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Dualism

Why did God command Moshe to "carve two tablets of stone" (Exodus 34.1)? Why not carve the divine message into one large tablet? Was it because there were too many words to render readable on one stone? Surely something as critical as the medium upon which the essential covenantal relationship was to be inscribed must be laden with deep meaning. After all, no detail in Torah is superfluous or insignificant. What then can we glean from God commanding Moshe to prepare two tablets?

In Tanhuma, an ancient commentary, the two tablets are said to "correspond to heaven and earth, to groom and bride and to this world and the world to come". In each of these pairs the "opposite" exists only in relationship with its partner. We might add to this list, tahor (ritual purity) and tamai (ritual impurity), kodesh (holy) and chol (ordinary), the nation of Israel and the other nations, God and Israel. The two tablets represent the binary or dualistic nature of consciousness and awareness. Without an awareness of separate, distinctive qualities or characteristics, boundaries dissolve. In sociological terms, assimilation occurs. In psychological terms, self identity is lost. In theological terms, false gods, that is, the ones fashioned by hand such as the Golden Calf, are worshipped or God's very existence is denied. Thus, the two tablets symbolically represent that for life to have meaning it must, necessarily, be lived in relationship. Moreover, not only do the tablets themselves represent relationship, but all of what God carves into them (generally assumed to be the Ten Commandments) instructs how people should or should not relate to the world around them.

The Torah pushes the lesson of the importance of relationship further. This time Moshe is commanded to actively participate in the preparation of the second giving of Torah. "The Lord said to Moshe: Carve two tablets of stone like the first and I will inscribe upon the tablets the words that were on the first tablet, which you shattered'" (Exodus 34:1) The first time Moshe was only a passive recipient. The second time he takes an active role!

From the two tablets then we learn that relationship is absolutely necessary to our very existence. Moreover, we also may glean from this seemingly minor point that what distinguishes us is how we approach the myriad of relationships that are part of our unique individuation process. We may choose to be passive or active relationship partners. By having Moshe receive the inscribed tablets twice, first as a passive recipient and then as an active partner, Torah teaches that it is the relationships in which we assume an active role that we will find the most meaning.
Topics: Divrei Torah
Type: Dvar Torah

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