When Broken Comes Before Whole

March 2, 2018 at 1:52 AM , , ,

“…And g-d said to Moshe: “hew for yourself two stone tablets like the first ones…” – Shemos 35:1

וַיֹּאמֶר ה’ אֶל משֶׁה פְּסָל לְךָ שְׁנֵי לֻחֹת אֲבָנִים כָּרִאשֹׁנִים – שמות לה, א

The Midrash (Shemos Rabbah 46:1) relates that Moshe was distressed over having broken the Luchos, until G-d said to him, “Do not be pained over the first tablets, which contained only the Ten Commandments. The second tablets that I will give will be accompanied by halachos, midrash, and aggados.”Implied is that the extensive and multifaceted Oral Torah—“halachos, midrash, and aggados”—was gifted to Bnei Yisrael only as a result of Moshe breaking the first Luchos. How did such a negative event bring about such positive results?

The answer is that the Torah is divine wisdom, and therefore ultimately, like G-d Himself, transcends any definition or limit. The infinitude of the Torah’s wisdom is particularly evident in the Oral Torah. Whereas the Written Torah contains an exact amount of letters and words—even one extra letter renders a Torah scroll disqualified from use—the Oral Torah is limitless. Besides for its myriads of details, we are obliged to constantly extrapolate new details and applications of the law following the guidelines set out in the Torah, rendering the Oral Torah truly dynamic and endless (see Shulchan Aruch Harav, Hilchos Talmud Torah 2:2).


The human being, however, is fundamentally limited, and his capacities are finite. Therefore, to merit and be capable of absorbing G-d’s inherently infinite wisdom—even as He manifested His wisdom in the comprehensible teachings of the Torah—a person must utterly remove his own limited identity from the equation, as it were. Simply put, he must rid himself of any sense of pride or ego—not only before G-d, but also before man.  In the words of the Talmud (Eiruvin 54a), “If a man renders himself like a wilderness upon which everyone treads, his study will be retained by him, otherwise it will not.”

This sense of humility—and even lowliness—came  to Bnei Yisrael only after the humbling experience of the Golden Calf. When Moshe shattered theLuchos before their eyes, driving home the devastating reality of what they had done, Bnei Yisrael were utterly broken and humbled. Now, said G-d to Moshe, I can finally bestow upon them the limitless gift of the Torah. Now I can grant them the halachos, midrash and aggados of the Oral Torah that will accompany the Second Luchos.

—Likutei Sichos vol. 26, pp. 249-253


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