Parashas Ki Sissa

When Moshe came down from Mount Sinai and saw how the Jewish People had sinned with the golden calf, he broke the Tablets of the Law that Hashem had given him. Later, Hashem told him (Shemos 34:1): “Carve for yourself two stone tables like the first ones, and I shall write upon the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke.” The Midrash comments (Yalkut Shimoni, Torah 397):
Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai was asked why the first tablets were the handiwork of Hashem but the second tablets were the handiwork of man. He replied: “I will explain this to you with a parable. A king took a wife, and he himself supplied the paper for the marriage contract. He gave the woman a crown and took her into his home. Later, he saw her jesting with one of his servants. He got angry with her and divorced her. Her marriage agent approached him and said: ‘Don’t you know where you took her from? She grew up among servants, and that is why she is close with them.’ The king responded: ‘What do you want from me? That I reconcile with her? Bring me some paper and I will write her a new marriage contract.’ Similarly, when the Jewish People sinned with the golden calf, Moshe said to Hashem: ‘Don’t You know where you took them out from? A place of idolatry.’ Hashem responded: ‘What do you want from Me? That I reconcile with them? Bring me some tablets of your own, and I will put my writing on them.’”
The Maggid explains this Midrash with a parable of his own. A certain merchant was accustomed to do all his business through an agent. Initially, he had an agent who was very trustworthy, but this agent died, so he had to hire another one. The only candidate available was a man who was efficient but dishonest. For lack of choice, the merchant hired this man, saying to himself: “Even though this fellow will steal a considerable sum from me, I will still gain some profit from his efforts.” When the time came to draw up the contract between them, the merchant told the man: “Go get a contract written according to the terms we discussed, bring it to me, and afterward I will sign it.” The man asked in surprise: “Why are you treating me differently from your first agent? I understand that when you hired him, you wrote the contract yourself.” The merchant replied: “The difference is this. With my first agent, I knew that his efforts would be entirely on my behalf. I therefore felt that I should write the contract myself. But with you, I know that you will first pocket for yourself a sizable percentage of what you collect, and afterward hand over to me what is left over after you have taken what you consider a satisfactory amount. So I figured we should work it the same way with the writing of the contract: You first get the contract written up, and afterward I will sign it.”
The parallel is as follows. At the revelation at Sinai, the Jewish People were purged of the primeval defilement and thus stripped of the evil inclination. They were still in this pure-hearted state when Moshe went up to the mountain to receive the first set of tablets. Accordingly, it was certain that the Jewish People’s Torah study and mitzvah observance would be entirely for Hashem’s sake, without any personal motives. Hashem therefore provided the tablets Himself. But through the sin of the golden calf, the evil inclination was infused within the Jewish People once again, and their hearts were no longer pure. Their Torah study and mitzvah observance would no longer be entirely for Hashem’s sake; rather, initially they would learn Torah and perform mitzvos for their own benefit, and only afterward would they reach spiritual maturity and engage in these activities for Hashem’s sake (mitoch shelo lishmah yavou lishmah). Therefore, with the second tablets, Hashem told Moshe: “First bring me some tablets of your own, and afterward I will put my writing on them.”
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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