We know that the neshama is divided into 5 parts. Yalkut Reuveni (Bereishis, p. 58) expounds upon this. He quotes the following from the Kabalistic Sefer Zivchei Shalamim:
The neshama has nefesh, ruach, neshama, chaya and yechida as its five parts. They are listed from smallest to greatest and each holiday allows us to access more of our soul. They correspond to five partzufim and to the five kabbalistic hints made up of the 4-letter name of Hashem (Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey) and the kutzo shel yud of the first yud.
- On chol hamoed and during the mussaf of Rosh Chodesh we access nefesh.
- On yom tov we get ruach
- On yom kippur we get neshama
- On Shabbos we get chaya
- In olam habah we will achieve yechida.
This teaches us the significance of each day and each yom tov as it helps us develop our spiritual landscape.
When Moshe went up to Sinai to get the Torah the angels challenged him and did not want to let him take it down. Yalkut Reuveni brings down from Galei Razah (quoting Socher Tov) that Moshe told the angels, “did the Jews sin with eating milk and meat as you did at Avraham’s house?” This refers to the simple reading of the verse that describes the 3 people, who according to the midrash were the angels Gavriel, Michael and Refael, who visited Avraham and ate meat and butter. Thus, they had sinned. But what is the significance?
What is interesting is that the midrash says that when Yaakov had his vision at the ladder he saw those exact angels. They told him that because they had told Avraham, “mashchisim anachnu, we are destroying (Sedom), taking credit for Hashem’s actions, they were banished from heaven for 130 years and were now finally able to ascend to go back up the ladder. What does this mean and why were they only punished for this and not for doing the wrong of eating milk and meat as mentioned above?
The prohibition of milk and meat being enjoyed together is mentioned three times in the Torah. We learn out many laws from this, but the Mechiltah adds a curious layer to the equation. Mechiltah comments that these three occurrences correspond to the three covenants which the Jews made with Hashem in acceptance of His Torah and mitzvos. The three times were: Sinai, Arvos Moav and Har Gerizim. What is the connection between accepting to follow the Torah and the prohibition of milk and meat? The two seemingly have nothing to do with each other?!
To explain this we must understand the prohibition of basar b’chalav, milk and meat, more deeply. It is important to stress that this prohibition is a chok, a law whose reasoning and logic cannot be grasped by human comprehension. We adhere to it solely because Hashem commanded us to do so. However, many commentators offer partial lessons which we can learn from this chok. They are thoughts hinting to ethics, not full explanations, because it is unexplainable.
The following thought is based on my understanding of how the Ralbag explains a lesson which can be derived from this law. It is both fascinating and relevant. Imagine that you visit your dear mother and she has prepared for you your favorite caramel cheese cake! As you sit and savor a piece, she asks if you could please be so kind as to take out the garbage when you get a chance… Now imagine the following two outcomes and note which one is more disturbing.
Scenario A: You adamantly refuse to perform the requested chore and do not take out the trash. Scenario B: You refuse to take out the garbage and instead you take the remainder of her delicious cheese cake and smash it into her face, cream first, in protest! Obviously, the first option is inappropriate, but the second response is unbelievably terrible and horrifying. You used her cake, which she lovingly made for you, against her!
Similarly, when one takes the milk of a mother cow, which she provided you with to enjoy, and one uses it to cook her little baby with, one is performing this same horrible act! Now, the Torah allows us to eat both milk or meat, separately, so what is the depth here? Here is the punch line: The Ribbono Shel Olam provides us with a body and put us on this earth to earn perfection and greatness. He gives us the ability to act and to move. Every time that we perform a sin, we are taking the exact gift of our body and life, which Hashem gave us so lovingly, and using it against Him! We are figuratively smashing a pie into His face! This is the ultimate insurgence!
These words are powerful and quite enlightening! This, says the Ralbag, is a small lesson that is partially hinted at by the prohibition of cooking milk and meat together. On a positive note: Firstly, when we sin, we certainly do not intend to spite Hashem, rather we are overcome with desire and surely Hashem understands this. One should not linger in guilt for his sins, rather, he should use this parable to inspire him to be more careful.
Secondly, we now have an answer to our original quandary as to how milk and meat relates to the three covenants of the Torah. The lesson is one of gratitude. If the person in our above scenario would have contemplated how much his mother does for him, his heart would have been filled with love and gratitude. He would have ran to assist her in any way possible. So too, when one realizes how much Hashem does for him, cares for him and provides him with, he will become inspired to follow Hashem lovingly and faithfully. He will have gratitude and appreciation and this will inspire him to renew his commitment to the will of Hashem. He will, in short, excitedly accept to follow the Torah and mitzvos! This, I believe, is the connection between the ban on milk and meat and the three covenants we made with Hashem, they signify gratitude and service!
The angels ate milk and meat at Avraham’s tent. This sin was one of insolence and making a statement that they do not appreciate that which Hashem does for them. It was the same sin as them taking credit for the destruction of Sedom, which caused them to be banished from Heaven until they repented. Moshe won his argument with the angels because he showed them that when you go down to earth you have challenges and you need the Torah to help you overcome them. Shavuos celebrates the power which Hashem has bestowed us with. We can learn Torah, become elevated and use its lessons to live a life connected to Hashem and greatness.