23 May SHAVUOT MYTHS
There are many
myths and mistakes
regarding the great
event of Matan
Torah. Some of
those myths were
adopted from artists
of this monumental event based on their own
interpretations, whereas some are simply
mistakes of people.
Here are some common mistakes about the
Luchot that became accepted due to the famous
drawings of the Luchot:
Mistake: A common way to draw the
Luchot show them as the words of the Ten
Commandments written on the Luchot or
engraved on the surface. Secondly, it seems like
the back of the Luchot had nothing on them, just
a flat stone.
Reality: The words were engraved all the
way from side to side in a way that there was
nothing in the place that the letter was engraved.
There was a miracle that one was able to turn
the Luchot to the other side, and instead of
having the words backwards, they were able to
.(רש״ר הירש שמות לב,טו) regularly read be
Moreover, the letters were actually able to be
read from either of the four sides of the stones
.(רע״ב אבות פ״ה מ״ו)
Mistake: As Moshe was holding the stones
one can clearly see that they were firm and hard.
Reality: A less-known miracle is that those
stones were able to be rolled like a Sefer Torah
and therefore it’s very likely that Moshe had
them scrolled rather than exposed (אבות רע״ב
שם יו״ט‘ ותוס מ״ו פ״ה (. This also seems to be the
way the Radbaz (תתפג סימן (understood since he
said that no one was able to see the letters on the
Myth: We are all very familiar with the
common pictures of the Luchot which all show
only the beginning of verse of each of the Ten
,לא יהיה לך and’ אנכי ה as such ,Commandments
but are those really the only words that were
written in the Luchot?
Reality: In the Luchot the entire verses of
Ten Commandments were written. Besides the
fact that this is obvious, we can also prove this
from what Chazal said that the letters ם and ס
were written in the Luchot in a miraculous way
since they had a circle inside them which was not
attached to anything but floating on the air. Now,
only the later words in the verses had those two
letters which clearly demonstrates that all the
letters in complete were written.
Myth: The Luchot were rectangle and
rounded on the top edges.
Reality: The Luchot were square on top with
square edges. This we learn from the words of the
Gemara (א,יד בתרא בבא (says that the stones had a
length of six tefachim by six tefachim wide. The
thickness was three tefachim. It is clear from this
gemara that the Luchot were completely square.
Myth: The Luchot had five commandments
on one tablet and five on the other.
Reality: Although that is the opinion of Rabbi
Chanina, but Chachamim (who were the majority
and more accepted opinion) surprisingly held
that the Ten Commandments were written on one
side and again repeated on the other side.
כיצד היו הלוחות- כתובים רב חנינה- )בן אחיה ר‘”
יהודה( בן גמליאל אומר- חמשה על לוח זה- וחמשה על
לוח- זה, הה‘‘ד: ”ויכתבם על שני -לוחות אבנים“- חמשה
על לוח -זה וחמשה על- לוח זה. ורבנן- אמרי עשרה על
אשר צוה אתכם- לעשות עשרת הדברים“- עשרה על לוחלוח זה ועשרה- על לוח זה,- הה‘‘ד: ”ויגד לכם את -בריתו
-.זה ועשרה על לוח זה״ ירושלמי שקלים יד
It seems like the reason for the repetition was
because the tablets were set as a contract between
the nation and Hashem, and therefore each party
receives a copy of the contract.
Rashi (א,לד שמות(tells us that the Luchot served
as a Ketubah, which is a contract between a
husband and his bride, here it was a contract
between Hashem and the nation.
There is also a third opinion of Rabbi Shimon
Bar Yochai who held that there were twenty
commandments on each tablet.
The explanation to his opinion could be since
the letters on the Luchot were shown from four
sides (as explained above) therefore it had to be
repeated four times.
Possible Mistake: The Hebrew name for
the Ten Commandments is הדברות עשרת. This is
a problem for two reasons. One is that the words
דבר- Commandment is masculine and according
to correct grammar the plural to that should be
הדברים עשרת. Next is that the Torah itself calls
them הדברים עשרת in couple of places.
ויכת ֹב על הלֻח ֹת- את דברי הברית- עשרת…”
הדברים“ שמות ל“ד, כ“ח
ויגד לכם את -בריתו אשר צוה -אתכם לעשות -עשרת”
הדברים ויכתבם על- שני לֻחֹות אבנים“ )דברים ד‘,
י“ג ”ויכת ֹב על הלֻח ֹת- כמכתב הראשון את -עשרת
הדברים אשר -דבר ה‘ אליכם- בהר מתוך האש -ביום
הקהל…“ )שם י‘, ד
The Mishna, too, (א,ה תמיד (calls it עשרת
הדברים On the other hand, it is not totally wrong,
because the Gemara(ב,יא ברכות (brings it in the
more common way: הדברות עשרת
Mistake: Only the Ten Commandments were
engraved on the Luchot.
Reality: Aside from the Ten Commandments,
their explanations and interpretations were also
engraved. The amount of writing contained
within was surely a miracle of- את המחזיק מעט
המרובה )ירושלמי שקלים יד, במד״ר פי״ג פט״ז, שהש״ר
(ה,יד. רדב״ז ח״ג סי‘ תקמט