Torah Portion: Ki Sisah Exodus 30:11 – 34:35
The Tablets that contained the Ten Commandments are discussed in this week’s Parsha.
Moshe descended Mount Sinai with sapphire Tablets that originated in the Heavens. The Torah describes the script as, “engraved with G-d’s finger.” This script was miraculous, for even though it was carved through and through, its words appeared in an orderly fashion on both sides of the stones.
The size of each stone was 6 handbreadths wide, by 6 handbreadths high and its thickness was 3 handbreadths. Needless to say it was humanly impossible to lift these stones without the assistance of G-d.
Although the Tablets contained the Ten Commandments, all 613 Mitzvos of the Torah were encoded in them. There is a hint to this; there are 620 letters in the Tablets, 613 represent the Torah ordained Mitzvos and the remaining seven letters represent either the 7 Rabbinically instituted laws, such as blessings before we eat or perform Mitzvos, Shabbos candlelighting etc. The seven additional letters can also represent the Seven Noachide laws that all the Nations of the world were commanded to keep at Mount Sinai.
If all had gone as planned and the Tablets that originated from Heaven would have remained in-tact, the Nation would have gone directly into Israel and every Jew would have lived eternally with life being peaceful and euphoric with spiritual bliss.
However, while Moshe was in Heaven for forty days to receive and deliver the actual Tablets, some people miscalculated the time of his return and they created and worshiped an idol – the golden calf.
Upon witnessing the levity associated with the worship of the golden calf, Moshe threw down the Tablets and they shattered at the foot of the mountain.
How could Moshe shatter a substance that had G-d’s name etched into it? Isn’t it forbidden to erase G-d’s name? Our Sages teach us that Moshe was able to carry the heavy stones because the writing of G-d was etched into the stone. When Moshe witnessed the sin, G-d withdrew the holy script from the stones and the actual weight returned to the stones so that Moshe then threw them down.
Moshe returned to the Heavens to plead to G-d to forgive the Jewish Nation. This was a difficult task and it took forty days. When G-d indicated that He was willing to forgive, Moshe returned and pleaded with the nation to repent.
At that point G-d told Moshe to bring to the Heavens sapphire stones that originated from earth and He would engrave the Ten Commandments upon them.
Moshe actually found sapphire stones in his personal tent which he then cut to size. After returning to the Heavens with them and remaining there for another forty days, Moshe returned and descended Mount Sinai with the second set of Tablets inscribed with the ‘finger’ of G-d, indicating that G-d forgave the nation for the sin. That calendar date became forever synonymous with atonement – for it was the 10th day of Tishrei – Yom Kippur.
Both the shattered pieces of the original Ten Commandments and the second full set were placed in the Ark of Testimony which was housed in the Holy of Holies of the Temple.
Reb Yisroel Salanter asks, “I can understand why Moshe threw the first Tablet that contained the laws of Belief in G-d and not to serve idols, for these commandments were violated, but why did Moshe smash the second tablet which hosts five commands that pertain to man and his fellow man? After all, they weren’t violated.”
Reb Yisroel explains that at first Moshe did consider throwing down just the one tablet, but then it occurred to him that the only way that the commands between man and his fellow man can be fulfilled if there is recognition that there are commands that we have between man and G-d. Although the two sets of laws are hosted on separate stones – what is written on both stones are indivisible. Moshe therefore shattered both stones.
G-d was elated that Moshe broke the Tablets, and gave him a “Yasher Koach” for doing so. For had Moshe not broken the Tablets, G-d would have immediately wiped us out, and because of Moshe’s bold actions, cajoling and prayers – we remain His Forever!
Over the past twenty-four years, I’ve had the privilege to dispense Torah ideas through publishing the Shabbat Shalom Message. This week we complete our twenty-fourth cycle of messages!
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Thank you Hashem for everything!