?Why did Moshe break the Tablets
וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה פְּסָל־לְךָ֛ שְׁנֵֽי־לֻחֹ֥ת אֲבָנִ֖ים כָּרִאשֹׁנִ֑ים וְכָתַבְתִּי֙ עַל־הַלֻּחֹ֔ת אֶת־הַדְּבָרִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר הָי֛וּ עַל־הַלֻּחֹ֥ת הָרִאשֹׁנִ֖ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר שִׁבַּֽרְתָּ׃
“Hashem said to Moses: “Carve two tablets of stone like the first, and I will inscribe upon the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you shattered.”
שבר את הלוחות מאי דריש אמר ומה פסח שהוא אחד מתריג מצות אמרה תורה וכל בן נכר לא יאכל בו התורה כולה [כאן] וישראל משומדים על אחת כמה וכמה ומנלן דהסכים הקדוש ברוך הוא על ידו שנאמר אשר שברת ואמר ריש לקיש יישר כחך ששברת
“And he broke the tablets following the sin of the Golden Calf. What source did he interpret that led him to do so? Moses said: With regard to the Paschal lamb, which is only one of six hundred and thirteen Mitzvot, the Torah stated: “And the Lord said unto Moses and Aaron: This is the ordinance of the Paschal offering; no alien shall eat of it” (Exodus 12:43), referring not only to gentiles, but to apostate Jews as well. Regarding the tablets, which represented the entire Torah, and Israel at that moment were apostates, as they were worshipping the calf, all the more so are they not worthy of receiving the Torah. And from where do we derive that the Holy One, Blessed be He, agreed with his reasoning? As it is stated: “The first tablets which you broke [asher shibarta]” (Exodus 34:1), and Reish Lakish said: The word asher is an allusion to the phrase: May your strength be true [yishar koḥakha] due to the fact that you broke the tablets.”
2. Hidden Wisdom
Midrash Rabbah 46
: וְיַגֶּד לְךָ תַּעֲלֻמוֹת חָכְמָה, אַתָּה מוֹצֵא בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁאָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא (שמות לב, ז): לֶךְ רֵד כִּי שִׁחֵת עַמְּךָ, הָיָה תּוֹפֵס בַּלּוּחוֹת וְלֹא הָיָה מַאֲמִין שֶׁחָטְאוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל, אָמַר אִם אֵינִי רוֹאֶה אֵינִי מַאֲמִין..
הִתְחִיל מִצְטַעֵר עַל שִׁבּוּר הַלּוּחוֹת, וְאָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אַל תִּצְטָעֵר בַּלּוּחוֹת הָרִאשׁוֹנוֹת, שֶׁלֹא הָיוּ אֶלָּא עֲשֶׂרֶת הַדִּבְּרוֹת לְבָד, וּבַלּוּחוֹת הַשְּׁנִיִּים אֲנִי נוֹתֵן לְךָ שֶׁיְהֵא בָהֶם הֲלָכוֹת מִדְרָשׁ וְאַגָּדוֹת, הֲדָא הוּא דִכְתִיב: וְיַגֶּד לְךָ תַּעֲלֻמוֹת חָכְמָה כִּי כִפְלַיִם לְתוּשִׁיָּה, וְלֹא עוֹד, אֶלָּא שֶׁאַתָּה מְבֻשָֹּׂר שֶׁמָּחַלְתִּי לְךָ עַל חַטָּיָה שֶׁלְּךָ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (איוב יא, ו): וְדַע כִּי יַשֶּׁה לְךָ אֱלוֹהַּ מֵעֲוֹנֶךָ.
“He started feeling bad that he broken the tablets, G-d told him: Do not feel bad about the first tablets, for they only contained the ten commandments, however in the second tablets i will give you, that they will have Halcaha Midrash and Agadah, this is what is said: (Job 11): i will tell you hidden wisdom for it shall be double comforting.”
עירובין נ״ד א:י״ט-כ׳
וא"ר (אליעזר) מאי דכתיב (שמות לב, טז) חרות על הלוחות אלמלי לא נשתברו לוחות הראשונות לא נשתכחה תורה מישראל רב אחא בר יעקב אמר אין כל אומה ולשון שולטת בהן שנאמר חרות אל תיקרי חרות אלא חירות
“..And, lastly, Rabbi Eliezer said: What is the meaning of that which is written: “And the tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved upon the tablets” (Exodus 32:16)? This teaches that had the first tablets, the subject of this verse, not been broken, the Torah would never have been forgotten from the Jewish people, as the Torah would have been engraved upon their hearts. Rav Aḥa bar Ya’akov said: Had the tablets not been broken, no nation or tongue would ever have ruled over them, as it is stated: “Engraved”; do not read it engraved [ḥarut] but rather freedom -ḥeirut.”]
G-d desires the human effort
Rambam Introduction to the Mishnah 2:1-26
Know that each commandment that the Holy One, blessed be He, gave to Moshe, our teacher – peace be upon him – was given to him with its explanation. He would say to him the commandment and afterward tell him its explanation and content; and [so too with] everything that is included in the Book of the Torah. And the manner of its teaching to Israel is as it is said in Eruvin 54b.
Malbim on Exodus 34:1:1
Carve out two stone tablets: If the first tablets had not been broken, those who studied Torah would never forget what they had learned. The Divinely fashioned tablets paralleled the angelic level of the Israelites themselves and the writing upon them symbolized the Divine word engraved upon their hearts. After the sin, however, just as the Israelites returned to the level of ordinary human beings, so were the second tablets of human origin. Nevertheless, God commanded Moshe to carve them himself, knowing that in his saintliness he would prepare them properly to receive the holy script.
רש"י על דברים ל״ד:י״ב:ג׳ לעיני כל ישראל. שנשאו לבו לשבור הלוחות לעיניהם, שנאמר וָאֲשַׁבְּרֵם לְעֵינֵיכֶם (דברים ט, יז), והסכימה דעת הקב"ה לדעתו, שנאמר אֲשֶׁר שִׁבַּרְתָּ (שמות לד, א), יישר כחך ששברת (שבת פז):
לעיני כל ישראל WHICH MOSES SHOWED] BEFORE THE EYES OF ALL ISRAEL — This refers to the fact that his heart inspired him to shatter the Tablets before their eyes, as it is said, (Deuteronomy 9:17) “And I broke them before your eyes” (Sifrei Devarim 357:45), and the opinion of the Holy One, blessed be He, regarding this action agreed with his opinion, as it is stated that God said of the Tablets, (Exodus 34:1) אשר שברת "Which you have broken", [which implies] "May your strength be fitting (יישר; an expression of thanks and congratulation) because you have broken them" (Yevamot 62a; Shabbat 87a)
F. R. Yitzhak Arama, Akeidat Yitzhak, 15th century Spain
Why didn’t God sculpt the second tablets, the way He sculpted the first ones? Because that which is totally Divine is not sustainable in the hands of humans. Therefor the first tablets, which were “made by God and written by God”, were not sustainable. Therefore God told Moses “sculpt [the second Tablets] for yourself” – you make them and I will shape them, thus retaining
both the shape and image of the first ones, but these will be sustainable.”
Broken Tablets are also placed in the Arc
בבא בתרא י״ד ב:כ״ח-ל׳
דתני רב יוסף (דברים י, ב) אשר שברת ושמתם מלמד שהלוחות ושברי לוחות מונחין בארון
Bava Batra 14b:6
Rabbi Joseph learned: [The verse states: “the tablets] that you broke and put them” (Deuteronomy 10): [the juxtaposition of these words] teaches us that the tablets as well as the broken pieces of the tablets were placed in the Ark.”
Reshit Hokhma, R. Eliyahu deVidash, Gate of Holiness 16th C Kabbalistic
The Zohar teaches that the human heart is the Ark. And it is known that in the Ark were stored both the Tablets and the Broken Tablets. Similarly, a person’s heart must be full of Torah… and similarly, a person’s heart must be a broken heart, a beaten heart, so that it can serve as a home for the Shekhina. For the Shekhina [divine presence] only dwells in broken vessels, which are the poor, whose heart is a broken and beaten heart. And whoever has a haughty heart propels the Shekhina from him, as it says “God detests those of haughty hearts”.
Kabbalah of the Broken Tablets
זוהר א׳:י״ב ב:ד׳
לְמִלְעֵי בְּאוֹרַיְיתָא וּלְאִשְׁתַּדָּלָא בָהּ וּלְאַפָּשָׁא לָהּ בְּכָל יוֹמָא לְתַקְּנָא נַפְשֵׁיהּ וְרוּחֵיהּ.
“To profusely speak the Torah and to exert effort in understanding and expounding in it each day, in order to fix one’s soul and spirit”. To be expanded upon in class…
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