This week’s Torah Portion, Ki Tisa tells the tale of the two sets of Ten Commandments. The first set were carved by God and given to Moses to bring down from Mount Sinai and present to the Children of Israel. But in the forty days of waiting for Moses to return, the Israelites had lost faith and built for themselves an idol of a Golden Calf to worship. Moses breaks that first set of Ten Commandments in anger before the people of Israel for their lack of faith and for their sin of idolatry which breaks the very commandments which God had placed in his hands.
The people repent, God’s anger is cooled, and once again Moses climbs Mount Sinai, carrying in his hands two blank tablets upon which God inscribes again the words of the Ten Commandments just like the first. The words are the same but the tablets are different in that Moses is commanded to make this second set of tablets himself unlike the first which were made by God.
There is a lesson here for us to learn. The commandments we keep – they need to be, at least in part, the work of our own hands. We need to own them, to make them, and to take them into our heart. Because Moses made the tablets upon which God inscribed the words, we can cherish them as divine and yet see them still as the work of our hands. As it says in the song we sing after the Torah is read:
וְזֹאת הַתּוֹרָה אֲשֶׁר שָׂם מֹשֶׁה לִפְנֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל עַל פִּי יי בְּיָד מֹשֶׁה.
“This is the Torah, which Moses placed before the Children of Israel, from the mouth of God, and by the hand of Moses.”