Broken, But Whole

Friday, 1 March, 2024 - 7:16 am

If a survey was taken to rate Moshe’s greatest achievement in the Torah, what would it be?

I’d wager that the Ten Plagues would be high on the list, along with the Splitting of the Sea, and the Giving of the Torah.

The very final verse of the Torah extols Moshe’s virtues and lists his major achievements. According to Rashi, the crowning achievement is a rather strange one. It is the shattering of the Tablets, a story that appears in this week’s parsha of Ki Tisa. After the Jews sinned by worshipping the Golden Calf, Moshe arrives and breaks the Tablets that he was due to deliver from G-d to the Jewish people.

We can all understand that the Jewish people were not worthy of receiving the Luchot (Tablets) at that moment. And, we can appreciate that Moshe did not act in fury, but rather taught them an important lesson – one which ultimately inspired them to repent, return to G-d, and receive a second set of Tablets.

But, why is this moment the penultimate act of greatness? How is this more important than receiving the Torah itself?

The Midrash offers the following motive for Moshe’s act.

Once there was a king who went off on a distant journey and left his bride with her maidservants. Because of the promiscuity of the maidservants, rumors began circulating about the king’s bride. The king heard of this and wished to kill her. The bride’s guardian heard of this, so he went ahead and tore up her marriage contract, saying: “Should the king say, ‘My wife did such and such,’ we shall say to him, ‘She’s not your wife yet.’” The king subsequently investigated and found that there was nothing promiscuous in his bride’s behavior, that only the maidservants were corrupt, and was reconciled to her. Said the bride’s guardian to the king: “Sir, make her another marriage contract, for the first one was torn up.” Said the king to him: “You tore it up, so you supply the paper and I shall write on it with my hand” … Thus, when G‑d forgave the Jewish people, He said to Moses: “Carve, yourself, two tablets of stone like the first ones, and I shall write on these tablets what was on the first tablets, which you broke.”

According to this interpretation, Moshe’s act was one of self-defense. Not for himself. He did not sin.

Rather, it was an act of defense for his people. Against the wrath of his (and their) G-d.

Seeing the Jewish people in grave jeopardy of obliteration – a risk arising from G-d, stronger than any enemy of the Jews – Moshe springs into action. Moshe’s highest virtue is not his allegiance to G-d. It’s his loyalty to his people. He is appointed by G-d to lead the people. And, he delivers – at all costs.

In this act of brokenness, Moshe is demonstrating how whole he and his people are. He will defend them, uplift them, and reconnect them to their Source. He will never give up on them.

G-d Himself endorses this act in the Torah’s final verse. G-d sees Moshe’s loyalty to his people and his mission as the supreme act of devotion.

When we see another Jew struggling – spiritually, emotionally, or physically – far be it from us to lay blame and give up on them. Even if it’s their own fault, even if it’s a grave error. Our duty is to follow the lead of Moshe – to believe in and uplift others.

It will help them. And, it will help us all become more whole.

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