The Midrash says that our forefathers, Avraham, Yizhak & Yaakov, fulfilled all of the 613 Mitzvot of the Torah, of their own initiative, through their own intuition.
קיימו האבות את התורה, אפילו עירובי תבשילים.
Our fathers fulfilled the Torah – even Eruvey Tavshilin! (which is a decree of our Sages, obviously at a much later age).
I must admit that deep at heart it had always seemed to me that this saying was due to our Sages’ inability to support the idea that our holy fathers could be in any way inferior to us – even if only in that circumstance that it was us who received the Torah and not them.
But it just dawned on me that it’s quite the other way round!
It is not they who fulfill our Torah, but it us who fulfill their’s. And if it weren’t for their Torah, we would have had none.
Because the 613 Mitzvot of the Torah are but a manifestation of our fathers’ spiritual achievements, which they have transmitted to us in our genes, and which just await awakening by our rendezvous with the Torah.
That’s what learning the Torah is all about!
So it had to be that they observed all of the Mitzvot, and that and only that was the source for our observing it.
A little thought for the upcoming Chag of Shavuot/Matan-Torah…
Insight inspired by Harav Kook z”zl מאורות הראי”ה שבועות