Midrash מִדְרָשׁ

Midrashim are ideas or stories that explain the Torah. They often come from listening very carefully to what the Torah says and how it says it. Here, we will look for what clues this midrash sees in the Torah's words, and try to understand its messages.
At the end of our parashah, Moshe goes up הַר סִינַי (Har Sinai, Mount Sinai) to receive the לֻחוֹת (luhot, tablets) from God. Here’s a midrash that imagines what the angels had to say about this event.
וְאָמַר רַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן לֵוִי: בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁעָלָה מֹשֶׁה לַמָּרוֹם
אָמְרוּ מַלְאֲכֵי הַשָּׁרֵת לִפְנֵי הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא:
רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם, מַה לִּילוּד אִשָּׁה בֵּינֵינוּ?
אָמַר לָהֶן: לְקַבֵּל תּוֹרָה בָּא.
אָמְרוּ לְפָנָיו: ...מְבַקֵּשׁ לִיתְּנָהּ לְבָשָׂר וָדָם?
...אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְמֹשֶׁה: הַחְזֵיר לָהֶן תְּשׁוּבָה...
אָמַר לְפָנָיו: רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם, תּוֹרָה שֶׁאַתָּה נוֹתֵן לִי מָה כְּתִיב בָּהּ? ״אָנֹכִי ה׳ אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתִיךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם״.
אָמַר לָהֶן: לְמִצְרַיִם יְרַדְתֶּם? לְפַרְעֹה הִשְׁתַּעְבַּדְתֶּם? תּוֹרָה לָמָּה תְּהֵא לָכֶם?!
...שׁוּב: מָה כְּתִיב בָּהּ? ״זָכוֹר אֶת יוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת לְקַדְּשׁוֹ״ — כְּלוּם אַתֶּם עוֹשִׂים מְלָאכָה, שֶׁאַתֶּם צְרִיכִין שְׁבוּת?
...שׁוּב: מָה כְּתִיב בָּהּ? ״כַּבֵּד אֶת אָבִיךָ וְאֶת אִמֶּךָ״ — אָב וָאֵם יֵשׁ לָכֶם?
מִיָּד הוֹדוּ לוֹ לְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא.
Said Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi: When Moshe went up to the heavens
the angels said to God: Master of the Universe, what is a human doing up here with us?
God said to them: He came to receive the Torah.
The angels replied: ...You want to give the Torah to human beings?!
...God said to Moshe: You answer them...
Moshe said to God: Master of the world. Doesn’t the Torah You are giving me say “I am God, Who took you out of Egypt”?
Moshe said to the angels: “Did you go down to Egypt? Were you enslaved to Pharaoh? Why should the Torah be yours?!
...What else is written in it? “Remember the Shabbat day to sanctify it”—do you do work so that you need Shabbat?
...What else is written in it? “Honor your father and your mother”—do you even have a father or a mother?”
Immediately the angels agreed with the Holy One.
  • Why did God tell Moshe, “You answer them”? Why didn’t God explain God’s reasoning?
  • Try to act out this midrash! Get into character, and argue both the angels’ side and Moshe’s side.
  • In this story, we see Moshe’s arguments based on three of the עֲשֶׂרֶת הַדִּבְּרוֹת (Aseret Ha-Dibrot, Ten Commandments). Can you think of arguments that Moshe could have made to the angels from the other seven dibrot? (See Shemot 20:1-14.)