Tablets of the Law or The Tablet with Ten Commandments
The ten rules of conduct regarding God and man that form the basis of religious law and Jewish morality. According to the Bible, these laws deliver God to Moses on Mount Sinai carved in the two Tablets of the Law or The tablet with Ten Commandments.
- I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of bondage
- You shall have no other gods before me.
- Do not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
- Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
- Honor your father and your mother.
- You will not kill.
- You will not commit adultery.
- You will not steal.
- Thou shalt not speak of thy neighbor’s false testimony.
- You will not covet.
Vaetjanan (Deuteronomy 3: 23-7: 11)
The two tablets
Parashá contain a repetition of the Ten Commandments, with some minor changes. The Mabit (1) makes a remarkable remark about the two lujot ‘tablets’ – Tablet with Ten Commandments – upon which the Commandments were written. The rabbis explain that the two lujot focused on different areas of mitzvot: the first had the mitzvot bein adam leMakom (corresponding to the relationship between man and God), such as belief in God and observing Shabbat, while the second had The mitzvot bein adam lejaberó (corresponding to the relationship between man and his neighbor), as the prohibitions of killing and envy.
The Mabit notes that in the first tablet there are many more words than in the second, so that their letters must have been much smaller than those of the other (2). This, Mabit continues, was done by God on purpose so that the mitzvot between man and his neighbor are more easily noticeable than the mitzvot between man and God. The Mabit goes on to say that the cause is that the izer (negative inclination) will be greater in the area between man and his neighbor. God wanted people to focus more on the mitzvot between man and his neighbor because they require more effort to overcome the yétzer will (3).
The Talmud, in Baba Batra, gives evidence that supports the opinion of the Mabit (4). There, the Talmud discusses various sins with which people stumble. He says that a minority of people stumble in the area of forbidden relations, a majority with guézel ‘robbery’ (5) and all with avak lashón will (6). Forbidden relationships generally fall in the area of mitzvot between man and God (7), while robbery and lashón will clearly fall into the realm of mitzvot between man and his neighbor. In this way, the Gemara is telling us that people are more likely to sin in certain mitzvot that correspond to bein adam lejaberó.
The following story also illustrates this point:
On one occasion Rav Chaim Soloveitchik was asked to establish whether a particular animal was kosher or not. His verdict was that it was not. The butcher suffered a major loss, but he nonetheless accepted the decision with equanimity. A few months later the same butcher was involved in an economic dispute with another person, for a much smaller amount of money. Rav Chaim legislated against him, and this time the butcher was furious and insulted Rav Chaim. Rav Simja Reeger, who was watching the incident, asked Rav Chaim why the butcher had taken the verdict so calmly when he lost a much larger amount of money and was so angry for a small sum. Raim Chaim explained that on this occasion he had lost against another person, and that what had made him so angry was to have been defeated by another person.
Now, we remain unanswered why people are more likely to stumble over mitzvos between man and his neighbor (8). Here is a possible answer: the Vilna Gaon wrote that all mitzvah emanates from a certain positive personal trait, whereas every ‘sin’ emanates from a negative trait (9). However, it is possible for a person to have a negative personal trait and also to observe many mitzvot.
For example, a person who has a tendency to lose his temper will not necessarily have trouble complying with Shabbat, kashrut and many other mitzvot on the plan of bein adam leMakom. Anyway, this person will have very big difficulties on the plane of bein adam lejaberó. Every time you raise your voice improperly you will be very close to falling into the prohibition of onaat devarim (hurtful words) and if you shout at one person against others you will transgress the extremely serious sin of shaming someone in public. Likewise, those who have the negative trait of focusing on the evil of people will not have trouble praying three times a day and studying Torah, although it is very likely that they will encounter the lashon and will judge others unfavorably.
Obviously, there are certain personality traits that greatly hinder the fulfillment of the mitzvot between man and God; One of them is laziness. However, it is important to note that these traits will also greatly damage the observance of the mitzvot between man and his neighbor.
For example, a lazy person will not want to help their partner with household chores, causing relationship problems. Even the trait of taavá (lust and desire) may be the cause of great errors in bein adam lejaberó. For example, a person who is too attached to food will react in a bad way when his partner serves food he does not like, resulting in a transgression of onaat devarim again.
The obvious lesson that can be derived from the Mabit is that it takes an extra effort in the mitzvot between man and his neighbor (10). Moreover, since the cause of failure in that Area are the negative personality traits, it is essential to work on traits such as anger, jealousy and greed.
The Maharshá points out that when the Gemara says that everyone stumbles upon avak lashón will do only refers to those who do not strive to improve in that Area (11), but those who strive to improve studying the laws related to lashon will make and to improve their personal characteristics are not intended to speak avak lashon hara. This applies to all mitzvot between man and his neighbor; If one makes a considerable and consistent effort to improve, he will overcome the traps of the itizer and will cause him to stumble.
- The Mabit was one of the leading rabbis of the 16th century in Israel.
- In the version of the Ten Commandments of Vaetjanán there are 162 words in the first tablet and 27 in the second Tablet with Ten Commandments.
- Mabit, Beit Elokim, Sháar Yesodot, Ch. 12.
- Baba Batra 165a.
- See Rashbam, Baba Batra 165a, who explains what kind of robbery refers to the Gemara.
- Literally translated as ‘lashon powder will.’
- It is a more subtle form of negative speech.
- With the exception of having relations with a married woman, which obviously involves a transgression between the man and his neighbor.
- The following answer was suggested to my Rabbi, Rav Itzjak Berkovits Shlita, who approved it. Even Shlema, Cap. 1.
- Of course, this does not mean that one should not strive much to improve his actions in the mitzvot between man and God. It is also important to note that many people may feel inclined to focus on mitzvot bein adam lejaberó and abandon their responsibilities in those of bein adam leMakom.
- See Shmirat Halashon, Chapter 15.