The Climax

“……And all the great awe which Moshe performed before the eyes of all Israel…” – Devarim 34:12

    ולכל היד החזקה ולכל המורא הגדול אשר עשה משה לעיני כל ישראל – דברים לד, יב

Based on the Sifri, Rashi interprets the final words of the Torah, “before the eyes of all Israel,” as a reference to one of the darkest moments in the Jewish people’s history: when Moshe reacted to the sin of the Golden Calf by smashing the Luchos “before their eyes” (as described in Devarim 9:17).

On its surface, the episode of Moshe breaking the Luchos hardly seems an appropriate conclusion for the Torah. Why end with an episode so uncomplimentary of the Jewish people, so uncomfortable for Moshe, and so irreverent of the Torah (embodied in the Luchos)?

the-climax

The opposite, however, is true.

What was Moshe’s thought process when he broke the Luchos? The Midrash explains (see Rashi, Shemos 34:1):

“This can be compared to a king who went abroad, and left his bride with the maidservants. Because of the immoral behavior of the maidservants, she acquired a bad reputation. Her bridesman arose and tore up her marriage contract. He said, ‘If the king decides to kill her, I will say to him, “She is not yet your wife.”’ …Likewise, the king represents G-d. The maidservants represent the eirev rav, (the “mixed multitude” who joined the Jewish people when they left Egypt and were responsible for the making of the Golden Calf), the bridesman is Moshe, and G-d’s bride is the Jewish people.”

If there ever was anyone who appreciated and cherished the Luchos and the Torah, it was Moshe, who merited receiving the tablets from G-d Himself. Yet, when Moshe realized that the existence of the Luchos—the “marriage-contract”—posed a threat to the Jewish nation, he immediately destroyed the Luchos to save the people.

The breaking of the Luchos thus demonstrates Moshe’s true legacy—his extraordinary devotion to the Jewish people. Moreover, it reveals how cherished and important the Jewish people are—saving even a sinful Jew takes precedence over protecting the holy Luchos!

How fitting it is, then, to complete the Torah with a reference to this episode, which highlights the value of the Jewish people for whom G-d wrote the Torah, and whose greatness exceeds even that of the Torah itself.

 

—Likutei Sichos, vol. 34, pp. 217-223

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