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The Torah's eulogizing Moses immediately after its death states:
There has not arisen a prophet like Moses in Israel whom G-d knew face to face... in all the great and awesome deeds which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel (34:10-12).
Rashi brings the tradition that Moses' 'great and awesome deeds' 'in the sight of all Israel' very much include his smashing the two tablets of stone as he brought them down from Mount Sinai, viewing the Israelites in the act of dancing around the golden calf. G-d's later reference to those tablets as being asher shibarta (those you smashed - Ex. 34:1) - is understood as ashrei she-shibarta 'You did the right thing in smashing them. Well done!'
So the parting words about Moses which conclude the Torah actually congratulate him for destroying the Torah first time round - after forty days and forty nights of divine instruction when he 'neither ate bread nor drank water' (9:9).
It seems possible that the Torah ends on this note to teach us a salutary lesson about what the Torah indeed is, and how it is applied.
For Moses did not ask for permission. He broke the tablets on his own initiative; there is no 'al pi hashem' (by the command of G-d; c.f. Num. 3:16). Like all human beings, Moses was created in His Image (c.f. Gen. 1:27). The Psalms state in reference to Man that G-d made him 'a little lower that G-d, and crowned him with glory and honor' with 'dominion over the work of Your hands' (Psalms 8:6-7). In other words, G-d gives Man the opportunity to grow in wisdom, experience, and sense of proportion - using judgment, with the capacity to cut through red tape when necessary. Which is precisely what Moses did - and was congratulated for it.
In today's terms, that is the difference between a human and a computer. Computers follow rules, but don't 'get' the situation. The wise, the gifted, the learned, and the mature do 'get' what is going on, and act accordingly. For had Moses done what his experience taught him to do - merely carry out G-d's instructions, the Torah would very likely had received a confused, embarrassed, conflicted, and awkward reception. Such a reception would devalue the Torah as the Guide to Being, from the Creator Himself…
Indeed this notion forms part of our daily prayers: for deah, bina, and haskel - knowledge, understanding, and wisdom - 'getting what's going on'…
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Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
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