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בס"ד
Did the Avot Keep the Entire Torah?
Source Sheet by Gabe Greenberg
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  1. (א) וַ֠יָּבֹאוּ שְׁנֵ֨י הַמַּלְאָכִ֤ים סְדֹ֙מָה֙ בָּעֶ֔רֶב וְל֖וֹט יֹשֵׁ֣ב בְּשַֽׁעַר־סְדֹ֑ם וַיַּרְא־לוֹט֙ וַיָּ֣קָם לִקְרָאתָ֔ם וַיִּשְׁתַּ֥חוּ אַפַּ֖יִם אָֽרְצָה׃ (ב) וַיֹּ֜אמֶר הִנֶּ֣ה נָּא־אֲדֹנַ֗י ס֣וּרוּ נָ֠א אֶל־בֵּ֨ית עַבְדְּכֶ֤ם וְלִ֙ינוּ֙ וְרַחֲצ֣וּ רַגְלֵיכֶ֔ם וְהִשְׁכַּמְתֶּ֖ם וַהֲלַכְתֶּ֣ם לְדַרְכְּכֶ֑ם וַיֹּאמְר֣וּ לֹּ֔א כִּ֥י בָרְח֖וֹב נָלִֽין׃ (ג) וַיִּפְצַר־בָּ֣ם מְאֹ֔ד וַיָּסֻ֣רוּ אֵלָ֔יו וַיָּבֹ֖אוּ אֶל־בֵּית֑וֹ וַיַּ֤עַשׂ לָהֶם֙ מִשְׁתֶּ֔ה וּמַצּ֥וֹת אָפָ֖ה וַיֹּאכֵֽלוּ׃

    (1) The two angels arrived in Sodom in the evening, as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to greet them and, bowing low with his face to the ground, (2) he said, “Please, my lords, turn aside to your servant’s house to spend the night, and bathe your feet; then you may be on your way early.” But they said, “No, we will spend the night in the square.” (3) But he urged them strongly, so they turned his way and entered his house. He prepared a feast for them and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.

  2. (ד) ומצות אפה פֶּסַח הָיָה:

    ומצות אפה AND HE BAKED UNLEAVENED BREAD —It was Passover (Genesis Rabbah 50).

  3. (א) וַיְהִי֙ כִּֽי־זָקֵ֣ן יִצְחָ֔ק וַתִּכְהֶ֥יןָ עֵינָ֖יו מֵרְאֹ֑ת וַיִּקְרָ֞א אֶת־עֵשָׂ֣ו ׀ בְּנ֣וֹ הַגָּדֹ֗ל וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֵלָיו֙ בְּנִ֔י וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֵלָ֖יו הִנֵּֽנִי׃ (ב) וַיֹּ֕אמֶר הִנֵּה־נָ֖א זָקַ֑נְתִּי לֹ֥א יָדַ֖עְתִּי י֥וֹם מוֹתִֽי׃ (ג) וְעַתָּה֙ שָׂא־נָ֣א כֵלֶ֔יךָ תֶּלְיְךָ֖ וְקַשְׁתֶּ֑ךָ וְצֵא֙ הַשָּׂדֶ֔ה וְצ֥וּדָה לִּ֖י צידה [צָֽיִד׃]

    (1) When Isaac was old and his eyes were too dim to see, he called his older son Esau and said to him, “My son.” He answered, “Here I am.” (2) And he said, “I am old now, and I do not know how soon I may die. (3) Take your gear, your quiver and bow, and go out into the open and hunt me some game.

  4. (ג) שא נא לְֹשוֹן הַשְׁחָזָה, כְּאוֹתָהּ שֶׁשָּׁנִינוּ אֵין מַשְׁחִיזִין אֶת הַסַּכִּין, אֲבָל מַשִּׂיאָהּ עַל גַּבֵי חֲבֶרְתָּהּ (ביצה כ"ח), חַדֵּד סַכִּינְךָ וֹּשְחוֹט יָפֶה, שֶׁלֹּא תַאֲכִילֵנִי נְבֵלָה (בראשית רבה):

    (3) שא נא ... Isaac said to Esau, “Sharpen your knife and slaughter an animal according to the regulations so that you may not give me to eat נבלה” (i.e. the flesh of animal that is not killed according to the ritual rules) (Genesis Rabbah 65).

  5. ( עֵ֕קֶב אֲשֶׁר־שָׁמַ֥ע אַבְרָהָ֖ם בְּקֹלִ֑י וַיִּשְׁמֹר֙ מִשְׁמַרְתִּ֔י מִצְוֺתַ֖י חֻקּוֹתַ֥י וְתוֹרֹתָֽי׃

    The LORD had appeared to [Isaac] and said, “... I will be with you and bless you... inasmuch as Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge: My commandments, My laws, and My teachings.”

  6. אמר רב קיים אברהם אבינו כל התורה כולה שנאמר (בראשית כו, ה) עקב אשר שמע אברהם בקולי וגו' א"ל רב שימי בר חייא לרב ואימא שבע מצות הא איכא נמי מילה ואימא שבע מצות ומילה א"ל א"כ מצותי ותורותי למה לי אמר (רב) ואיתימא רב אשי קיים אברהם אבינו אפילו עירובי תבשילין שנאמר תורותי אחת תורה שבכתב ואחת תורה שבעל פה

    Rav said: Avraham Avinu kept the entire Torah, as it is stated in Genesis 26:5, "Since Avraham listened to My Voice..." 

    Rav, or Rav Ashi, said: Avraham Avinu kept even eruvei tavshilin... [that is], he kept both the Written Torah and the Oral Torah...

  7. (ה) וישמור משמרתי לשון רש"י ...משמרתי גזירות להרחקה כגון שניות לעריות שבות לשבת ... חקותי דברים שיצר הרע ועו"ג משיבין עליהם כגון אכילת חזיר ולבישת שעטנז שאין טעם בדבר אלא המלך גזר חקו על עבדיו ותורתי להביא תורה שבעל פה ...ואם כן יהיה כל זה בנוי על דעת שהיה אברהם מקיים ומשמר את התורה עד שלא נתנה ויש לשאול אם כן איך הקים יעקב מצבה (להלן כח יח) ונשא שתי אחיות וכדעת רבותינו (ב"ר עד יא) ארבע ועמרם נשא דודתו (שמות ו כ)...

    והנראה אלי מדעת רבותינו שלמד אברהם אבינו התורה כלה ברוח הקדש ועסק בה ובטעמי מצותיה וסודותיה ושמר אותה כולה כמי שאינו מצווה ועושה ושמירתו אותה היה בארץ בלבד ויעקב בחוצה לארץ נשא האחיות וכן עמרם כי המצות משפט אלהי הארץ הן ...

    ועל דרך הפשט נאמר שיהא משמרתי אמונת האלהות שהאמין בשם המיוחד ושמר משמרת זו בלבו וחלק בה על עובדי העבודה זרה וקרא בשם ה' להשיב רבים לעבודתו מצותי ככל אשר צוהו בלך לך מארצך ועולת בנו וגרישת האמה ואת בנה חקותי ללכת בדרכי השם להיות חנון ורחום ועושה צדקה ומשפט ולצות את בניו ואת ביתו בהם ותורותי המילה בעצמו ובניו ועבדיו ומצות בני נח כלן שהן תורה להם

    (5) And he kept My charge:..."My charge" - precautionary decrees, for example, second degree prohibitions of [marriage between relatives] and the rabbinic prohibitions on Shabbat...My ordinances" - matters which the evil inclination and the idolaters argue against, for example the eating of pig and the wearing of garments made of a mixture of wool and linen (shaatnez) - for which there is no reason but that the King decreed His enactment upon His subjects; "and My laws" - to include [with the written Law also] the Oral Law, [and] the laws [given by God] to Moshe from Sinai. And if so, all [of Rashi's approach here], is built upon the opinion that Avraham observed and kept the Torah before it was given...

    And one can ask, "If so, how did Yaakov set up a pillar (Genesis 28:18), and marry two sisters - and according to the opinion of the rabbis (Bereshit Rabbah 74:11), four sisters; and Amram marry his aunt (Exodus 6:20)...?

    ...what appears to me from the opinion of our rabbis is that Avraham learned the entire Torah from holy inspiration, and was occupied in its [study] and in the reasons for its commandments and its secrets, and he kept all of it as one who is not commanded and does. And his observance of it was only in the Land [of Israel]. And Yaakov married two sisters outside of the Land, and also Amram [was outside the land when he married his aunt], since the commandments are 'the law of the God of the land,'...

    And on the level of the simple meaning, we can say that "My charge" is faith in Divinity, that he believed in the unique God and that he kept this charge in his heart and he differed from the idolaters about it and called in the name of the Lord to bring back many to the service [of God]; "My commandments" is like all that He had commanded him, in 'Go forth from your land,' and with the raising of his son [for a sacrifice] and the sending away of 'the maidservant and her son'; "My ordinances" is going in the ways of God, to be 'graceful and merciful' and 'to do righteousness and justice' and 'to command his children and his household' about [these things]; "and My laws" is circumcision on himself and on his children and servants, and all of the commandments of the Children of Noach, as they are the law to them.

  8. (ה) וישמר משמרתי עשה תמיד המשמרת המיוחדת לי שהיא לגמול חסד כאמרו כל אורחות ה' חסד ואמת ולהורות חטאים בדרך וזה עשה כאשר קרא בשם ה' ושמר גם כן מצותי חקותי ותורתי. שנצטוו בני נח ובכן היה נאה דורש ונאה מקיים כמופת לרבים.

    (5) וישמור משמרתי, he also did the very things which I Myself am in the habit of doing, such as to perform deeds of loving kindness. Also, Avraham warned the potential sinners to improve their ways, something that is of utmost importance to Me. This is what he did every time the Torah records him as קרא בשם ה', “he proclaimed the name of the Lord.” He also observed My revealed commandments מצותי, חוקותי, ותורותי, “the seven laws I laid down for all of mankind.” As a result of all this, he did not only preach to his fellow man but he practiced what he preached. Due to his possessing this virtue he became a model human being for others to emulate.

  9. דהנה מה שאמרו שאברהם קיים את התורה כולה, שבודאי אין הפירוש במעשה המצוות כמו שהן עתה, שזה אי אפשר ברוב מצוות התורה כמובן, מה גם שרובן תלויין ביציאת מצרים, אלא הפירוש אור המצוות, כענין שבזוהר הקדש שיעקב קיים במקלות אשר פצל סוד התפילין, וממנו תקיש אל השאר, ועל דרך זה היה אפשר להם לקיים כל התורה, אך בכלים ולבושים שונים מאשר הם אחר נתינת התורה

    Shem MiShmuel, Parshat Shmini

    When it is said that Avraham kept all of the Torah, this certainly does not mean that he kept them as they are today. For this would be an impossibility for most of the Torah's commandments - for one thing, many of them are dependent upon the Exodus from Egypt. Rather, the explanation is that they kept the "light of the mitzvot"...they did so using different "tools and clothing" than were used after the giving of the Torah...

  10. Menachem HaMeiri, Beit HaBehira, Opening to Tractate Avot

    The phrase, "Avraham kept all of the Torah, including eruvei chatzerot [the laws of eruv and carrying on Shabbat]", alludes to the entirety of Shabbat observance [eruv being seen as the "lightest" of the laws, and therefore certainly the more difficult/important laws were referred to as well]. This is understood to mean the belief in God's creation; ie, the most central and important religious value was understood by Avraham and communicated to his followers. Similarly, the phrase, "Avraham kept all of the Torah, including eruvei tavshilin [the laws of preparing food from Yom Tov to Shabbat]" alludes to the entirety of the holidays (moadim). 

    This indicates that the religious principles of the holidays can be extrapolated from the religious principles of Shabbat. The lessons/values/ideas of the holidays all, in some way, revolved around the exodus from Egypt. And therefore, belief in them leads to belief in religious principles such as reward, punishment, divine intervention, and miracles... all of which follow from the belief in God's creation....

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Source Sheet created on Sefaria by Gabe Greenberg