After the Jews received the Torah on Mt. Sinai, Moshe ascended the mountain to receive the Luchos-Tablets on which the 10 Commandments are engraved. He told the Jews that he would be away for 40 days. When the 40th day arrived according to their calculations and Moshe had not returned- (his intention had been 40 full days not including the day that he ascended-they panicked. They were in middle of the desert and had no one to lead them!
They created the Golden Calf with special spiritual forces. Many had begun to actually worship it and they made a festival to celebrate the Golden Calf!
When Moshe returned and saw the low level that the Jews had sunk to, he made a calculated decision to smash the Luchos in to bits! Subsequently, he judged those who had sinned then returned to Hashem twice. Once to plead for forgiveness and mercy for the Jewish nation and again to receive another set of Luchos which indicated that they had been forgiven.
Astonishingly, at the very end of the Torah when it delineates the greatness of Moshe, it refers to this act of smashing the Luchos as “Yad Hachazakah-the mighty hand of Moshe. This begs the question, Moshe led the Jews in Egypt where Hashem commanded him to perform the 10 plagues, he led the Jews through the Reed Sea which miraculously split, and through the wilderness for 40 years where they subsisted on the Manna and a miraculous well of water! What was so “mighty” in the act of demolishing the Luchos? (True, the Jews tried to wrest them away from Moshe when they saw his intention to break the Luchos and were unsuccessful, but compared to all Moshe’s other accomplishments, this one seems trivial!
The commentaries explain this with a fascinating twist. It was not the physical act of breaking the Luchos that earned the description of “Mighty Hand.” Rather it was the powerful and impactful lesson which emerged. The Luchos were lovingly crafted by Hashem Himself as a marriage contract between Himself and the Jews, so to speak. Hashem would be our G-d and we would be His chosen nation. The totality of the Luchos, the spititual and physical components are referred to as Maaseh Elokim-the handiwork of Hashem. Yet, when the Jews sinned with the Golden Calf, the handiwork of Hashem began to decay! In Fact, Moshe observed the letters of the 10 Commandments floating in the air before he smashed the Tablets!
“Moshe was teaching us, “See how much power you have! Hashem implanted in us the ability to actually destroy and corrupt Hashem’s own work based on our own deeds! Conversely, when we act in ways that are proper and fitting for Jews, this elevates Hashem’s creation in a very powerful way. Hashem has given us “the keys” to the spiritual and physical worlds. Their construction or destruction rests solely in our hands! Can there be a more powerful and mighty lesson than that?!
By Rabbi Sharaga Thav