Why Didn't Hashem Promise the Avos the Torah?

Real questions, submitted by actual OU Torah followers, with their real answers. NOTE: For questions of practical halacha, please consult your own rabbi for guidance.

Q. I was wondering if you could answer a question. We find in Chumash Bereishis that Hashem promises the Avos that their children will be numerous like the stars in the sky and that Hashem will give them Eretz Yisroel. Why is there no mention that Hashem will give them the Torah? Isn't that the foundation of Bnei Yisroel and what the Avos were striving for? Thanks for your help.

A. Thanks for your very interesting question. To be honest, I never thought about it before but I'm thinking about it now and I think it was already implicit to Avraham that Hashem would ultimately make His will manifest to Avraham's descendants.

We have a tradition that Avraham and his descendants (at least through Yaakov's sons) kept the mitzvos voluntarily. This is based on Genesis 26:5, "Avraham listened to My voice and kept My charge: My commandments, My laws and My teachings," from which we see that Avraham was able to intuit Hashem's will and to implement it.

One might ask then why Avraham didn't circumcise himself until God actually commanded him to do so. The answer is actually quite simple: there's a prohibition against self-harm. Avraham was not permitted to injure himself through voluntary circumcision; he needed to be commanded to do so, which happened.

We see from this that the Avos already knew that Hashem had a plan, which they implemented as best they could, secure in the knowledge that, as with circumcision (and later, yibum and gid hanasheh), it would ultimately be made a formal covenant with their descendants.

I hope this helps!

Rabbi Jack's latest book, Ask Rabbi Jack, is now available from Kodesh Press and on Amazon.com.