Broken Tablets, Broken Souls


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Rabbi YY Jacobson

Moses Shattered the Tablets and then Redefined the Meaning of Brokenness

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"The simple reading of the story goes like this: After the Jews created a Golden Calf, Moses smashed the stone tablets created by G-d, engraved with the Ten Commandments. Moses and G-d then ""debated"" the appropriate response to this transgression and it was decided that if the people would truly repent, G-d would give them a second chance. Moses hewed a second set of stone tablets; G-d engraved them also with the Ten Commandments, and Moses gave them to the Jewish people." "Yet a few major questions come to mind. 1. Moses, outraged by the sight of a golden calf erected by the Jews as a deity, smashed the stone tablets. He apparently felt that the Jews were undeserving of them, and that it would be inappropriate to give them this Divine gift. But why did Moses have to break and shatter the heavenly tablets? Moses could have hidden them or returned them to their heavenly maker?" "This seems strange. Why would they place the broken tablets in the Holy of Holies? After all, these fragments were a constant reminder of the great moral failure of the Jewish people. Why not just disregard them, or deposit them in a safe isolated place?" "2. The rabbis teach us that ""The whole tablets and the broken tablets nestled inside the Ark of the Covenant."" The Jews proceeded to gather the broken fragments of the first set of tablets and had them stored in the Ark, in the Tabernacle, together with the second whole tablets. Both sets of tablets were later taken into the Land of Israel and kept side by side in the Ark, situated in the Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem." "3. In its eulogy for Moses, the Torah chooses this episode of smashing the tablets as the highlight and climax of Moses’ achievements. Why does the Torah choose this tragic and devastating episode to capture the zenith of Moses’ life and as the theme with which to conclude the entire Torah, all five books of Moses?! " "This class, using as a springboard two seemingly superfluous words in Eikev, will examine this entire episode from a deeper vantage point. It tells the story of all forms of brokenness in the human journey."

In English

Devarim-Eikev Shame
eikev, shame
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