28.4. Moses Ascends the Mountain Yet Again, and Receives the Second Tablets (34:1-4)

 (1) The Lord said to Moses: “Carve two tablets of stone like the first, and I will inscribe upon the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you shattered.

(2) Be ready by morning, and in the morning come up to Mount Sinai and present yourself there to Me, on the top of the mountain.

(3) No one else shall come up with you, and no one else shall be seen anywhere on the mountain; neither shall the flocks and the herds graze at the foot of this mountain.”

(4) So Moses carved two tablets of stone, like the first, and early in the morning he went up on Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, taking the two stone tablets with him.

(1) The Lord said to Moses: “Carve two tablets of stone”: God instructed Moses to create the second tablets only after the people repented, and after Moses came to understand “the ways of the Lord,” as explained above.

Carve two tablets of stone like the first, and I will inscribe upon the tablets: This time, Moses carves the tablets and God writes the inscription. Thus, these second tablets serve as a bridge between the Divine and the human, and will not break when Moses brings them down from the mountain.

We can explain that connection as follows. When a person exerts himself to create something of his own, he understands much better the essence of what he has created. The second tablets are therefore stronger and more durable than the first ones were, thus enabling humanity to realize the effort and understanding they have themselves invested in those tablets, and to live according to their precepts. The tablets no longer represent just a fragile, unattainable ideal.

And I will inscribe upon the tablets the words that were on the first tablets: The text inscribed on the second tablets is identical to the inscription that was on the first, broken tablets, namely: The Ten Commandments.

Which you shattered: Does Moses not know which tablets are being replaced by the new ones that he must now create?

But God is making a particular point here. It is as if He is saying to Moses: “Only by destroying the first tablets did you make it possible to create the second, improved and corrected tablets.”

Our world is the world of tikkun, “repair.” Something that broke and has now been fixed can therefore be more complete and more effective than it would have been had it remained intact from the start.

(2-3) Be ready by morning, and in the morning come up to Mount Sinai … No one else shall come up with you, and no one else shall be seen anywhere on the mountain; neither shall the flocks and the herds graze at the foot of this mountain: These details and conditions are quite comparable to those that obtained when the Torah was first given (19:12).

(4) So Moses carved two tablets of stone, like the first, and early in the morning he went up on Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, taking the two stone tablets with him: Tradition states that Moses ascended Mount Sinai on the first of Elul (forty days after the incident of the golden calf) and remained there for another forty days. This means that Moses descended from the mountain carrying the second tablets on the Tenth of Tishri. On that day Moses informed the people that their sin of the golden calf had been forgiven. And so, that date, the tenth of Tishri, was established for all future generations as Yom Kippur, the solemn day of atonement and forgiveness still observed annually.

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Bible Dynamics, VOL. 2. EXODUS Copyright © by Orot Yerushalaim / P. Polonsky / English translation of the Torah by the Jewish Publication Society, New JPS Translation, 1985. With sincere gratitude for the permission to use. All Rights Reserved.

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