Shavu’ot 5778: The Six Tefachim of the Tablets, Meanings of the Three Sets and Significance of Actions

Shalom Friends;

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Moshe Burt
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Shavu’ot 5778: The Six Tefachim of the Tablets, Meanings of the Three Sets and Significance of Actions

by Moshe Burt

The Sefer Shem Mishmuel, as rendered into English by Rabbi Zvi Belovski (page 302) cites Rabbi Berachyah in Shemos Rabbah Perek 28, posuk 1 (page 302):

“The Tablets were six tefachim (handbreadths) long — in some sense, Hashem grasped two tefachim, Moshe grasped 2 tefachim and 2 tefachim bridged the gap between them.”

Shem Mishmuel then explains, seemingly equating the three sets of two tefachim each (pages 302 – 304):

We can sub-divide all mitzvot, and indeed, all human endeavors into three spheres: thought, speech and action. There are some Mitzvot which require a Jew to think in a particular way. For example, the first of the Ten Commandments demands belief in Hashem. Another is that one must not attribute power to any force other than Hashem. Another is that one must not covet another’s property.

Other Mitzvot are dependent on speech. For example, one must verbally recall Shabbos…. not lie to the Beis Din or speak badly of another. Finally, there are many Mitzvot which utilize the Jew’s power of action. There are requirements to put on tefillin, shake the lulav, eat matzah, etc.

…Each of these three divisions reflect different interactions between man and Hashem.

Thoughts are not entirely under man’s control; they can pop into the mindwhen unwanted. It is… common that while concentrating on a complex problem inappropriate ideas come to mind, often causing great frustration… It is reasonable to say that man’s thoughts are in Hashem’s control.

Action… is entirely in an individual’s domain. He is not forced to do anything that he doesn’t want to do. If he chooses to spend many hours performing a mitzvah, or instead not to do it at all, he is… at liberty to do so.

Speech enjoys a sort of in-between status…. a partnership between man and Hashem.

Shem Mishmuel (ibid) then goes on to reexamine the above Midrash:

The two tefachim of the tablets which were grasped by Hashem express the power of thought, which is the dimension of man that remains in Divine control. The two tefachim grasped by Moshe Rabbeinu, the representative of Yisrael, symbolize action, which is entirely in man’s domain. The space of the two tefachim between Moshe and Hashem symbolizes speech, the control of which rests between them.

Shem Mishmuel (ibid) now cites a Mishlei, a declaration of Shlomo HaMelech and comments:

Commit your affairs to Hashem, and your thoughts will be established. (Mishlei 16:3)

Something very profound is revealed… here: If we fulfill our potential in our domain of mitzvah performance, not only will we be granted command over our speech, but Hashem will deem us worthy to receive an even greater gift. If we “commit your affairs to Hashem,” then He will enable us to rule even our own thought processes, relinquishing, as it were, control over even His grasp of the tablets.

The actions of the Jew determine everything, even the ultimate success or failure of the peoples of the world.

This idea is illustrated by Chazal:

“After Yisrael did that wicked act [the sin of the golden calf], Hashem wanted to grab the tablets from Moshe. However Moshe prevailed and snatched them back.” (Yerushalmi, Ta’anis 4:5)

To conclude, the actions of a Jew can have enormous consequences for good or for bad. Literally, everything depends upon it. And it could be that when the Jews received the Torah at Sinai they had all this in mind when they proclaimed: “All that Hashem has said, we will do and hear.” (Sefer Shemot, Perek 24, posuk 7)

It would seem to this author that such requisite actions in Mitzvot performance, as discussed in Sefer Shem Mishmuel, would not be restricted to the literal 613 Mitzvot of Halacha, i.e. donning tallit and tefillin, taking and shaking the Arba Minim during Succot, eating matzah, giving Tzedakah, tefillot with intent, etc., but would extend to any action of kindness done, either by one Jew, or a group of Jews for another Jew, group of Jews, or for kol Am Yisrael. And such action(s) should be for Love and Closeness to Hashem and because the necessity is there to be satisfied. In this way, united and as individuals, may Hashem grant us command over both our speech and thought processes.

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the twice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of three and 3/4 years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Chag Kosher V’Same’ach!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.