Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Table Talk - Ki Tisa 5767

I'd like to share some thoughts that we discussed during the week at the womens' parshah shiurim -- Tuesday at 1:30pm at YIOP and Wednesday at 8:45am at Akiva. And no, I never miss an opportunity to plug a shiur.
The world recognizes the Two Tablets as perhaps one (or two) of the most famous Jewish symbols ever. In airports and other public places around the world, they represent a Jewish house of worship. Jewish chaplains in the US Armed Forces wear a pin of the tablets to signify their faith. And, you can find some reprsentation of the tablets in pretty much every shul in the world. (In our shul, we have a set from the old Young Israel of Oak Woods building above the aron in the Beis Medrash.)
This recognition comes for good reason: these are no ordinary Tablets. The Torah tells us that these tablets are מַעֲשֵׂה אֱלֹקִים, הֵמָּה -- "the work of God," and their writings was also "the work of God." כְּתֻבִים מִשְּׁנֵי עֶבְרֵיהֶם--מִזֶּה וּמִזֶּה, הֵם כְּתֻבִים -- "written from both sides, from each side they were written." (34:15-16) The Midrash explains that while God hewed the writing in the Tablets all the way to the other side, if you then looked at the Tablets from the back, instead of seeing the writing backwards, you would see the writing forward again. In Rashi's words, they were מעשה נסים -- "a product of miracles." They could not really exist in the natural world, but they did.
What do they Jewish people do with the Tablets? We know that they place them in the Aron -- the ark, which they then place in the Mishkan -- the Tabernacle -- in the קדש הקדשים -- the Holy of Holies. Only the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, and even then, he certainly never opened the Aron to look at the Tablets. (If you've ever seen "Raiders of the Lost Ark" you'd know why.)
If so -- if no one were to ever see them, ever -- why does God even give these Tablets to the Jewish people?
Discuss amongst yourselves.