The Accessibility of Torah by Gilad Barach


In Parashat Mishpatim, Hashem instructed Moshe, “Aleih Eilai HaHarah VeHyeih Sham VeEtena Lecha Et Luchot HaEven VeHaTorah VeHaMitzvah Asher Katavti LeHorotam,” “Come up to Me on the mountain and be there, and I will give you the stone Luchot and the Torah and the Mitzvah that I have written to teach them” (Shemot 24:12).  It appears from this Pasuk that Moshe merely had to go up Har Sinai and learn the Torah from Hashem whereupon he would return with the Luchot, produced entirely by Hashem.  Furthermore, in Parashat Ki Tisa, Hashem presented the Luchot to Moshe (31:18), and they are later described, “VeHaLuchot Maaseih Elokim Heimah VeHaMichtav Michtav Elokim Hu,” “The Luchot were works of God, and the writing was the writing of God” (32:16).  This Pasuk clarifies that Hashem not only wrote the words of the Luchot, but also designed and provided the stones of the Luchot.

As the events of the Cheit HaEigel unfolded, Moshe threw the Luchot to the ground by the foot of the mountain and shattered them.  After Moshe successfully prayed for forgiveness of Bnei Yisrael's sin, he was commanded, “Pesol Lecha Shenei Luchot Avanim KaRishonim VeChatavti Al HaLuchot Et HaDevarim Asher Hayu Al HaLuchot HaRishonim Asher Shibarta,” “Carve for you two stone Luchot like the first, and I will write on the Luchot the words that were on the first Luchot that you broke” (34:1).  Why was the second set of Luchot carved by Moshe, unlike the first set?

Rav Moshe Feinstein explains this change not as a negative effect of the Cheit HaEigel but rather as an encouraging reaction to the state of Bnei Yisrael at this time.  One of the reasons that Bnei Yisrael committed the sin of Cheit HaEigel is that they felt so distanced from and numb to the concept of God.  Yes, Hashem had taken them out of Mitzrayim “BeChoach Gadol UVYad Chazakah,” “With great might and a strong arm” (32:11).  But apparently, Bnei Yisrael still preferred to give credit to the more tangible middleman, Moshe Rabbeinu.  When they approached Aharon with concern about Moshe's delay in coming down from Har Sinai, they referred to him, “Zeh Moshe HaIsh Asher He'elanu MeiEretz Mitzrayim,” “This man, Moshe, that brought us up from the land of Egypt” (32:1).  As much as the events of Yetziat Mitzrayim were designed to show Bnei Yisrael the might of Hashem, to a large extent, Bnei Yisrael remained ignorant to His involvement.  Bnei Yisrael complained to Moshe when they were trapped at Yam Suf, he answered, “Al Tira'u,” “Do not fear” (14:13), and they were saved.  Three days later, when they arrived in Marah and the water was too bitter to drink, Bnei Yisrael again cried out to Moshe, and he fixed the problem.  It therefore was relatively easy for Bnei Yisrael to misunderstand the hierarchy of their nation and to believe that Moshe truly was the one responsible for the miracles they recently had experienced.  This was the mentality of “Zeh Moshe HaIsh Asher He'elanu MeiEretz Mitzrayim” - to Bnei Yisrael, Moshe was the man responsible for their redemption from Mitzrayim.

The fact that the second Luchot were formed by Moshe rather than Hashem was actually a way in which Hashem reached out to this generation of Bnei Yisrael.  As they demonstrated via the Cheit HaEigel, they could not easily grasp the concept of divine law or authority without a human middleman.  They couldn't learn Torah directly from Hashem, as they said following the Aseret HaDibrot, “VaYomeru El Moshe Dabeir Atah Imanu VeNishmaah VeAl Yedabeir Imanu Elokim Pen Namut” “They said to Moshe, 'You speak to us and we will listen, let God not speak to us lest we should die'” (20:15).  However, Hashem wants everyone to be able to access Torah in his or her own way.  Since the first Luchot were too spiritual and abstract for Bnei Yisrael to appreciate, the second Luchot were made with human involvement.

Torah does not require some sort of supernatural connection to Hashem in order to be studied.  “Lo BaShamayim Hee” (Devarim 30:12) - each person has the ability and the requirement to connect to Hashem and to learn His Torah in his or her own way.  May we all learn from the terrible Cheit HaEigel to be more receptive to God's Hand in our lives and to approach His Torah with our individual abilities.

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