Positively Fulfilling the Negative Prohibitions

February 26, 2018 at 1:28 AM , , ,

“…When he had finished speaking with him on mount sinai, he gave Moshe the two tablets of the testimony…” – Shemos 31:18

וַיִּתֵּן אֶל משֶׁה כְּכַלֹּתוֹ לְדַבֵּר אִתּוֹ בְּהַר סִינַי שְׁנֵי לֻחֹת הָעֵדֻת – שמות לא, יח

Rashi notes that the Torah here spells the word Luchos, tablets, as לֻחֹת—without the letter “ו” that emphasizes the plural, according to which the word can also be read as לֻחַת, luchas, a singular form of the Hebrew word for tablet. Rashi explains that the Torah employs this unusual spelling here to highlight that the two tablets were identical.

Though the simple meaning of Rashi’s explanation is that both Luchos were of equal size, Rashi’s words could also be interpreted homiletically as alluding to the spiritual equivalence of the content of each of the Luchos.

Inscribed in the Luchos were the Ten Commandments, the first five on one of the Luchos, and the last five on the other. The first five commandments are principally positive commandments: faith in the existence of G-d, observance of Shabbos, and honoring your parents. [The Sefer Hachinuch (Mitzvos 26-30) explains that even the second and third commandments, not to make or worship idols, and not to swear falsely in G-d’s name, are offshoots of the first commandment, the positive mitzvah to have faith in G-d’s existence.] Conversely, the last five of the commandments are prohibitions: do not murder, do not commit adultery, etc.


Accordingly, the Torah’s spelling of the word Luchos in singular form comes to teach us that refraining from that which the Torah prohibits, albeit throughinactivity and restraint, is equally asconstructive as fulfilling the positive commands. For the bond with G-d that you create with each mitzvah you fulfill is the same, whether you are observing that which He commands us to do, or abstaining from that which He prohibits us from doing.

In addition, equating the positive commands inscribed in the first tablet with the prohibitions inscribed in the second tablet highlights that there is an active element as well to the observance of the prohibitions; namely, the study of their detailed laws as they are found in the Torah.

—Sefer Hasichos 5751, vol. 1, pp. 369-370


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