ט״ז בטבת ה׳תשע״ג (December 29, 2012)

Shabbat 87a-b: Smashing the Tablets

As we learned on yesterday’s daf Moshe added a day of preparation prior to the giving of the Torah. The baraita that teaches this adds two other things that Moshe did on his own.

Moshe did three things based on his own perception, and the Holy One, Blessed be He, agreed with him. He added one day to the days of separation before the revelation at Sinai based on his own perception. And he totally separated from his wife after the revelation at Sinai. And he broke the tablets following the sin of the Golden Calf.

The Gemara explains how Moshe could have broken the Tablets as follows:

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” (Shemot 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]” (Shemot 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.

The proof from the words, “which you broke” is merely a support for the conclusion but not an absolute proof. There are several instances in the Bible where the word asher is not interpreted as approval. Some commentaries explain that the conclusion that God agreed with Moses is drawn from the fact that God mentioned the breaking of the Tablets without anger (Rashi). Alternatively, God’s agreement can be ascertained from His later command that Moses store the broken Tablets in the Ark. He would not have commanded Moses to do so had they been associated with an infraction that incurred God’s disapproval (Rashbam).

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