AGADAH: As a punishment for not properly carrying out his charge, the angel
Gavriel was punished by being lashed with "sixty bursts of fire." We find in
other places that this punishment was administered to angels (see, for
example, Chagigah 15a; Bava Metzia 85b ). Why sixty lashes?
There is an opinion in the Rishonim that when the Rabanan administer
Rabbinic Malkus ("Makos Mardus"), only 13 lashes are administered instead of
the usual 39 (TASHBETZ 2:51 citing Rashi in Yevamos 52a; SHILTEI GIBORIM on
the Mordecai at the end of Perek Yesh Nochalim citing Rabeinu Tam). The
TERUMAS HA'DESHEN, in his Bi'urim on the Torah, end of Parshas Ki Tetze
(cited by the BACH on the Rif, Kesuvos ch.4 p. 16b, see also MAGEN AVRAHAM
496:2) explains this opinion as follows. The Mishnah in Makos (22a-b)
describes the thirty-nine lashes of the Torah's Malkus as three sets of
thirteen lashes, two struck on the person's back and one on his chest. This
means, explains the Terumas ha'Deshen, that the actual number of lashes that
ought to be administered are but thirteen, corresponding to the first
thirteen years of a person's life, during which he matures and is expected
to learn to make the proper decisions. If he fails to learn and sins, he is
punished with thirteen lashes. However, as an added fine the Torah
prescribes two more sets of 13 lashes on two other parts of his body. (One
set of lashes is given opposite his heart, which is where his thoughts
originate, and two sets are given opposite his two kidneys, which counsel
the body what to do.) The Rabanan do not have the right to add two extra
sets of lashes, since their prohibitions are themselves added "fines" or
restrictions, and we do not impose one fine on top of another fine.
Therefore, for an Isur d'Rabanan only thirteen lashes are administered.
A similar logic, continues the Terumas ha'Deshen, is followed with angelic
lashes. Although a person becomes accountable to the worldly court by the
age of 13, he is not accountable with regard to punishments at the hand of
the "heavenly court" until he is 20 years old (Shabbos 89b). Because of
this, when the heavenly court administers justice, it is in the form of 20
lashes, repeated three times (like the lashes of the worldly courts) for a
total of sixty lashes.