SALT - Monday, 18 Av 5778 - July 30, 2018

  • Rav David Silverberg
Jeffrey Paul Friedman z"l
August 15, 1968 – July 29, 2012
 ז"ל יהודה פנחס בן הרב שרגא פייוועל 
כ"ב אב תשכ"ח – י' אב תשע"ב
            Moshe devotes a portion of his remarks in Parashat Eikev recalling the sin of the golden calf and its aftermath, including his shattering the stone tablets upon seeing the people worship the calf.  This necessitated his carving a new pair of stones, upon which God then engraved the commandments which had been written on the original tablets. 
            Immediately after recalling this incident and God’s engraving the commandments on the second pair of tablets, Moshe then briefly recounts the death of his brother, Aharon (10:6) – which occurred thirty-nine years after the golden calf.  Different explanations have been offered to explain the point of connection between these two events.  The Talmud Yerushalmi (Yoma 1:1) writes that this juxtaposition teaches us “that the death of the righteous is as harsh before the Almighty like the breaking of the tablets.”  These two events are related in juxtaposition to one another, the Yerushalmi comments, to draw a comparison between the death of a righteous person (like Aharon) and Moshe’s shattering of the stone tablets in the wake of the golden calf.
            Rav Naftali of Ropshitz (in his eulogy for the Chozeh of Lublin) suggested an explanation for this parallel drawn by the Yerushalmi.  He noted that although the tablets broken by Moshe were immediately replaced, the new tablets were of lesser stature than the first.  Whereas the first set of tablets are described as “ma’aseh Elokim” – the handiwork of God, prepared entirely by the Almighty Himself (Shemot 32:16), the second tablets were carved by a human being, Moshe Rabbeinu.  Similarly, the Rebbe of Ropshitz commented, great religious figures are, generally speaking, substituted by worthy successors, but their stature of greatness can never be fully replaced.  God saw to it that the shattered tablets would not mark the permanent end of the covenant which they represented, but even so, the replacement fell short of the original.  And this is true of great people, as well.  Even if the roles they served could be adequately filled by another outstanding figure, a truly great person never be entirely replaced. 
            This insight should perhaps remind us of the unique worth of every individual, how we are each endowed with a special set of qualities and capabilities that we share with nobody else.  No individual who uses and maximizes his or her unique talents, potential and opportunities can ever be considered “replaceable.”  Sure, most of the roles we fill in our lives can also be satisfactorily filled by others.  But when we utilize our God-given skills and characteristics to their very fullest, we lend each and every role that we serve a unique dimension that cannot be achieved by anybody else.  We are thus reminded to make the most of every moment, every opportunity, and ever talent we have, recognizing that we each have something special to contribute to the world that cannot ever be provided by any other person.