by Rabbi Yisrael Kaniel – February 15, 2011

We read in the Torah section of Ki Tisa (Sh’mot 32:15-16), “And Moses turned and descended from the mountain, with the two Tablets of the Testimony in his hand, Tablets inscribed on both their sides; they were inscribed on one side and the other.  The Tablets were G-d’s handiwork, and the script was the script of G-d, engraved on the Tablets.”  The Torah describes to us here the unique structure of the Tablets and their being the personal handiwork of G-d Himself.

Immediately following the above account, we are told of Moses’ viewing the sin of the golden calf, at which point he took the just described unique handiwork of G-d and “threw the Tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain” (Sh’mot 32:19).

In his Shemen HaTov, R. Dov Weinberger notes this to be a peculiar spot to describe the unique nature of the Tablets.  The appropriate point to describe the Tablets would appear to be earlier in the narrative, when they were first presented to Moses (Sh’mot 31:1). Why now – as they are being shattered and destroyed – does the Torah first go into detail of how unique the Tablets were?

R. Weinberger notes that we often do not appreciate what we have while we have it.  Only when we are on the verge of losing something, do we begin to appreciate what we had.  Earlier, R. Weinberger suggests, when Moses was first given the Tablets, the people of Israel took for granted that the Tablets were theirs and that they would have them forever.  The people hardly noticed their special quality.  Now, however, when the people were about to lose the Tablets, they finally began to appreciate them.

It is a very sad flaw in human nature, but that is unfortunately the way people are. We appreciate things most in their absence. This is why, R. Weinberger suggests, the Torah only emphasizes the unique characteristics of the Tablets at this point, at the time of their destruction.

It is indeed a very sad and unfortunate state of affairs that we often do not fully appreciate even the most precious possessions when we have them.

Thank G-d we have been blessed today with a beautifully developed land, Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel, land bestowed upon us by our Father in heaven and much improved lifestyles over what Jews have had in centuries gone by.  Let us appreciate what we have when we have it. Let us appreciate our parents who do and care so much for us. Let us appreciate friends and family members who come to our assistance when we need it. Let us fully appreciate and show that appreciation for what we have when we have it. Then, with the help of our Father in heaven, we will continue to enjoy those blessings.  Let us not first appreciate what we have after it is gone!