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Browse Torah Articles: Sefer Shemot: Parashat Ki Tisa: Moshe's Hand(s)

Contributed by: R. Ezra E. Miztahi

In parashat Ki Tissa, we read of the infamous Het Haegel, the sin that Bnei Yisrael committed in creating the Golden Calf. Upon approaching the encampment, we read of Moshe's reaction:

"When Moshe approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. (Exodus 32:19)"

The verse states that Moshe threw the tablets out of his hands, in plural. However, if one examines the actual Hebrew in the verse, we see that only for letters are written for "hands": Mem Yod Dalet Vav – which can be read as "miyado", meaning "from his hand" in singular form. It is true however, that our tradition is to read the word as "miyadav" which translates as "from his hands".

There is a wonderful explanation from R. Yisrael Misalant that encapsulates meaning into this apparent oddity in the text. Moshe received two tablets from Hashem on Har Sinai. One was in each hand. Our rabbis teach us that the common denominator between all the laws on the first tablet is that they all deal with misvot between Hashem and Man. The exclusion is the last commandment, of honoring one's parents, however our rabbis explain that the positioning of this commandment on the first tablet teaches us that how one relates to one's parents is as important as how one relates to Hashem.

The second tablet contains misvot of Man to Man, ben adam lehavero- how one relates to his fellow man. R. Yisrael Misalant explains that at first, Moshe wanted only to destroy the first tablet, the misvot containing the laws between Hashem and Man, being that Bnei Yisrael created an idol and rebelled against Hashem. This is hinted by the fact that the word is written in singular form – Moshe wanted to send only one tablet, "miyado" from one hand, leaving the other tablet in his other hand.

However, we read the word in plural, showing that Moshe, regardless of how he felt, destroyed both tablets, symbolizing both the laws between Hashem and Man along with the law between fellow Man.

The reason is simple. The laws of how a person treats his fellow man cannot function without the laws of how one interacts with Hashem. They may be inscribed on two tablets, but both still make one Torah. We cannot pick and choose our laws. This is a tremendous lesson for us. We cannot choose to do specific misvot and ignore others. Granted it is hard to follow all the misvot one can, but one cannot convince oneself that he or she "does enough". There is no such state of existence. The Torah is called "Torat Hayim" a living Torah, a Torah that all its laws are interconnected, yielding a person to becoming a complete Jew and elating their neshama to new heights. The Torah comes with us wherever we go, and cannot be silenced at certain times in our lives, like when on vacation, or when no one is looking. May we merit to make the Torah part of our every day, Amen.

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