The Two Great Evils of History

THE YESHIVA:

Class Summary:

The Islamists and Hitler – The Two Great Evils of History

Give Us Two 

One of the intriguing things about the Ten Commandments[1], given to the Jewish people on the upcoming holiday of Shavuos, is that they were engraved on two separate tablets. Was G-d short of granite that He needed to use two tablets? Why could He not carve the commandments onto a single stone? 

There is the stereotypical Jew-bashing joke about this. Before coming to the Jews, G-d approached all the nations and asked if they would like to accept the Torah. Each of them refused because of some commandment in the Bible to which they could not possibly adhere. When G-d presented the offer to the Jews, their sole question was: How much do you want for it? 

To which G-d responded: “It’s for free.” 

So the Jews replied: “Give us two.” 

Yet the issue demands sincere reflection. Why indeed was there a need for two tablets? 

Two Versions 

The rabbis in the midrash proposed a novel answer. The Ten Commandments, they suggested, were engraved on two tablets, five on each stone,  so that they would be read in two directions — from top to bottom, and from side to side[2]. 

The simplest way of reading the Ten Commandments is, of course, from top to bottom: 

On the first stone: 

1) I am the Lord your G-d who has taken you out of Egypt… 

2) You shall have no other gods… 

3) You shall not swear in G-d’sname in vain… 

4) Remember the Sabbath… 

5) Honor your father and your mother… 

And the five commandments engraved on the second tablet: 

6) You shall not murder. 

7) You shall not commit adultery. 

8) You shall not steal. 

9) You shall not bear false witness against your fellow. 

10) You shall not covet your fellow’s house; you shall not covet your fellow’s wife…noranything that belongs to your fellow. 

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