Pieces of Sapphire

In this week’s parasha (Shemos 34:1), when Hashem tells Moshe to carve the second luchos, He says “פסל לך – carve for yourself”. The gemara comments on the apparently superfluous “לך – for yourself” by explaining that Hashem was telling Moshe that he could keep the extra precious stone to make the writing surface. “לא העשיר משה אלא מפסולתן של לוחות – Moshe only became wealthy through the extra pieces of the luchos” (Nedarim 38a, Y-mi Sheqalim 5:2, vilna 22b)

Odd, no? We are talking about the luchos, only two sets in all of human history. THAT’s how Hashem chose to make Moshe wealthy?

Rav Shimon Shkop (intro. to Shaarei Yosher) explains a lesson we can take from this. Chazal attribute to the first luchos the power that anyone who read from them would remember forever what they learned there. With these new luchos, we need to commit, to study, to review. Before we learn, we have to prepare the writing surface of the Oral Torah, our souls, with yir’as Hashem and refining our other middos.

The lesson of the gemara’s comment on our parashah is that this is how one becomes rich — through the work it takes to refine our middos. When Adam ate the fruit and was punished with having to work for a living, the point of giving Adam a job was to turn getting food into an opportunity to repair the damage caused by the fruit.

It is not that we go to our jobs to make money, and therefore need the middos to work well with others. The win-win situation isn’t just good business. We go to our jobs to have an arena to practice good middos and find ways for everyone to succeed together. And, like the chips of previous stone collected by Moshe — earning a living is a side-effect.

(For more on the topic, see Widen Your Tent sec. 7.9 https://amzn.to/2PzLVgi )

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