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Parshas Mishpatim - Take Two Tablets Every Day

"And Hashem said to Moshe 'Come up to Me onto the mount and be there; and I will give you the Tablets of stone," 24:11

At the end of this week's Torah portion Hashem instructs Moshe to ascend Mount Sinai and receive the actual Tablets that were inscribed by Hashem Himself. The Talmud Yerushalmi relates that one of the miraculous facets of the Tablets was that the commandments could be read from every direction. Since a miracle reflects the manifestation of the Almighty's presence, it is unclear as to what the need for such an incredible miracle would be. What compounds this difficulty is the fact that the Tablets were stored permanently in the Ark of the Covenant and were never visible for anyone to see. Clearly, the symbolism of this supernatural occurrence requires interpretation. 

After the Ark of the Covenant had been captured by the Philistines, it wreaked havoc in their cities and they sent it away to Kiryat Ye'arim. There it remained until King David sent for it to be brought to the City of David. The Ark was loaded onto a wagon drawn by oxen, to be taken to its destination. The Navi relates that the oxen veered off course and stumbled. Uzza, one of the men responsible for bringing it back, lurched forward, fearing the Ark would topple. Immediately, he was struck down. Mr. Irving Bunim, great philanthropist and activist for the Vaad Hatzalah, was greatly perplexed as to how such a tragedy could be understood. He records in his sefer, Ethics of Sinai, that he once heard a great interpretation from the first Chief Rabbi of Israel, Harav Avraham HaKohein Cook zt"l. Rav Cook was asked what the message of Uzza's death was. He responded poignantly, "When the oxen stumble, you need to straighten the oxen, not the Ark."

The message is clear; we need to make ourselves malleable to the immutable values of the Torah and not try to mold the Torah to our own lifestyles and needs.

This perhaps, is the symbolism of the Tablets. The commandments could be read the same way from every direction. No matter where a person is in history and no matter what the societal norms are, the Torah values do not need to conform to the times, rather, the times need to conform to the Torah.

Rabbi Mordechai Shifman

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Parsha Mishpatim - "The power of blessings" by Rabbi Mordechai Shifman