Ki Tisa: Broken Tablets: An Achievement?

February 23, 2021

When the Torah eulogizes Moses, it mentions the breaking of the Tablets as one of his greatest virtues. Doesn’t that seem ludicrous?

This week’s lesson is dedicated by Rabbi Shmulik & Chaya Mushka Greenberg in memory of their grandfather Rabbi Gershon Mendel Garelik and in honor of – תבלחט”א – their grandmother, Mrs. Bassie Garelik.

A. The Breaking of the Tablets
In this week’s Torah portion, we read how Moses breaks the Tablets when he sees the nation celebrating around the Golden Calf (source 1). We find a surprising reference to this incident at the very end of the Torah, which concludes with the words “before the eyes of all Israel.” Rashi explains that it is a reference to the breaking of the Tablets (source 2). 
The Rebbe cites the final Rashi of the Torah and poses a simple question: Is that really the intention of Torah’s final words? Can the breaking of the Tablets really be considered a virtue? 
B. Defending the People
After the incident of the Golden Calf, G-d commands Moses to fashion a second set of Tablets. Rashi cites an interesting Midrash which compares the story to a king whose bride ended up with unsavory friends. The “bridesman,” in an attempt to protect her from being scrutinized on the level of a member of the king’s family, tore up her marriage agreement (source 3).
What is the meaning behind this parable, the Rebbe asks? Didn’t he appreciate the value and the beauty and Torah? How could he shatter them for the sake of a group of sinners? The answer is that he did so for good reason. It was to defend the people of Israel. Moses surely appreciated the Tablets and everything they represented, but he also understood that his most important task is his connection to the Jewish people. 
He understood that ultimately, the whole purpose of Torah is for the Jewish people (source 4).
C. The Ultimate Virtue
This explains, says the Rebbe, why the Torah ends off with this statement. Indeed, the greatest virtue of Moses was that he was willing to forego the Torah, his very identity, for the sake of his people. This virtue is also notable because it wasn’t a talent he received from G-d. And he did so in public to teach us an everlasting lesson: a true leader is someone who is willing to forego everything for the sake of his people.
In source 5, we read that Moses recognized that his powers came from G-d. This emphasizes the uniqueness of his decision to break the Tablets: it was a personal decision, not something he received from G-d.



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