Likkutei Sichos-Vezos Habracha: Why was Moshe congratulated for destroying the Luchos

Parshas Vezos Habrcha

Why was Moshe congratulated for destroying the Luchos

(Likkutei Sichos Vezos Habracha Vol. 9 Sicha 2)

Parshas Vezos Habracha is the last Parsha of the Torah, and as should be expected, should conclude with a most magnificent message. Strangely, although the conclusion of the Torah speaks of the praises of Moshe and how great of a prophet he was, its final words hint to a most tragic event that occurred with Moshe and seemingly does not speak of his honor nor the honor of the Jewish people. The last words of the Torah are, “Asher Asah Moshe Leiyneiy Kol Yisrael/that Moshe performed in front of the eyes of all Israel.” Rashi, based on the Midrash, explains that this refers to the breaking of the tablets by Moshe which took place in front of all the Jewish people as a result of the sin of the golden calf. Now, why would the Torah conclude with such a negative event? Isn’t it most inappropriate to conclude the Torah, which represents its complete state, with the discussion of its initial destruction? Isn’t it most inappropriate for a Parsha whose entire content is dedicated to praising and blessing the Jewish people, to conclude with a most embarrassing event and sin committed by the Jewish people? So, in truth, the answer to this mystery can be found in the concluding words of the Midrash which states that G-d congratulated Moshe for having broken the tablets. Why was Moshe congratulated for doing so, and why is this of significance to be mentioned in the conclusion of Scripture? The Rebbe explains that in truth the breaking of the tablets was not only a righteous decision done by Moshe, but actually reveals the greatness of the Jewish people and shows how their entire sin of the golden calf was influenced by G-d for the sake of the meriting the advantage found in the second tablets which was given after the repentance of the Jewish people. The parting lesson derived from this final scriptural verse of the Torah is that one should not be intimidated by spiritual and physical setbacks, and know that although they may come, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel, and with the effort, they can merit a light that is even greater than the light that they experienced prior to entering the tunnel.

 

Explorations of the Sicha:

1.      Why does the last verse in the Torah conclude with discussing the breaking of the tablets?

2.      Why did G-d congratulate Moshe for breaking the tablets?

3.      How was the breaking of the tablets of advantage to the Jewish people?

4.      Was G-d an accomplice to the sin of the golden calf?

 

1. Why does the Torah conclude with negativity, mentioning Moshe’s breaking of the tablets?

The concluding verse of the Torah states:[1] “Asher Asah Moshe Leiyneiy Kol Yisrael/that Moshe performed in front of the eyes of all Israel.” Rashi, based on the Sifri, explains that this refers to the breaking of the tablets by Moshe which took place in front of all the Jewish people. Now, the obvious question that is raised against this conclusion is as to why the Torah would choose to end Scripture with such a negative occurrence which is noted for its infamy in the words of our sages? Furthermore, the concluding verses of the Torah serve to eulogize Moshe and his great level of holiness and piety as both a leader and a prophet. Why then would the breaking of the tablets by Moshe be mentioned as part of his positive actions and traits. To understand this, we must first examine the commentary of Rashi.

2. The breaking of the tablets was done out of respect for the Torah:

Rashi states as follows: “Moshe decided in his heart to break the tablets in front of the Jewish people and G-d consented to his actions, as the verse states “Asher Shibarta,” which means to say Yasher Koach/congratulations that you broke it.”

Now, as to why Moshe decided to break the tablets, Rashi explains based on the Talmud[2] that this was because of the following argument that he told himself: The law is that a person who is a heretic may not eat from the Passover lamb. Now, if a heretic cannot even participate in the single command of eating the Passover lamb, how may he be eligible in receiving the entire Torah? Therefore, Moshe went ahead and broke the tablets.

Accordingly, Moshe’s breaking of the tablets was an act of honoring the Torah so that it is not given over to heretics. Based on this, one can argue and say that this is the reason that Scripture concludes with this point, as it is all part of the praise of Moshe and how much he honored G-d and His Torah.

3. The breaking of the tablets was actually of great advantage for the Jewish people:

The issue with the above explanation is that although the breaking of the tablets may be in praise of Moshe, it is certainly not praiseworthy of the Jewish people. Why then would Scripture conclude with the reminiscing of such a derogatory event such as the sin of the golden calf, and the state of heresy of the Jewish people, simply to praise Moshe for honoring the Torah? The entire content of this last Parsha of Vezos Habracha speaks of the great aspects of the Jewish people, and of Moshe blessing the Jewish people prior to his death. Included in the subjects that Moshe brings up is the fact that the Jewish people were the only nation to accept the Torah. Isn’t it preposterous then for the Torah to end with such a derogatory statement which is the opposite of the honor of the Jewish people, emphasizing that there was a time that they were not fit to receive the Torah? It is also most ironic that the conclusion of the Torah, which represents its completeness, would conclude with the story of its destruction.

4. Why did G-d wait so long to congratulate Moshe for breaking the tablets?

To understand the above matter we must first introduce why Hashem waited so long to congratulate Moshe for breaking the tablets. The tablets were broken on the 17th of Tamuz, after Moshe returned from his first 40-day trip to the heavens. Hashem only congratulated Moshe 40 days later when He gave Moshe the instruction of making a new set of tablets. The sages state that this congratulatory remark was hinted in the command of G-d to Moshe in which he stated, “Pesal Lecha..Asher Shibarta,” as the words Asher Shibarta refers to saying “Yasher Koach Sheshibarta/congratulations that you broke it.” Why didn’t Hashem congratulate Moshe for breaking the tablets on that day, or the next day when he went back to heaven, and why did he wait 40 days to do so. Furthermore, Rashi does not bring this Midrashic statement of congratulatory marks from G-d to Moshe in Parshas Ki Sisa, but rather specifically in our Parsha, making it the concluding message of the entire Torah? Why does Rashi wait for the end of the Torah and the chronological passing of 40 years, to bring this congratulatory statement which was said 40 years earlier? To understand the above matter, we need to first analyze the sin of the golden calf and its aftermath.

4. The purpose of the sin of the golden calf:

The Talmud[3] states regarding the sin of the golden calf that, “The Jewish people sinned with the golden calf in order to open the gates of repentance for the Baalei Teshuvah.” This means that G-d had secretly arranged for the evil inclination to successfully seduce the Jewish people to perform the sin of the golden calf in order so they reach the level of repentance. Through repentance, not only is one able to nullify the past sin, but is able to elevate himself to an even higher state than from before the sin. We are all aware of the statement of the sages that in the spiritual level that a Baal Teshuvah stands even a completely righteous man cannot stand, and it is this level of a Baal Teshuvah that G-d desired us to reach.

5. The intent Moshe had in breaking the tablets,

Based on the above, we can explain that the intent of Moshe in breaking the tablets was also for the sake of bringing the Jewish people to repentance. Meaning, just as the sin of the golden calf itself was arranged by G-d for the sake of the Jewish people reaching the level of a Baal Teshuvah, so too, the breaking of the tablets was done for that same reason. The breaking of the first tablets in front of the Jewish people was for the purpose of breaking their heart and making them recognize the seriousness of the sin, and having them then repent. Indeed, this brought about the giving of the second tablets which contains many advantages over the first tablets.

Now, the reason that G-d did not congratulate Moshe for breaking the tablets until the end of the second set of 40 days, is because only by then had the Jewish people repented and become worthy of receiving the second set of tablets, hence showing that the breaking of the tablets brought about a good advantageous result. It is also for this reason that Rashi abstained from bringing this comment until the conclusion of the Torah, as in the Parsha of Ki Sisa, there is not enough justification in Peshuto Shel Mikra to need to bring this Midrashic statement. However, at the end of Vezos Habracha where it states, “to the eyes of all Israel,” Rashi felt necessary to explain that this refers to the breaking of the tablets in front of all Israel, and how this was actually a praiseworthy action, as it brought the Jewish people to a state of repentance.

6. The connection between the Parsha of Vezos Habracha, and Simchas Torah:

The second tablets were given to the Jewish people on Yom Kippur, and are hinted to in the last verse of Vezos Habracha, as stated above. It is the commemoration of the giving of the second tablets, and the advantageous aspect of repenting, that we are celebrating on Simchas Torah. On the holiday of Shavuos we commemorate and celebrate the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, which corresponds to the giving of the first tablets. On Simchas Torah we commemorate and celebrate the giving of the second tablets.

7. The divine lesson:

The message that the final words of the Torah wishes to impart us, is that even when one faces times of concealment and darkness in both physical and even spiritual matters and experiences a “personal breaking of the tablets,” he is to be aware that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and that he will be able to bounce back and receive the second tablets. Furthermore, if one only places the effort, he can return to an even higher spiritual state and level, and reveal that this was the initial divine purpose behind his setback to begin with. This is also the message that we need to take with us when we begin the new year, entering back into mundane activity after the month of holidays. A person may feel overwhelmed with all of the spiritual concealments that he will face during the year as a result of needing to be involved in materialistic matters and earning a livelihood. Thus, the final message of the Torah is that one should not be intimidated by the concealment and darkness there will be face during the year of material involvement, and that specifically this divine service can accomplish the drawing down of divine light found in the second tablets.

 

Lessons of the Sicha:

·         Learn to use every setback to your advantage. Not only avoid giving up hope and learn to move forward, but focus on how to learn from the setback to make things even better. The setbacks that we have are all with divine providence, so we learn from our mistakes, and reach an even higher level.

 

[1] Devarim 34:12

[2] Shabbos 87:1

[3] Avoda Zara 4b

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