Simchas Torah / Vizos Habracha - Broken Vessels
Updated: Jan 12, 2021
וּלְכֹל֙ הַיָּ֣ד הַֽחֲזָקָ֔ה וּלְכֹ֖ל הַמּוֹרָ֣א הַגָּד֑וֹל אֲשֶׁר֙ עָשָׂ֣ה משֶׁ֔ה לְעֵינֵ֖י כָּל־יִשְׂרָאֵֽל
“and all the strong hand, and all the great awe, which Moses performed before the eyes of all Israel.” (Devarim 34:12)
What exactly was it that Moshe did? What was performed before the eyes of all of Klal Yisrael?
שנשאו לבו לשבור הלוחות לעיניהם, שנאמר (לעיל ט, יז) ואשברם לעיניכם, והסכימה דעת הקב"ה לדעתו, שנאמר (שמות לד, א) אשר שברת, יישר כחך ששברת
“before the eyes of all Israel: [This expression alludes to the incident where] his heart stirred him up to smash the tablets before their eyes, as it is said, “and I shattered them before your eyes” (Deut. 9:17). - [Sifrei 33:41] And [regarding Moses shattering the Tablets,] the Holy One Blessed is He gave His approval, as Scripture states, “[the first Tablets] which you shattered” (Exod. 34:1); [God said to Moses:] “Well done for shattering them!” - [Shab. 87a]
As we consider this Rashi many questions come to mind.
Rashi uses an interesting language when he says “his heart inspired him to smash the luchos before their eyes”. Rashi specifically emphasizes two body parts; the heart of Moshe and the eyes of Klal Yisrael. Why does Moshe need to be inspired by his heart? Why not his mind? Why does the passuk emphasize the fact that this happened in front of the eyes of Klal Yisrael? Would it not be enough to say that Moshe broke the luchos before them?
In Judaism we always try to end on a positive note. The Gemara in Brachos (31a) teaches a person should always end a conversation with a discussion of halacha as we see in the Neviim Rishonim that they ended their discussions with shevach vitanchumin, words of praise and consolation. The breaking of the luchos is one of our most tragic tales. The Gemara in Eiruvin (54a) tells us that if not for the breaking of the Luchos Klal Yisrael never would have gone into Golus! According to Rashi, how could the Torah end on such a down note?
The Gemara in Shabbos (cited above) tells us that Moshe was praised for breaking the luchos? But why was he praised? Rashi in Shemos (34:1) quotes the Medrash Tanchuma which explains Moshe’s thought process. “This can be compared to a king who went abroad and left his betrothed with the maidservants. Because of the immoral behavior of the maidservants she acquired a bad reutation. Her bridesman (the person appointed to defend the bride should any problems arise) arose and tore up the marriage contract. He said, “If the King decides to kill her, I will say to him, “She is not yet your wife.” The King investigated and found that only the maidservants were guilty of immoral behavior. He therefore became appeased to her. So her bridesman said to him, “Write her another marriage contract because the first one was torn up.” The King replied to him, “You tore it up. You buy yourself another sheet of paper and I will write to her with my personal handwriting.” Likewise, the King represents the Holy One, blessed is He. The maidservants represent the mixed multitude. The bridesman is Moshe and the betrothed of the Holy One, blessed is He is Klal Yisrael. That is why it says, “Hew for yourself.”
Still we are bothered. Why does Moshe need to break the luchos? Set them aside for later. These luchos were literally carved out by God Himself. The next luchos would be carved by Moshe. There are not mere pieces of paper! Had Moshe simply set the luchos aside and not delivered them to Klal Yisrael we still could have been judged as an “unmarried woman” and eventually when we were forgiven we could have received the first luchos! One can appreciate Moshe’s leadership as he thinks of creative ways to defend Klal Yisrael but wasn’t destroying the luchos a mistake? Instead of congratulating Moshe with a yasher koach for breaking the luchos we would expect that God would chastise Moshe for a well-intentioned but poorly executed idea.
Aside from our difficulties with Rashi, there are some important questions on the actual story of the breaking of the luchos.
God actually told Moshe about the cheit haeigel while Moshe was still in shomayim yet Moshe only breaks the luchos only when he actually sees them dancing. Why does Moshe wait to break the luchos? If the luchos are meant to be broken then he ought to have broken them immediately!
The Yerushalmi in Taanis (4:5) says that while Klal Yisrael was sinning with the golden calf, Moshe and Hashem were wrestling over the Luchos. Several tefachim were in Hashem’s hands so to speak, while several tefachim were in the hands of Moshe. Ultimately, Moshe was able to take the luchos from God. The Gemara in Nedarim 38a tells us that Moshe Rabbeinu received the luchos as a gift. According to the Yerushalmi, why does God allow Moshe to take the luchos from him if he knew they would be destroyed? According to the Bavli, why give the gift if God know they’re going to destroyed?
The Gemara in Baba Basra (14b) tells us that the broken luchos were not buried (as we would have expected them to be) but rather they were placed in the Aron alongside the second set of luchos that were intact. It seems that somehow the broken shards of the Luchos retained their kedusha even after being smashed. This is difficult to understand. What value could these broken shards possible have?
Furthermore, on Yom Kippur we abstain from wearing gold jewelry because it would remind the Satan of the golden calf. The Gemara in Sanhedrin (102a) teaches that the Kohen Gadol would not wear his gold garments into the Kodesh HaKedoshim on Yom Kippur because he can’t bring a kaparah for Klal Yisrael while wearing clothing that is reminiscent of the golden calf. But what could be more reminiscent of the cheit haeigel than the broken luchos themselves which were sitting in the Aron in the Kodesh HaKedoshim? Wouldn’t entering into the Kodesh HaKedoshim serve as a reminder for the Satan of our sin? Why would we keep the tangible memory of one of our greatest failures in the single holiest place on earth?!?
The same question could be applied when considering that we brought the Aron with us when we went to war (Eiruvin 54). Why would we want to remind Hashem about the cheit haeigel when entering into such a dangerous situation?
Rashi in Parshas Ki Tisa (34:1) tells us that God showed Moshe a sapphire mine in his tent and said, “the leftover chips shall be yours.” From these chips Moshe Rabbeinu became wealthy.
Again a couple of questions jump out at us.
Why is it relevant that the sapphire mine was within his own tent?
We know that in order to be a navi one must be wealthy. If that’s the case then Moshe Rabbeinu must have already been wealthy. Why then does Rashi say he became wealthy from the chips of sapphire that are left over from the luchos?
Furthermore, if Moshe Rabbeinu was already wealthy what is the value of the additional wealth? Moshe Rabbeinu spent his life in the desert where his every need was cared for by God. Even to an ordinary person wealth would have little to no value. One can only assume that for Moshe Rabbeinu wealth had no significance to him whatsoever. Why then does God gift with him the additional wealth of the sapphire chips? Obviously there is an inner message that is being taught here but what is it?
Lastly, the Gemara in Avodah Zara (4b) teaches that Klal Yisrael was compelled to worship the eigel so that Hashem could demonstrate the power of Teshuva. In truth, left to their own devices and considering the exalted level they had attained after the giving of the Torah, they never would have sinned.
This is such a difficult Gemara to understand. Klal Yisrael was at the level of Adam HaRishon before he committed an aveira. This could have been the time where his cheit was finally rectified. The world would have returned to its source. The era of Olam Haba ought to have been right around the corner. There would be no need for Teshuva at that point! Why does Hashem remove them from their state of purity to teach a lesson that would have been moot?
Creating the World – Light and Vessels
The Arizal describes the process of the creation of our finite world as follows. Step one was to conceal the ohr ein sof, the infinite light. This is known as tziztum harishon, the first constriction. The first level of existence, a “world” if you will, that came into being was called Adam Kadmon. Though Adam Kadmon is a type of existence it is far beyond our existence. It transcends time and space. It is a totally unified world which consists of one single and transcendent primordial thought. In order to create a finite world more tzimtzumim, constrictions of the Divine Light would be required. This brings us to the second stage of creation. As the light of Adam Kadmon is being constricted, one of the tzimtzumim yielded a manifestation of ten different points of light, each one independent of the other and acting individually. These are lights called the “ohr haeinayim”, the light that emits from the eyes of Adam Kadmon. In this stage we have moved from the internal, essential level to an external level where each powerful point of light can be discerned from one another. These ten points of light make up the Olam HaTohu, the world of chaos.
There are two plains of existence within the Olam HaTohu that we need to understand but first a quick introduction on oros and keilim, light and vessels.
In Kabbalah, the term ohr, light, is used to describe spiritual entities. Light, as one of the least physical properties of our world, represents that which is intangible, namely the spiritual. Light is intimately connected with its source. If you put a barrier between the light and its source, the light disappears. It would be like closing a window shade; the light automatically disappears. The same is true of the spiritual. It is intimately connected with God and if the source of life is cut off then life ceases to exist.
But light can also be uncomfortable. If the light is extremely bright it is uncomfortable to look at. It may even be blinding. The light needs to be restrained in a light bulb and within a lamp shade so that it can be enjoyed and appreciated. This is the role of keilim, vessels. God’s light on its own is so intensely powerful that that the finite world would be “blinded” by the infinite. It would have no independent character of its own. Like a ray of the sun while still within the sun it would be totally nullified by its source. Thus the need for vessels that harness the light so that the finite can come into existence.
With this in mind let us return to the Olam HaTohu, the world of chaos.
The first level of existence within the Olam HaTohu is called Akudim (which means bound together). In Akudim all ten degrees of light are “bound together” in one single vessel. Before the existence of Akudim there was no concept of a vessel.
The subsequent level of existence is called Nikudim (which means points – as in nekudot). The difference between Akudim and Nikudim is that while in Akudim there was one singular vessel for all ten points of light, in Nikudim there are ten vessels each containing a different point of light. Each light operated independently of all of the others lights. In the Olam HaTohu (World of chaos) each light was an absolute manifestation of the ohr einayim of Adam Kadmon and therefore the lights operated in opposition to one another. This is in contrast to the Olam HaTikkun (the subsequent world of rectification) where each one of the sefiros operates harmoniously with the other.
Because of the extreme power and chaos of the oros and because of the immaturity of the vessels, the vessels were not able to contain the light. This resulted in a shattering of the keilim as they were not able to handle the intensity of the light that was flooding them. The fragments of these shattered vessels fell into the lower worlds and became absorbed within them (some into the higher world of beria while others fell into the lowest world of asiya).
“The Olam HaTohu was created in order to be destroyed and destroyed in order to be rebuilt.” (Mevo LiChochmas HaKabbalah Part 2- Shaar 6 – Chapter 7) Following the destruction of the Olam HaTohu is the world of Olam HaTikkun (the world of rectification). In the Olam HaTikkun the sefiros operate harmoniously and the oros can be contained by the keilim. In the Olam HaTikkun we find the “residue” of the fallen oros from the Olam HaTohu. These fallen sparks are called Nitzotzos. The shattering of the Olam Hatohu creates for us a unique mission. It is our job to gather these fallen sparks and rebuild a vessel that can contain them.
This entire process can be compared to a writer who begins with a single conscious thought. In this one thought everything in the entire story is contained (Adam Kadmon). Every word and every movement of every character lives and breathes in that first primordial thought. Imagine that instead of developing gradually and systematically the thought just exploded in chaos (Olam HaTohu). It would be like taking a book and throwing all the words up into the air. The meaning of the book would be missing. All the ingredients are there but in their chaotic state they can’t communicate their message. The words need to be carefully arranged and organized so that they can tell the story they were designed to tell (Olam HaTikkun).
This is our job in this world. Each fallen spark is like a word in a story. In its chaotic and concealed state it cannot tell the story of its true nature. By creating a vessel that can contain these sparks we are like the writer whose thoughts are now organized and cogent. Only in such a state can we tell our story. By gathering the Nitzotzos we imitate creation itself, rebuilding and restoring the shattered vessels of the Olam HaTohu.
The One Thousand Lights of Torah
With this introduction we are now ready to see Matan Torah in a totally new light. As we will soon see, Matan Torah mirrors the creation of the world.
The word Vayikra in the Torah (Vayikra 1:1) is spelled with a small aleph. What is the nature of this small aleph? The Arizal explains that at Matan Torah, Hashem bestowed upon Moshe 1000 oros but at the sheviras haluchos they were taken away. Only one light of the thousand remained with him and that is represented in the small aleph of Vayikra. (Aleph can also be read as Elef which means one thousand.)
Why did Moshe receive 1000 lights at Matan Torah? The Gemara in Shabbos (88a) tells us that when Klal Yisrael said Naaseh Vinishma every Jew received two crowns. When they sinned with the Cheit HaEigel, malachim came and removed those very same crowns. What happened to those crowns? The Gemara darshens that Moshe Rabbeinu received these crowns and in the future the crowns will once again be restored to Klal Yisrael. The Arizal explains that the crowns that Moshe Rabbeinu received are the 1000 oros which he subsequently lost in the breaking of the luchos.
We know that there were two miraculous letters in the first luchos. Because the letters of the luchos were engraved all the way through, the Mem Sofit and the Samech were suspended in midair. When Moshe broke the luchos the Mems and Samechs were no longer miraculously suspended. In the sefer Yalkut Yashar he quotes from Rav Shalom of Kaminka zt”l that the luchos contained 22 Mem Sofit’s and 2 Samechs. The letter Mem equals 40 and therefore when you multiply it 22 times you get 880. The letter Samech equals 60 and therefore when you multiply it twice you get 120. Putting together all the Mems (880) and the two Samechs (120) you get 1000 which is equivalent to the 1000 oros that Moshe Rabbeinu lost when he broke the luchos.
There is an additional significance to the miraculous nature of the Mem and the Samech in the luchos. The first luchos were unique in that not only were they carved by God but God Himself etched the words out of the stone. The second luchos would be carved Moshe Rabbeinu with the writing being done by God. The Medrash in Shemos Rabbah (41:7) explains that the word charus, etched, can be understood to mean etched but it can also be read cheirus which means freedom. What was Klal Yisrael free from? With the giving of the luchos they were freed from the malach hamaves, the angel of death. This means that when Klal Yisrael accepted the Torah they had brought the world to such a state of rectification that death was no longer a part of creation. And who is the Malach HaMaves? His name is Samael. Or to put it a little differently he is the Samech Mem of God. In the future Samael will be killed. How will he die? The Shlah HaKadosh explains that the Aleph Lamed of Hashem’s name will be removed from his name and without his Godly vitality he can no longer exist. It is therefore no coincidence that the first luchos, which were written for Klal Yisrael after they defeated the Malach HaMaves, had two miraculous letters; namely the Mem and the Samech.
After the breaking of the luchos, Samael once again regained his vitality and death was returned to the world. The Kol Bo (chap. 1) writes: Come and see how much Hashem loves us, He commanded us to say 100 brachos every single day so that we could have the opportunity to earn 1000 pieces of gold. He explains that each bracha is worth ten golden dinarim and therefore 100 brachos a day totals 1000 pieces of gold.
In Bamidbar Rabbah (18:17) as well as in the Tur (OC 46 who quotes Rav Natroni Gaon) it is brought down that in the times of Dovid HaMelech a plague swept the nation, killing 100 people a day. In order to stop the plague, the Chachamim of the generation and Dovid HaMelech instituted that 100 brachos be said every day.
How does saying 100 brachos a day stop the Malach Samael? Bearing in mind what we said above the answer is clear. At Matan Torah, when we said Naaseh Vinishma, Samael was defeated. As we have seen, the crowns of Naaseh Vinishma were equivalent to 1000 lights. 100 brachos a day restores those 1000 lights and therefore brings us back to a dimension where the Malach Samael is vanquished.
The 1000 lights were lost to Moshe Rabbeinu when he broke the luchos but the Arizal explains that on Shabbos Moshe Rabbeinu once again receives the 1000 lights. This is the meaning of what we say in Shabbos davening, “Yismach Moshe bimatnas chelko,” Moshe rejoices (Shabbos) with the gift of his portion (namely the 1000 lights) “Ki eved neeman karasa lo, because he is called a loyal and faithful servant. Klal Yisrael lost their oros because of the cheit haeiegel whereas Moshe remained loyal to Hashem and was therefore gifted with their 1000 lights. Though he lost them as a result of the breaking of the luchos the oros are returned to him on Shabbos and he in turn shares them with the rest of Klal Yisrael (he is a loyal servant to Hashem and a loyal leader to Klal Yisrael). Perhaps this is why there us so much discussion as to how we will reach 100 brachos on Shabbos. Since on Shabbos we only have seven brachos in Shmoneh Esrei it can be more difficult to reach 100 brachos and therefore there is much consideration given as to how we will get to 100. Knowing that 100 brachos is equivalent to the 1000 oros of naaseh vinishma and knowing that Moshe is going to bestow those 1000 oros upon us on Shabbos we must make sure to be worthy of these oros by saying 100 brachos over Shabbos.
(For a beautiful connection between the concept of 1000 oros on Shabbos and the concept of Eiruvei Techumin see Likutei Halachos Hilchos Eiruvei Techumin 6:6. Sadly we do not have room in this article to work through Rebbe Nosson's exquisite idea on this topic.)
The Breaking of the Luchos - The Vessels Shatters Again
What are these oros that Klal Yisrael received at Matan Torah? They are the original sparks of creation. Klal Yisrael in accepting the Torah merited the Nitzotzos because the Torah would become the vessel that would contain these sparks bringing the world to its ultimate state of rectification.
This is why the Gemara in Shabbos (88a) tells us that Klal Yisrael was told that if they don’t accept the Torah they would return to a state of Tohu Vavohu. The purpose of creation is to restore the sparks of the Olam HaTohu to a vessel that can contain them. If Klal Yisrael would not accept the Torah then Hashem would have brought Klal Yisrael back to the Olam HaTohu so that we cold more clearly understand the purpose of creation and would therefore choose to accept the Torah.
Just as in the Olam HaTohu the vessel was not able to retain the light so too at Matan Torah the process repeated itself. Klal Yisrael’s sin shattered the vessel and once again the lights were dispersed (aggregating themselves in Moshe Rabbeinu).
With this in mind we can now understand what Chazal mean (Shemos Rabbah 46:1, Yalkut Shimon Ki Tisa 393) when they say that the letters flew off of the luchos and therefore Moshe Rabbeinu could no longer hold on to the luchos. The writing on the luchos was the oros, the soul of the luchos. The actual tablets were the vessel meant to contain the light. When Klal Yisrael sinned the impact was that the light could no longer be contained by the vessel and therefore the letters flew into the air. Like a body without a soul the body can longer be sustained and therefore they became too heavy for Moshe Rabbeinu to carry resulting in their destruction. In other words, the breaking of the luchos is a repeat of the sheviras hakeilim from the beginning of creation.
But, as stated above, the Gemara in Avodah Zara (4b) teaches that Klal Yisrael was compelled to worship the eigel so that Hashem could demonstrate the power of Teshuva. Why would Hashem do this? The luchos were a fitting vessel for the oros. Why compel Klal Yisrael to sin and repeat the creational process all over again?
(fill in title)
The Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l (לקוטי שיחות חלק א' פרשת וישלח, חלק לא פרשת שמות) taught that there are three ways we can engage with the physicality of the world.
We can see the physical world as our enemy and subjugate it so that it only behaves in the way we want it to behave.
We can see the physical world as something that has potential to be elevated and use it in a fashion that transforms the physical into the spiritual.
We can see that the physical world as deeply spiritual and learn from it.
All three ways are true. These three methods of engagement represent three stages throughout history.
וישכם אברהם בבקר ויחבוש את חמורו ויקח את שני נעריו אתו ואת יצחק בנו, ויבקע עצי עולה ויקם וילך אל המקום אשר אמר לו האלקים
"And Avraham arose early in the morning, and he saddled his donkey, and he took his two young men with him and Yitzchak his son; and he split wood for a burnt offering, and he arose and went to the place of which G-d had told him." (Bereishis 22:3)
The first stage of history saw the physical world as something that was meant to be subjugated. Avraham Avinu saddled his donkey (chamor represents the chumrius, the physical nature of this world) with the provisions needed for the Akeida. Neither he nor Yitzchak would ride on the donkey but the donkey was saddled. This means that the donkey, the physical world, was subjugated to service their needs but was not elevated enough to actually carry them. They could not be “lifted up” by riding on the donkey.
ַ וַיִּקַּ֨ח משֶׁ֜ה אֶת־אִשְׁתּ֣וֹ וְאֶת־בָּנָ֗יו וַיַּרְכִּבֵם֙ עַל־הַֽחֲמֹ֔ר וַיָּ֖שָׁב אַ֣רְצָה מִצְרָ֑יִם וַיִּקַּ֥ח משֶׁ֛ה אֶת־מַטֵּ֥ה הָֽאֱלֹהִ֖ים בְּיָדֽוֹ
"So Moses took his wife and his sons, mounted them upon the donkey, and he returned to the land of Egypt, and Moses took the staff of God in his hand."
The second stage of history saw the physical world as something that was meant to be elevated. Moshe Rabbeinu also saddled a donkey but this time his wife and children rode on the donkey. To Moshe, his family could become elevated by riding on top of the donkey. The donkey becomes a vehicle through which one can attain greater spiritual heights. This in turn transforms the physical from mundane to sublime.
עָנִי֙ וְרֹכֵ֣ב עַל־חֲמ֔וֹר
"A poor man riding on a donkey" (Zechariah 9:9)
In the final stage of history Moshiach will be like a poor man riding upon a donkey. This means that in the times of Moshiach the soul will be learning something about God from the physical world. Moshiach is the poor man being elevated by the donkey. But how could this be? What could the physical teach the spiritual about God? The spiritual yearns to return to its source in shomayim while the physical world projects that there is no God. What lesson could it possibly teach the spiritual?
The Alter Rebbe in Iggeres Hakodesh (chapter 20) teaches that in truth the physical world more closely mimics God than the spiritual. While the soul yearns to connect to its source, the physical claims that it itself is its own source. It claims that it is the essence and therefore has no source. This is like God Himself who actually has no source. The physical world is behaving just as God does. In other words, the lesson that the body teaches the soul is that God is as present in the physical world as He is in the spiritual world. This is a novel idea to the soul who historically saw the body as something to be subjugated and at best something that could be elevated. To think that the Godly soul could actually learn from the physical body something about God is a radical idea but that is what will happen in the times of Moshiach. We will learn to appreciate that God is as manifest in the tachtonim (the lowest physical worlds) as He is in the elyonim (the highest spiritual worlds). In this fashion the physical world will become a dwelling place for God, a place where God feels comfortable, fulfilling the purpose of creation.
This teaching will allow us see the story of oros and keilim in a new light. In the Olam HaTohu the vessels could not contain the intensity of the lights and therefore shattered. How will any vessel (body) ever contain the intensity of such oros? When we discover the Godliness of the shattered vessels, the imperfect body, then such vessels will be appropriate keilim to contain the infinite light. Far from overwhelming the vessels, the oros will be completely at ease as they enjoy the beauty of imperfection. In other words, initially the creation of the world could not allow for perfection and imperfection to exist harmoniously. The Godly light needed to be dimmed in order for our world to come into existence. Jewish history is the story in which we learn to see the gift of imperfection. We begin by subjugating the physical world, we transition to elevating the phsycial world and eventually we will learn from it. After all, it is the cracks that allow in the light.
We can now understand why at this auspicious moment in history, as Klal Yisrael attained heights at Matan Torah that they had never reached before, Hashem compels them to sin with the cheit haeigel. Now that the Torah was in the world and the vessel had been created to contain the oros it needed to be shattered so that it could bring the world to its ultimate rectification. It was at this moment that God wanted the world to learn about the power of teshuva. Teshuva is the capacity for us to learn from our imperfections. Had Hashem not caused us to sin we would have remained in our perfectly elevated state. Free from death. Free from the yester hora. But in such an elevated state we would never have learned about the Godliness of shattered vessels and ultimately that is the goal of creation. Only then will God have a dirah bitachtonim.
In Front of the Eyes of Klal Yisrael
We are now ready to answer the questions we asked at the outset of this article.
The Torah always ends on a positive note and this case is no different. The breaking of the luchos is the story of how shattered vessels will contain the light of creation. In fact, many commentators point out that the words leinei kol Yisrael are the Roshei Teivos of the word kli, vessel, alluding to the vessel that will ultimately bring creation to its final state. It is true that had Moshe not broken the luchos we would never have gone into Golus but then we would never have found God in our imperfections.
The Torah ends by recounting Moshe’s greatest achievements. He was the greatest Navi to ever live, speaking face to face with God, but that was not his greatest achievement. Above all, he broke the luchos. By breaking the luchos Moshe gave us the vessel that could contain the oros of the Olam HaTohu. It was not an easy thing for Moshe to do. In such a perfect state who would want to leave but Moshe understood that this is what needed to be done to complete God’s mission for this world. Moshe could have defended Klal Yisrael by simply not delivering the marriage contract but he went one step further. He taught us that sometimes our greatest failures create opportunities for our greatest successes. For this Moshe receives a Yasher Koach from God.
This explains why Hashem allowed Moshe to “wrestle” the luchos away from Him in shomayim. Hashem knew that Klal Yisrael was in the throes of worshiping the eigel but this was the perfect time to bring the luchos into the world. Vessels that were carved by God could contain Godly lights but is that such a novel idea? It is a much more profound chiddush when shattered vessels contain Godly lights and that was the teaching of the shivrei luchos.
With this in mind we can understand why Moshe waits until he sees Klal Yisrael dancing around the eigel to break the luchos. He was already aware of their sin in shomayim but for the luchos to be broken they needed to encounter the imperfection of Klal Yisrael. Remember that the light of Adam Kadmon is called the Ohr Einayim, the light of the eyes. When the eyes of Moshe Rabbeinu, who now contains within himself the oros of the Ohr Einayim, see Klal Yisrael dancing around the eigel, the oros of the luchos fly out off of the luchos (kli) effectively shattering them. This is why the passuk puts an emphasis on the fact the breaking of the luchos occurred not just in front of Klal Yisrael but before their eyes.
This is why the luchos are called the luchos haeidus, the tablets of testimony. The luchos contained within them the Ohr HaEinayim of Adam Kadmon and therefore they served as eyes to bear witness. (See also Ohr HaChaim who explains that the eidus specifically relates to the miraculous nature of the Mem and Samech of the Luchos.) The luchos are also related to the eyes in that each eye contains five divine powers (the gematria of ayin (ayin yud nun) is 130 which is five times 26 – 26 being the YHVH name of God) just as the luchos contain five dibros on each side. The name of God as YHVH appears in the Torah 1820 times which is 70 (ayin) multiplied by 26 (YHVH). Lastly, the Vav of the letter Ayin is a reference to the size of the luchos which was six tefachim (Medrash Tanchuma, Devarim 11).
This also explains why Rashi (Ki Tisa 34:3) that the first luchos were destroyed because they were given with so much fanfare (kolos ubrakim) and therefore they were affected by an ayin hara, an evil eye. The second luchos which were given under more modest conditions were able to be sustained.
Finally, the Apta Rav zt"l in Nachlas Yehoshua (Zos HaBerocha at the end of the sefer) explains that Yasher Koach Sheshibarta is Roshei Teivos YKS which is Yichudcha Kevovas Shomreim – “Guard them like the apple [pupil] of Your eye”,
The Broken Luchos in our Hearts
We can now understand what Chazal meant when they taught that Moshe became wealthy from the sapphire chips of the second luchos. This is not referring to physical wealth. Moshe was already wealthy. It was a prerequisite for nevua. Furthermore, Moshe had no need for physical wealth in the Midbar where God took care of our every need. He certainly had no need for additional wealth. Rather the Torah is speaking of a spiritual wealth. Earlier we pointed out that the sapphire that Moshe needed to carve out the luchos was found in his tent. The inner meaning is tat Moshe contained within him the residue of the 1000 oros of the Olam HaTohu (as we saw regarding the small aleph of Vayikra). The second set of luchos would be born from that residue. Saphire is a stone with such sparkle that it appears to illuminate. The sapphire/oros of the second luchos would come from within Moshe Rabbeinu himself. This is what it means when the passuk tells us that the second luchos would be carved by Moshe but would be written by God. The oros of the first luchos would be contained within the second set of luchos. A more imperfect vessel containing perfect oros.
This is why the Medrash in Shemos Rabbah (46:1) tells us that while the first luchos contained only the aseres hadibros, the second luchos contained the entire Torah shebaal Peh. The first luchos were completely Godly with no human contribution. The second luchos, the vessel that expressed our human imperfections would speak to the human contribution to the Torah. With the Oral Torah we bring the Oros into vessel of our humanity.
We can now understand why the shivrei luchos are found in the Aron alongside the second luchos. Tthe shivrei luchos and the second luchos are two parts of one process. The first luchos had to be destroyed so that we could understand that it was our mission to find the Godliness of imperfection. This message is embodied in the second luchos which were fashioned by a mere mortal as opposed to the first luchos which were made by God Himself.
When the Kohen Gadol enters into the Kodesh Hakedoshim on Yom Kippur and encounters the Aron that hold the shivrei luchos, when Klal Yisrael goes out to war, the shivrei luchos don’t serve as a kitrug (a prosecutor) for Klal Yisrael. Quite the contrary. On Yom Kippur the Kohen Gadol uses the shivrei luchos as a means of gaining forgiveness for Klal Yisrael. The shards of the luchos speak to the beauty of our humanity. They make us forgivable as we are in the process of discovering our inner Godliness. To wear a garment that is reminiscent of the eigel would be inappropriate. The shards of the luchos are not a reminder of our aveiros but of our attempt to bring perfect Godliness to an imperfect world. What better message could there be when Klal Yisrael goes out to war?
This also explains a question we have not yet asked. The Gemara (Baba Basra 14b) quotes the verse, "Asher Shibarta v'Samtam ba'Aron" (Devarim 10:2), from which Rav Yosef learns that both the second set of Luchos and the broken Luchos were placed in the Aron.
But how did Rav Yosef arrive at this conclusion? The passuk says, "And I shall write on the Luchos the words that were on the first Luchos which you broke, and you shall place them in the Aron." The words "and you shall place them in the Aron" ("v'Samtam ba'Aron") clearly refer to the second set of Luchos. Hashem commands Moshe Rabeinu to place the second set of Luchos into the Aron. When Hashem says "which you broke" ("Asher Shibarta"), He is telling Moshe Rabeinu merely that the content of the second set of Luchos is the same as the content of the first set "which you broke." How does Rav Yosef understand "v'Samtam ba'Aron" refers to the first set of Luchos which Moshe Rabeinu broke?
According to our approach it is obvious how Rav Yosef understood that the shivrei luchos belonged in the Aron. The first luchos and the second luchos are intimately intertwined. The oros of the first luchos are alive and well in the second set of luchos. From the destruction of the first luchos the second luchos are born. Ultimately imperfection is the vessel that can hold perfection.
This is why Rashi teaches that Moshe Rabbeinu had to be inspired by his “heart” to break the luchos. Breaking the luchos was more than just an idea that Moshe Rabbeinu had. The Reishis Chochmah (Shaar HaKedusha 7) quotes the Zohar who says that the heart of the Beis HaMikdash is the Aron. Moshe's heart, the Aron, was "raised up" by breaking the luchos as now the vessel that would complete creation was born.
This also explains the Gemara in Menachos (99) which warns us to be careful to honor a Talmid Chacham who has forgotten his learning for he is like the broken luchos which still retain their kedusha. The most broken places will be the vessel that contain the ultimate expression of Godliness.
Every year we read Vizos Habracha on Simchas Torah. It is an appropriate parsha for the Chag,
On Simchas Torah we finish Vizos Habracha and immediately return to Bereishis. In light of what we have said it makes sense. The end of the Torah leads us right back to the story of creation. With the breaking of the luchos the vessel was created to contain the lights of Olam HaTohu.
On Simchas Torah the Minhag is that we dance even with those Sifrei Torah that are passul. Why would we dance with a Sefer Torah that can't be lained from? Why not just leave it in the Aron? On Simchas Torah we dance with those Kosher Sifrei Torah that are reminiscent of the second luchos and we dance with those passul Sifrei Torah that are reminiscent of the first luchos. The passul Sefer Torah, the broken vessel, is as valuable as the whole vessel. Together they will hold the infinite light of creation and bring the world to its ultimate state of rectification.
As we encounter our own shivrei luchos throughout Elul and the Aseres Yemei Teshuva there can be a feeling of worthlessness that we experience. Succos is the hug at the end of the journey that lets us know that Hashem continues to love us despite our many flaws. Simchas Torah reveals the final stage of our journey. Hashem does not love us despite our flaws, it is our failures that create the vessel which will redeem us. The cracks don't just allow in the light, they actually contain them.