מ stands for מתנה By Hashem’s giving to us as a present His most supernatural desirable gift in the universe, we refuted the angels’ claim of Torah rights. Our third legal point of defense to receive the Torah over the malachim is found in the combined letters ofבם which spell the acronym בר מיצרא Since we alone have the ability for preserving and living our lives according to the pshat of the Torah, we therefore are the ones who merit the other esoteric interpretations of the Torah as well.