From the Rebbe’s Torah
Humor to begin with:
Moses was very modern.
He was the first to get a tablet with data from the cloud.
In this week’s parsha, Eikev — which is in the book of Deuteronomy, which is sort of a summary of the previous 4 books of the Torah — Moshe recounts his shattering of the Luchos — the tablets bequeathed to him by G-d, and inscribed by Him with the 10 commandments, which Moshe had brought down from Mount Sinai
He broke them when he came down from the mountain and saw that the Jewish people had sinned by worshipping the golden calf which they had constructed out of fire through magic.
(Later, Moshe went back up the mountain, and came down with the second luchos, which remained whole.)
We are told that from the times of Moshe, until the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash, approximately 800 years later — whenever the Jewish people would go to war with their enemies, they would take with them the ark which contained the broken pieces of the first luchos. This would be of merit to them, and ensure their victory — otherwise, why would they take it along?
Now, the people chosen at that time to go to war were all holy men, who did not sin at all. The first luchos, by contrast, were a reminder of the sin that the Jewish people had performed. So, why would such holy people bring a remembrance of something not associated with them — and how would this help their cause?
First we have to understand why Moshe broke the luchos to begin with. The Medrash tells us that when he came down from the mountain and saw that the Jews had sinned, he noticed that the letters of the 10 commandments engraved into the tablets had “flown away.” At that point, he said to himself that “At this point, there is nothing to them.” So he broke them.
This reasoning is quite perplexing, to say the least. Why is there “nothing to them” if the letters dissipated?!
The verse tells us: “And the luchos were the handiwork of G-d, and the writing was the writing of G-d”!
These tablets were the handiwork of G-d! (Unlike the second pair which Moshe fashioned on his own, and then brought up for G-d to inscribe.) They originated in Heaven! Materials originating directly from Heaven are certainly extremely holy! So why did Moshe say that “there is nothing to them” at this point, and why did he seemingly desecrate G-d’s direct handiwork, by breaking it?!
The answer is that even though G-d had directly created the tablets — when G-d engraved the words of the 10 commandments onto them, that became what the tablets were all about.
Because engraving causes unification between the words being engraved and the material engraved onto. When something is written with ink, the letters and the material written on remain separate entities. But when something is engraved, the letters cannot be considered anything but part and parcel of the material used, itself.
So, when the 10 commandments were engraved into this stone — holy as it was, as G-d’s handiwork — the tablets became all about G-d’s words engraved into them.
It’s like the difference between a body and soul: Even though the body exists before the soul enters it — once it does, it is clear and evident that the true essence of the body is the soul. Without it, the body is not alive, and there is “nothing to it.” It cannot do anything.
Same with the luchos. They are something holy on their own, but once “the life” is infused into it — meaning that they become a vessel for expressing G-d’s words — that’s what they are all about, and without these words, “there is nothing to them.”
* * *
Back to the wars: The Jewish people entering the Land of Israel were holy and pious people. They are referred to by the Torah as a “generation of knowledge.” They were involved in G-dly service all the time, without anything bothering or disturbing them.
Then came the time to fight G-d’s wars, to conquer the Land of Israel, and there, perform the practical mitzvos which can only be performed when the Jews are settled and working the land — and while among the gentiles: being a light onto them, by teaching them the 7 Noahide laws.
It was time to not suffice with what they were. They needed to make a shift and be all that G-d wanted of them.
For encouragement in this endeavour, they took along with them the broken piece of the tablets. This was to remind them that just as the tablets lost their worth when their ascent in holiness was lost — so must they endeavour to ascend in holiness and not suffice with that they were.
The clear lesson for us to always ascend in matters of holiness, and not suffice with what we’ve reached so far. For in holiness, there is truly no end. And not only that, we have the energy all within our souls; we just need to tap into it. Like the luchos, what we can reach is what we truly are.
Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh Weinreb was at a “mid-life crisis” and needed someone to turn to. He had questions about which direction his life should take and different philosophical questions.
In his own words:
And so it was that in February of 1971 I called the Rebbe.
The Rebbe’s secretary answered the phone in English, with a simple, “Hello, who’s this?”
Now, as I was talking to the secretary, in the background – I recognized his voice from the farbrengens I had attended – the Rebbe was asking in Yiddish, “Who’s calling?”
I replied, “A Yid fun Maryland – A Jew from Maryland.”
I told the secretary that I have many questions which I would like to discuss with the Rebbe – questions about what direction my life should take, questions regarding my career, questions of faith… I explained that I was at a very uncertain stage in my life and I didn’t know where to turn.
I spoke in English and, as I was talking, the Rebbe’s secretary was repeating and paraphrasing my words in Yiddish – I imagine he was doing this so that the Rebbe should hear.
And then I heard the Rebbe say in the background, in Yiddish: “Tell him that there is a Jew who lives in Maryland that he can speak to. Der yid hayst Veinreb – his name is Weinreb.”
The secretary asked me, “Did you hear what the Rebbe said?”
Now, I couldn’t believe my ears. I knew for sure I had not given the secretary my name, but the Rebbe had just said my name! I was taken aback and I wanted to hear it again. So when the secretary asked whether I heard, I said no.
The secretary repeated the Rebbe’s words to me: “S’iz doh a Yid in Maryland mit vemen er zol redden. Zayn numen iz Veinreb.”
So I replied, “But my name is Weinreb!
And then I heard the Rebbe say, “Oib azoi, zol er visen zayn az amol darf men reden tzu zich – If that’s the case, then he should know that, sometimes, one needs to speak to himself.”
The secretary also seemed stunned by what was taking place. He just stopped, and I could hear his breathing. And then he said to me, “The Rebbe said that sometimes it’s best to talk to yourself. Isn’t your name Weinreb?”
“Yes, my name is Weinreb, but maybe the Rebbe means a different Weinreb.”
“No, the Rebbe’s saying ‘Talk to Weinreb,’ and he explained that you must to talk to yourself.”
I thanked him very much, and the call ended with that.
It’s all in us. We must just take the initiative, and take one step after the other. One step at a time. Always ascending. L’chaim! And a Good Shabbos.
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