The second Tablets of the Law

Hashem made the first tablets, and Moshe the second. Why do the Sages consider the second tablets more esteemed than the first?

Danny Ginsbourg ,

Moses on Mount Sinai Jean
Moses on Mount Sinai Jean
Jean-L�on G�r�me

We read in Exodus 34:1 that Hashem said to Moshe:פסל לך:'Carve for yourself two stone Tablets like the first ones, and I shall inscribe on the Tablets the words that were on the first Tablets, which you shattered’- and which, unlike the second Tablets, were (32:16)’G-d’s handiwork, and the script was the script of G-d, engraved on the Tablets’.

Rav Saadia Gaon makes the following intriguing comment:’The second Luchot (Tablets) were more מכובדים: esteemed than the first Luchot’-even though the second ones were Moshe’s handiwork, and the first ones wholly the ‘work’ of Hashem-‘because they were given on a Holy day, on Yom Kippur, and the first ones were given on a ‘normal’ day, and that on the second ones was inscribed ‘for your good’, which words were not on the first Luchot, and the first ones were shattered’.

The Ibn Ezra brings this commentary, but rejects it, noting that both Luchot were equal in that the writing on them was inscribed by Hashem, but while the first ones were the work of Hashem, the second was the work of man- of Moshe’.

The Netziv responds:’Because there was השתתפות: participation by man, with סייעתה דשמיא: Divine help, the second Tablets had an ‘advantage’ over the first ones.

‘Because the first ones were entirely the work of Hashem, there was no ‘room’ for תורה שבעל פה: Oral Torah.

‘The second ones, because of man’s ‘participation’ in them, were imbued with the power for man, by his יגיעה: toil, to deduce the Oral Torah, from the words of the Written Torah, by the principles laid down by our Sages.

‘For this very reason, Hashem commanded that the second Luchot should be the handiwork of Moshe Rabenu.

‘In this respect, the second ones, though their sanctity was less than the first ones, were more ‘esteemed’’.

The Beit Halevi adds:’Bnei Israel were elevated by this to a greater height than before, when they and the Torah were, as it were, two separate ‘entities’; now that they were given the power to adduce the Oral Torah from the second Luchot, they became, כביכול, the parchment of the Oral Torah, and part of the Sefer Torah’.

The Alshich Hakadosh comments:’Hashem said to Moshe Rabenu: Let not the second Luchot be ‘less’ in your eyes, because they are from the earth! ‘Their מעלה: ‘status’ is so high that: (34:3)’No man may ascend with you nor may anyone be seen on the entire mountain. Even the flock and the cattle may not graze facing the mountain’.

‘The animals, of themselves, will not graze there, as even they will sense the קדושה of the moment’.

The Abarbanel adds:’Hashem added קדושה in the second Luchot, to that of the first ones, as in the first ones he said:(24:1)’Go up to Hashem, you Aaron, Nadab and Avihu, and seventy of the elders’, yet here, in regard to the second Luchot, he only permitted Moshe to ascend’.

The Ramban expounds why these additional stringencies, with regards to the second Luchot, were necessary:‘The first Luchot were given to all of Bnei Israel; however, the second Luchot were given to Moshe Rabenu, in his merit and because of his supplications- and he, in his goodness, then gave it to the people.

‘Therefore, the כבוד on the holy mountain was greater for the second Luchot, because Moshe Rabenu was at a higher level of קדושה, than the rest of the people’.

A parting thought from Rav Israel Salant:’Torah with no יגיעה: toil, is easily ‘lost’, as we learn from the first Luchot; however, the Torah of the second Luchot, which required יגיעה, to פסל לך: is not easily ‘lost’, because it becomes acquired in our souls- and through this יגיעה, we can return to the lofty level of the first Luchot- of Torah that is inscribed on our hearts’’.

לרפואת נועם עליזה בת זהבה רבקה ונחום אלימלך רפאל בן זהבה רבקה, בתוך שאר חולי עמנו.



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