Parshat Ki Tisa
Written in Stone
The Torah describes the miraculous nature of the writing on the first set of Tablets in a series of phrases: They were inscribed on both sides; on the one side and on the other they were inscribed… the writing was
Our Sages give an even more vivid picture, based on these verses. First, they teach that the writing went right through both sides of the stone and not was engraved merely to a certain depth. Second, despite this, the writing was readable from both sides of the stone. The words appeared in proper sequence and were not reversed, as one would expect if they had been bored through the entire stone. The insides of the letters that form complete circles — the samech and the mem that appear at the end of a word — stood suspended in the air. They could stay in place only by a miracle — the handwriting of
Not only was the content the word of
The writing... was “charut” on the Tablets. This root — charut — appears no other place in Tanach. The writing was not merely engraved, it cut through the luchot. The root chor — means hole, or opening, in the sense of the stone being bored through. It is also the root of the word cherut, meaning “freedom.” In this sense, it would mean “freedom over the Tablets” — i.e. the writing had free mastery over the Tablets, as evidenced by the mem and samech standing midair. The Tablets did not bear the writing, as is the case in ordinary engraving, but the writing supported the Tablets. This had symbolic import for how to the Jew is to relate to Torah: his material life (the stone) is subordinate to the Torah (the words), and the Torah supports the material. The writing raises the material above nature, which governs all matter. The same applies to human beings in whom the spirit of this writing has taken hold: they make themselves the bearers of this spirit, and the spirit uplifts them, and supports them above the forces of blind compulsion. In other words, they become free.
There is yet another message in the complete chiseling of the letters through the entire stone, and their legibility from both sides. The word of
- Sources: Shemot 32:15-16; Collected Writings I, pp. 281-28