Shaarei Yosher, sec. 6: Refinement – Part 2

One can use this to explain the whole notion of breaking the [first] Tablets, for which I have not found an explanation. At first glance, understanding seems closed off. Is it possible that Moses our teacher would think that because the Jews made the [Golden] Calf they should be left without the Torah? He should have just waited to teach them until they corrected their ways, not break them altogether and then have to fall before Hashem to beg for a second set of Tablets. Our sages received [a tradition that] there was a unique ability inherent in the first Tablets. As it says in Eiruvin (folio 54[a]), “What does it mean when it is says, ‘engraved on the Tablets’ (Shemos 32:16)? Had the first tablets not been destroyed, the Torah would never have been forgotten from Israel.” Which is, they had the power that if someone learned them once, it would be guarded in his memory forever. This quality Moses felt would cause a very terrible profaning of the holy to arise. Could it happen that someone destroyed and estranged in evil deeds would be expert in all the “rooms” of the Torah? Moses reasoned a fortiori from the Passover offering about which the Torah says “no foreign child shall eat of it.” (Shemos 12:43) Therefore Moses found it fitting that these Tablets be shattered, and he should try to get other Tablets.
ואפשר לבאר על פי זה ענין שבירת הלוחות שלא ראיתי ביאור ענין זה, שבהשקפה ראשונה הוא ענין סתום, היתכן שמשה רבינו ע״ה היה חושב שבשביל שעשו ישראל את העגל, ישארו בלי תורה ח״ו, והיה ראוי לו להמתין מללמדם עד שיתקנו מעשיהם, אבל לא לשברם לגמרי ואחר כך להתנפל לפני ה׳ לבקש לוחות שגיות, והנה חז״ל קבלו שסגולה מיוחדת היתה בלוחות הראשונות, דאמרינן בגמ׳ עירובין )דף נ״ד.) “מאי דכתיב ‘חרות על הלוחות’, אלמלא לא נשתברו הלוחות הראשונות לא נשתכחה תורה מישראל”, היינו שהיתה סגולה בהם שאם למד אדם פעם אחת, היה שמור בזכרונו לעולם, וענין זה הרגיש משה רבינו ע״ה שעלול על ידי זה להיות חלול הקודש נורא מאד, שאפשר שיזדמן שיהיה איש מושחת ומגואל במעשים רעים, בקי בכל חדרי התורה, ולמד משה רבינו ע״ה קל וחומר מקרבן פסח שאמרה תורה “וכל בן נכר לא יאכל בו”, ולכן מצא משה רבינו ע״ה שראוי שלוחות אלה ישתברו ולהשתדל לקבל לוחות אחרים,

The Torah describes the words on the first tablets as “engraved on the tablets”. The gemara takes this homiletically; the Torah is emphasizing the permanence of the words on the first luchos because Torah studied from the first tablets stayed with the person. Read once, they were internalized and never forgotten.

However, if “no foreign descendent may eat” of the Pesach offering, one mitzvah, how must more so must it be wrong for the Torah to be possessed by someone who isn’t merely an outsider, but evil! Therefore, Moshe ended this period of simply knowing the Torah through a single study by shattering the luchos. Now, one needs to work at Torah in order to receive it.

In the terms we saw in the previous installment… The Golden Calf and the Jewish People’s rush to sin “in order to permit for themselves prohibited relations” (Rabbi Yehudah, quoting Rav, Sanhedrin 63b) showed Moshe that with the first luchos, it was too easy for someone to simply “water their weeds”, as the Vilna Gaon put it. That a Torah that didn’t require prerequisite work was an invitation to nourish their imperfections with religiosity, rather than first weed out their negative middos and then quench their souls’ thirst with Torah. He therefore forced us to accept the Torah on the terms of the second luchos. Requiring effort, Rav Chaim Volozhiner’s model of building the silo in which one could store the grain.

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