We refer to Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaacov as our forefathers and their wives, Sara, Rivka, Rochel and Leah as our matriarchs.
Avraham spread monotheism to the world and was the paradigm of Chesed. His son Yitzchok was the epitome of service to G-d and Yaacov was exemplary in being focused on the study of Torah.
The Mishna in Ethics of our Fathers teaches us that these three ideals, Torah, Avoda – service to G-d and Gemilus Chasadim – Chesed, which our forefathers personified, are the pillars of which the world stands upon.
The Talmud teaches us that Torah existed prior to creation. G-d in fact used the Torah as the code and blueprint for the creation of the world. Therefore, although Torah was not given in its actuality until much later in time, the concepts of Torah did exist – in a spiritual realm. Our forefathers, raised themselves to a lofty spiritual level enabling them to peer into the universe and tap into the Torah/blueprint that was used to create the world, and were thus able to gather, understand and observe the laws of the Torah.
The Ben Ish Chai – Rabbi Yosef Chaim the Rabbi of Baghdad in the early 1900’s brings up an interesting matter. Why wasn’t the Torah given immediately to our forefathers? Why did G-d wait to give it to us forthrightly at Mount Sinai some 500 years after Avraham was born?
The Ben Ish Chai explains; had G-d given the Torah to our forefathers, the Satan represented by our evil inclination would have had a perfect opportunity to present the following alibi to be lax or reject its observance within the minds of the common folk to be lax or reject its observance. The little voice could say, “You know, Torah is an intense spiritual fire and it is impossible for a human being to handle it and fulfill its commands. Those great individuals, your forefathers and ho accepted the Torah were able to handle it, but it is not for the masses – the ordinary people like you.” The voice would further reason , “You know, your forefathers, they were pure and holy, they were angel-like, and able to handle the holy Torah. Take for example, Avraham was 100 years old when he had his beloved son Yitzchok, and when G-d instructed him to sacrifice his son, he went with joy to fulfill His word. If G-d wouldn’t have told Avraham to stop he would have done it. Look at Avraham’s son Yitzchok, he was ready to be sacrificed! Can a regular person be able to do such a thing? The Torah was given to such holy people, not to you.”
The voice will turn its attention to the pure, holy and saintly Yaacov and his experiences and say, “He is not from this world – he was able to handle the Torah but not for you!”
Says the Ben Ish Chai, for this reason, G-d did not formally give the Torah to our forefathers – He only enabled them to figure it out on their own.
G-d specifically waited to give His Torah to the nation who were enslaved in Egypt for 210 years and at the time of freedom they were on the lowest possible levels of spirituality.
These 600,000 adult men plus women and children gathered at Mount Sinai a short 50 days after exiting Egypt and in unison – without a single detractor – accepted the totality of Torah. Not one of the said it is or will be too hard. Each person understood that Torah is a Divinely spiritual fire and it consists of many commands – yet they all agreed and accepted the Torah despite being ordinary people. They each understood that they themselves and future offspring had the inner ability to uphold the Torah under all circumstances.
The Ben Ish Chai concludes that G-d did not formally give the Torah to our great forefathers so that the Satan who is fixed on veering us off the spiritual track, has no substance in claiming that Torah was only given to the angel-like people. Rather, G-d waited to give the Torah to the entire nation and entrusted and commissioned the entire gamut of His Nation with upholding the Torah. From that point on, every Jew ever to exist was invested with the confidence and assurance that he or she has the ability and strength to follow, discover, observe and recognize the profundity and beauty of our Holy Torah!