Advanced Studies

The Ten Words

And The Breaking of The Luchot

Exodus 20:1-14

  1. (2) I the LORD am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage:
  2. (3) You shall have no other gods besides Me. (4) You shall not make for yourself a sculptured image, or any likeness of what is in the heavens above, or on the earth below, or in the waters under the earth. (5) You shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I the LORD your God am an impassioned God, visiting the guilt of the parents upon the children, upon the third and upon the fourth generations of those who reject Me, (6) but showing kindness to the thousandth generation of those who love Me and keep My commandments. (
  3. (7) You shall not swear falsely by the name of the LORD your God; for the LORD will not clear one who swears falsely by His name.
  4. (8) Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. (9) Six days you shall labor and do all your work, (10) but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God: you shall not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, or your cattle, or the stranger who is within your settlements. (11) For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth and sea, and all that is in them, and He rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it.
  5. (12) Honor your father and your mother, that you may long endure on the land that the LORD your God is assigning to you.
  6. (13) You shall not murder.
  7. You shall not commit adultery.
  8. You shall not steal.
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  10. (14) You shall not covet your neighbor’s house: you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female slave, or his ox or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor’s.

Deuteronomy 5:6-18

  1. (6) I the LORD am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage:
  2. (7) You shall have no other gods beside Me. (8) You shall not make for yourself a sculptured image, any likeness of what is in the heavens above, or on the earth below, or in the waters below the earth. (9) You shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I the LORD your God am an impassioned God, visiting the guilt of the parents upon the children, upon the third and upon the fourth generations of those who reject Me, (10) but showing kindness to the thousandth generation of those who love Me and keep My commandments.
  3. (11) You shall not swear falsely by the name of the LORD your God; for the LORD will not clear one who swears falsely by His name.
  4. (12) Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. (13) Six days you shall labor and do all your work, (14) but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your ox or your ass, or any of your cattle, or the stranger in your settlements, so that your male and female slave may rest as you do. (15) Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and the LORD your God freed you from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the sabbath day.
  5. (16) Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may long endure, and that you may fare well, in the land that the LORD your God is assigning to you.
  6. (17) You shall not murder.
  7. You shall not commit adultery.
  8. You shall not steal.
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  10. (18) You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not crave your neighbor’s house, or his field, or his male or female slave, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor’s.

Look at the vocabulary and the explanations. How are these two versions different? What do the differences teach us?

Exodus 32:7-14
(7) And the LORD spoke unto Moses: ‘Go, get thee down; for thy people, that thou broughtest up out of the land of Egypt, have dealt corruptly; (8) they have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them; they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed unto it, and said: This is thy god, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.’ (9) And the LORD said unto Moses: ‘I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people. (10) Now therefore let Me alone, that My wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them; and I will make of thee a great nation.’ (11) And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said: ‘LORD, why doth Thy wrath wax hot against Thy people, that Thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? (12) Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, saying: For evil did He bring them forth, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from Thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against Thy people. (13) Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Thy servants, to whom Thou didst swear by Thine own self, and saidst unto them: I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever.’ (14) And the LORD repented of the evil which He said He would do unto His people. (15) And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, with the two tables of the testimony in his hand; tables that were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written. (16) And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables.


What Changed?
שמות ל״ב:י״ט
(יט) וַיְהִי כַּאֲשֶׁר קָרַב אֶל הַמַּחֲנֶה וַיַּרְא אֶת הָעֵגֶל וּמְחֹלֹת וַיִּחַר אַף מֹשֶׁה וַיַּשְׁלֵךְ מידו [מִיָּדָיו] אֶת הַלֻּחֹת וַיְשַׁבֵּר אֹתָם תַּחַת הָהָר.
Exodus 32:19
(19) And it came to pass, as soon as he came unto the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing; and Moses’anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and broke them beneath the mount.

God Supports Moshe’s Decision
שמות ל״ד:א׳
(א) וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל מֹשֶׁה פְּסָל לְךָ שְׁנֵי לֻחֹת אֲבָנִים כָּרִאשֹׁנִים וְכָתַבְתִּי עַל הַלֻּחֹת אֶת הַדְּבָרִים אֲשֶׁר הָיוּ עַל הַלֻּחֹת הָרִאשֹׁנִים אֲשֶׁר שִׁבַּרְתָּ.
Exodus 34:1
(1) And the LORD said unto Moses: ‘Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first; and I will write upon the tables the words that were on the first tables, which thou didst break.
רש”י על דברים ל״ד:י״ב:ג׳

שנשאו לבו לשבור הלוחות לעיניהם שנאמר ואשברם לעיניכם והסכימה דעת הקב”ה לדעתו שנאמר אשר שברת יישר כחך ששברת

Rashi on Deuteronomy 34:12:3
He lifted his heart to break the luchot in front of their eyes, as it says, “and I will break them in front of their eyes,” and God agreed with his actions, as it says “that which you broke,” you did the right thing by breaking them.

Approach #1 Moshe Overcome with Rage & Sadness
רמב”ן על שמות ל״ב:ט״ז:א׳
לא נמנע משה בכל זה מלשבר אותם, כי חרה לו בראותו המעשה הרע ההוא, ולא יכול להתאפק

Ramban on Exodus 32:16:1
Nevertheless, Moshe did not prevent himself from breaking the luchot for he was enraged upon seeing this evil spectacle, and he could not bear it.

Approach #2 – Breaking of Luchot Unintentional (Pireki D’Rebbe Eliezer 45)

לקח משה את הלוחות והיה יורד, והיו הכתובין סובלין את עצמן ואת משה עמן, וכשראו את התופים ואת המחולות ואת העגל ברחו הכתובים ופרחו מן הלוחות, ונמצאו כבדין על ידי משה, ולא יכול משה לסבול את עצמו ולא את הלוחות, והשליכן מידיו ונשתברו, שנאמר וישבר אותם תחת ההר

Moshe took the luchot and went down (the mountain), and the letters were carrying themselves and Moshe… and when the (letters) saw the instruments and the golden calf, they flew off the luchot, and became heavy. Moshe could no longer carry them, so he threw them out of his hands, as it says, “and he broke them under the mountain.”

Approach #3 (Meshech Chokhmah, Shemot 32:19): Faith in the Wrong Places

כאשר ראו כי “בושש משה”, נפלו מאמונתם ובקשו לעשות להם עגל ולהוריד על הצורה ההיא רוח ממעל ולשפוט על זה כי הוא מרכבה לאלקות…ועל זה צווח משה ככרוכיא: האם תדמו כי אני ענין ואיזו קדושה בלתי מצות ה’, עד כי בהעדר כבוד עשיתם לכם עגל! חלילה, גם אני איש כמוכם,והתורה אינה תלויה בי, ואף אם לא באתי היתה התורה במציאותה בלי שינוי חלילה

When they saw that Moshe delayed (from coming down the mountain) they lost their faith, and sought out a foreign god to use as a conduit for god… and this is why Moshe was enraged: “Do you think that I am important? What holiness is there other than God? To the extent that in my absence you make a calf! Heaven forbid, I am a person just like you, and the Torah does not rely on me, and even if I were not to have come, the Torah would not change.