At the time of the Giving of the Torah to the Israelites at Mount Sinai,
G-d also offered the Torah to other nations. We see this in the verse:
"And [the L-rd] rose to them from Seir, He shone forth from Mount Paran"
(Deuteronomy 33:2). Our Sages recalled that before G-d gave the
Torah to the Jewish people, he offered it to the children of Esau (Seir)
and Ishmael (Paran), but they did not want it.
(This does not mean only Esau and Ishmael, but all the Gentile nations. The reason that Esau and Ishmael are specifically mentioned is because they represent all the nations of the world in contrast to the Jewish nation.)
Why would G-d offer the Torah to the other nations when there are no
events before this to indicate that G-d had any other plans than to
give the Torah to Jews? The progression in the Bible is that G-d narrows
down His choices until He picks the Jews as His "chosen people."
Furthermore, G-d knows the future, so He knew that the Gentiles would
refuse the Torah at that time. He knew that the nature of the world is
to reject the many irrational features that the Torah imposes.
We must conclude that G-d's offer to Esau and Ishmael was not to
actually give them the Torah. The offer must have been for another
One purpose that this offer accomplished was that Esau and Ishmael
(and the rest of the nations) would never be able to have a complaint or claim against
G-d about why He did not give them the Torah. If they were to advance such
a claim, G-d answers them that He did offer the Torah to their ancestors and they
However, this answer infers that G-d's offer to the Gentiles was for a
negative purpose — countering a possible claim. There must have been
something more, some POSITIVE achievement.
As indeed there was. Maimonides writes that "Moses was commanded
by the word of G-d to convince all peoples to observe the commandments
that were commanded to Noah's children . . . for G-d has commanded
them so in the Torah, and He let it be known through Moses our teacher."
This will be fulfilled during the Messianic redemption when
"I will turn all people to a pure language . . . to serve Him with one
Even now, in exile, Jews are commanded to influence Gentiles to keep
the Seven Noahide Commandments.
Our assumption until now was that Gentiles do not have a connection
Furthermore, we know that the Israelites needed 49 (or 50) days of
preparation in order to receive the Torah. Accordingly, Gentiles also
need preparation in order to connect to the Torah. So even if we grant that
the Seven Commandments are the part of the Torah for Gentiles, how are
they supposed to observe them without preparation?
The answer is that G-d prepared the non-Jewish world for the Torah by
approaching them. This is the purpose of offering the Torah to the
Gentile nations. The Divine offer served to prepare Gentiles to observe
their Seven Commandments and to accept the efforts of Jews to
influence them in this direction.
Unlike human speech, G-d's "speech" is considered as done. The
mere offering of the Torah was enough to prepare them for their connection to the Torah.
— from His Holiness, Grand Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe
the night of Simchat Torah, 5742 (Fall 1981)
Adapted by Nathaniel Segal from a transcription and translation by the Rebbe's students
[See Toras Menachem Hisva'aduyos 5742, Volume 1 (Brooklyn, New York: Lahak Hanochos, 1990), pp. 223-4]