Parshas Ki Sisa: Two Luchos, not One

ויהי כאשר קרב אל המחנה וירא את העגל ומחלת ויחר אף משה וישלך מידו את הלחת וישבר אתם תחת ההר (לב:יט) 

It happened as he drew near the camp and saw the eigel and the dancing, that Moshe’s anger flared up. He threw down the Luchos from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain. (32:19)


Moshe Rabbeinu comes down from Har Sinai just a few weeks after Kabbalas Hatorah. Lo and behold, he sees the eigel and the dancing. Full of anger at this ultimate betrayal of HaShem, and especially at the dancing that had accompanied it, Moshe cast down the luchos. Although the passuk actually says וישלך מידו-he threw it from his hand, there is a “kesiv u’kri” on this passuk. It is read as if there was a “yud” inserted into the word, effectively saying, "וישלך מידיו"- he threw it from his hands: i.e. the extra letter “yud” changes it from hand to hands.

Rav Yisroel Salanter zt”l explains that the luchos have two parts. The first part (the first five dibros) contains the halachos of bein odam lamakom, and the second part (the next five dibros) contains the halachos of bein odam lachaveiro. Moshe thought to himself that when Klal Yisroel sinned, they only violated an aveira of bein odam lamakom. וישלך מידו-he threw it from his hand. So, Moshe planned to just throw down one of the luchos, and still give klal Yisroel the second part because it was still intact. However, the passuk is read "וישלך מידיו"- he threw it from his hands. In the end, they were both thrown down.

HaShem was telling Moshe that there is no such thing as bein odam lachaveiro without bein odam lamakom. A condition of the mitzvah of ואהבת לרעך כמוך is the last words of the very same passuk- אני ה'. The way we treat one another is not just based on politeness, niceties, and etiquette. It must be rooted in the Torah. We have a Pirkei Avos that teaches us how to act according to the Torah. The guidelines that the Torah set forth are timeless and unwavering, no matter how society acts or what they say.

The sefarim hakdoshim talk about how our bein adam lechavero needs to be BECAUSE of our bein adam lamakom. There is a well-known story of a Rebbe that gave a poor man one hundred rubles, and then called him back and gave him another hundred. The first hundred, he explained, had been given because of his own personal feelings of pain for the man. But this was an incomplete mitzvah because it was given based on his own feelings and not because HaShem said to help out another person. The second sum was being given because it was HaShem’s will and for no other reason.

True and complete bein adam lachaveiro needs to be BECAUSE it is Hashem's will. How far does this go? If a person does the mitzvah based on the Torah, then HaShem Himself is even willing to take a back seat for the mitzvah, like we find when Avrahom Avinu told Hashem to wait while he ran to greet the three travelers, and not just any travelers, but Yishmoelim!

This does not mean that we are coming to answer the age-old query of which is greater? It may very well be that bein odam lachaveiro is indeed greater, but ONLY when it is done BECAUSE it is Hashem's will. By fulfilling it in this manner, we are actually fulfilling bein odam lamakom at the same time.

For a sad and infamous example of great etiquette not based on Torah, we can look at the “proper” and polite Germans. When speaking, they would use the humble expression, "Is it not so?" after explaining directions to someone - as in "you go left over there, is it not so?" Later on, when the Yidden were in the camps, the Germans, yemach shemam vizichram, were chopping off pieces of flesh and asking the Jews, "It hurts, is it not so?"

In today’s society as well, the westernized world is officially permitting sins that were unthinkable in previous generations. Why? “We must validate every type of person and not discriminate against their feelings.” This is what happens when there is bein odam lachaveiro without bein odam lamkom.

The Torah’s ways are ne’imus- Deracheha darchei noam v’chol nesivoseha shalom. The definition of pleasant will never change. If one wants to know and understand what that truly is, one needs to open up the Torah and keep its’ halachos. Then, and only then, will we truly be able to fulfill the mitzvos that are bein odam lachaveiro.

Good Shabbos, מרדכי אפפעל