The Greatest Praise of All

“…And all the mighty hand, and all the great awe, which Moshe performed before the eyes of all Israel…” – Devarim 32:10

The final verses of the Torah describe the remarkable person of Moshe, his unparalleled level of prophecy and his unmatched accomplishments. Rashi adds that the words, “which Moshe performed before the eyes of all of Israel,” refer to yet another one of Moshe’s achievements, namely, that “His heart emboldened him up to smash the Luchos before their eyes, as it is written, ‘and I shattered them before your eyes’ (Devarim 9:17).”

The Greatest Praise of All

Now it was certainly daring of Moshe to break the Luchos, the tablets that G-d Himself formed and inscribed. However, according to Rashi’s explanation, the greatness referred to here is not only that he broke the Luchos, but also that he did so boldly, “before the eyes of all Israel.” What was the great “boldness of heart” inherent in breaking the Luchos in sight of Bnei Yisrael? And why does the Torah regard this as the pinnacle of Moshe’s achievements?

Why, in fact, did Moshe break the Luchos so publically? In addition to his reasons for actually breaking the Luchos (see Rashi on Shemos 32:19 and 34:1), Moshe chose to smash them in the presence of the entire nation in the hope that this would move them to truly regret having made and worshipped the Golden Calf. He was certain that by demonstrating that their actions made necessary the destruction of the holy Luchos, Bnei Yisrael would realize the severity of what they had done and they would immediately repent.

This conviction, says Rashi, demonstrated “boldness of heart,” for such faith in Bnei Yisrael was radical and revolutionary. Despite knowing Bnei Yisrael’slowly state, seeing that only a few short weeks after G-d’s great revelation at Sinai they already stumbled in such a grave sin, Moshe still believed in their inherent devotion to G-d! He trusted that by demonstrating to them that transgressing the Torah severs a Jew’s relationship with G-d, they will immediately regret and abandon their sinful ways.

This faith in the Jewish people, explains Rashi, was Moshe’s greatest virtue, more so than any other of his merits and accomplishments!

—Toras Menachem, vol. 45, pp. 92-95


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