Parshat Hashavua: Moses and the Two Tablets

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What is the significance of the dazzling radiance of Moses’s face and why did it not attain this shining glow until he received the Second Tablets on Yom Kippur? And, perhaps the most diffi- cult question of all, why did Moses break the first tablets? Yes, he was bitterly disappointed, perhaps even angry, at the Israelites’ worship of the Golden Calf only 40 days after God’s first Revelation on Shavuot; howev- er, these tablets were “the work of God and they were the writing of God.” How could the holiest human being take the holiest object on earth and smash it to smithereens? Was he not adding to Israel’s sin, pouring salt on the wounds of the Almighty (as it were)? My revered teacher, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, taught that Moses emerges from our portion of Ki Tisa not only as the greatest prophet of the generations but also as the exalted rebbe of Klal Yisrael (All Israel), as Moshe Rabeinu; Moses the teacher and master of all the generations. This unique transformation of his person- ality took place on Yom Kippur; it is the sobriquet of Rebbe which occasions the rays of splendor which shone forth from his countenance.

The midrash on the first verse of the Book of Leviticus, “And [God] called out to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting…,” provokes a remarkable insight.

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