Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Shavuous- First Tablets VS the Second Tablets

The Kedushas Levi asks a question. He says why is it that Chag Hashavuous is referred to in Chazal (rabbinic teachings) as Atzeres, whereas the Torah itself never refers to Shavuous as Atzeres, but rather only Shmini Atzeres is called Atzeres? The reason for this is that the Jewish people damaged their unity during the Luchos Rishonos (first tablets) and the name of Atzeres is very telling of how great the original absorption of holiness was during the first tablets. After the Jewish people sinned and lost the holiness from the level of receiving the first tablets it wasn’t proper to name the chag Atzeres because the holiness that was originally placed on this chag was now lacking. If this is so, then why do chazal still call Shavuous Atzeres?


To understand the answer to this question we must first analyze the spiritual level of the Jewish people during the Luchos Rishonos (first tablets) and Luchos Shniyos (second tablets). By the first set of luchos the Torah says that the luchos were made by G-D and they were written by G-D who engraved the tablets. Chazal say over here that when you see the word Charus (engraved) you should read it as Charus with a yud that means free. The freedom was from the yetzer hora (evil inclination) and the angel of death. This is what the level of the Jewish people was from the luchos rishonos, a freedom from sin and death, like adam harishon before the sin.

The Ohr Gidalyahu here quotes a chazal that compares the luchos rishonos to the body and the soul of a human. He says that the luchos rishonos' creation is compared to what the Jewish people’s essence was at that time and would be forever if there would have been no sin of the Golden Calf. The Luchos rishonos’s body, the stone tablets, were made by G-D, and the words on the luchos were also written by G-D. This is comparable to the body of a man and the soul of a man. The comparison is that just like there is no separation between the stone tablets and the writings on the tablets, they are both considered to be completely spiritual entities, so too the body and soul of a man at that time were considered to be one entity.

This connection between the body and the soul describe the level of the Jewish people at this time. To explain this idea we will bring in what Rebbe Simai said. He said that everything that is created in the heavens has their body and soul on one spiritual plain. Therefore we are comparing the jewish people at this time to angels that were created solely for heaven. The only difference between a man and an angel are that the man has a body from earth and a soul from heaven that are constantly at war with one another, whereas an angel has a body and soul from heaven that are in harmony. By Mount Sinai, the Jewish people's bodies were elevated to a status of heavenly creatures.

This idea is also revealed through the Jewish people's statement of naaseh vinishma, do and hear. The naaseh (action) is with the body and that elevated their bodies to a completely spiritual essence since at that time they were using their actions solely for G-D.

Therefore, when a person brings his soul and body into harmony we say that death is not even relevant to him since death is only relevant to an earthly type of body. It is similar to the Chazal that says Yaakov Avinu Lo mais. Yaakov didn’t die. It doesn’t mean that he is still alive, but he reached such a level that Chazal say that he passed into the next world, but he departed from his body like someone takes off a coat, he had no real death because of his high spiritual status.


The second set of luchos were a bit different from the first. G-D told Moshe to take two luchos made of stone and then G-D would write on them the words from the first luchos. The body of the luchos rishonos and the words were both from heaven, but the luchos shniyos had their body from earth and their words from heaven. They had a soul from heaven and a body from earth. This is because all of the Jewish people's spiritual level was lowered because of the sin of the Golden Calf. It was because of this sin that death became relevant again in the world, because the body became an earthly concept again.

The reason that only the body was lowered in spirituality and not the soul as well was because the sin of the golden calf was only in the naaseh (we will do) which corresponds to the body, however the nishma (we will listen) remained intact and that corresponds to the soul.

Another difference between the luchos rishonos and luchos shniyos is that by the luchos rishonos the Midrash Rabbah says that G-D told Moshe that all he had to know was the aseres hadibros vizehu (the ten commandments and that is all). However, by the second set G-D gave him Midrashim, Aggadita and Hilachos (the oral Torah).

The best way to describe the differences between the luchos rishonos and shniyos is to look at the commandment of keeping Shabbos. By the luchos rishonos it says zachor (remember) and by the luchos shniyos it says shamor (guard). The underlying theme of the luchos rishonos were zachor (remember) and the underlying theme of the luchos shniyos was shamor (guard). By the luchos rishonos the reality of the Jewish people and the life of the Jewish people was to follow everything that G-D said without veering left or right. Meaning that every commandment that they were given was not a warning it was just a fact. G-D said don’t kill, not as a warning but as a reality of life. (To use yeshivish talk, stealing and killing wasn’t even shayich.)

However, the idea of shamor is an idea of warning. This warning is an idea that if you do something then you will suffer consequences. That is why by the first luchos it doesn’t mention shamor, because it wasn’t relevant to mention. This is because of the high level of the Jewish people. However, once the Jewish people fell from their high level then the idea of shamor became relevant again. Now, the Jewish people needed the warning of shamor so that if they did something wrong there would be consequences. Through the idea of shamor then the Jewish people could reach the idea of zachor, which is where your life is a reality of keeping these commandments.

The idea that the first luchos were a reality and not a warning is shown in the following way. By the first luchos there is no vav between lo tirzach (don't kill) and lo tinof and so on, but by the second luchos there is a vav. The reason for this is that the vav is put in there to describe a warning. Like you can’t do this and this and this and etc. But by the luchos rishonos it was just a part of life and reality so there is no vav necessary. (this idea comes from the bais yaakov)

By the luchos rishonos everything was understood about the specific parts of the Torah and no expounding was needed. This is because at this time the Jewish people was given a clear vision of what life was supposed to be like, similar to Adam harishon before the sin.

However, by the second luchos since the Torah was no longer a clear vision much studying was needed in order to understand it like all of the midrashim and agadita. Nevertheless, if all the effort is put in then a clear vision of life with the Torah can be acquired.

The Oral Torah is the explanation that comes with the luchos shniyos. This is what we can use in order to make a clear vision of what it is we are supposed to be doing. The way to really reconnect our body and soul is through the Oral Torah. With the luchos rishonos we did not need the Oral Torah since we already had the clear vision of how to live our life, but because of the sin, our body and soul became at war and the only way to create harmony again is through the Oral Torah.

This is why the Torah never refers to shavuous as Atzeres, but chazal do. The luchos rishonos were destroyed and we are living with the luchos shniyos. The Written Torah in and of itself is not enough to give us a clear vision of how to live and connect our bodies to our souls. However, chazal call shavuous atzeres, because through the Oral Torah, the gemorah and so forth, we are able to recreate this clear vision and connect our bodies with our souls.

This is where the custom of learning all night comes from. We are trying to learn the Oral Torah to reconnect ourselves with the idea of creating a clear vision of what we are supposed to be doing in order to connect our bodies and our souls. This will recreate the high status of the Jewish people and bring us back to our level before the sin of Adam harishon.

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