Jethro, who had come to Moses shortly before the revelation on Mount Sinai, stayed with his son-in-law for more than a year. In the first months, however, he had no opportunity of observing Moses in the capacity of judge, for Moses spent the time from the day of the revelation to the tenth day of Tishri almost entirely in heaven. Hence Jethro could not be present at a court proceeding of his before the eleventh day of Tishri, the first day after Moses' return from heaven. Jethro now perceived how Moses sat like a king upon his throne, while the people, who brought their lawsuits before him, stood around him. This so displeased him that he said to his son-in-law: "Why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning until even?" Moses answered: "Because the people come unto me to enquire of God. It is not in my honor that they stand, but in honor of God, whose judgement they would know. When they are in doubt over a case of clean or unclean, or when there is a dispute between two parties, which they desire to have settled exactly according to the law, or in conformity with a compromise, they come to me; and when the parties at dispute leave me, they part as friends and no longer enemies. I expound to the people, besides, the words of God and His decisions."
On the day that Moses again took up his activity as a judge, and Jethro had for the first time the chance of observing him, came the mixed multitude with the pleas that they, like the other Israelites, wanted their share in the Egyptians booty. Moses' method, first seen by him in practice, struck Jethro as most absurd, and he therefore said: "The thing that thou doest is not good," through delicacy softening his real opinion, "It is bad" to "It is not good." "The people," he continued, "will surely unbraid thee and Aaron, his two sons Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders, if thou continuest in this fashion. But if thou hearkenest now to my voice, thou wilt fare well, provided God approves of my plan. This is, that thou shalt be 'the vessel of the revelations of God,' and shalt lay the revelations of God before the people, as often as thou receivest them; so that they may understand the exposition of the Torah, as well as its decisions. And thou shalt instruct them how to pray in the synagogues, how to tend the sick, how to bury their dead, how to render the services of friendship to one another, how to practice justice, and how, in some cases, not to insist on strict justice. But as for trying the people as a judge, thou shouldst, in accordance with thy prophetic insight, choose men that are possessed of wisdom, fear of God, modesty, hate of covetousness, love of truth, love of humanity, and a good name, and these shall devote all their time to trials, and to the study of the study of the Torah. If God approve my plan, then wilt thou and Aaron, his sons and the seventy elders, and all the people dwell in peace."
This counsel of Jethro's found great favor in Moses' eyes, for he had been only too well aware of the difficulties and annoyances with which he had had to contend. The people were very disputatious, being willing to spend seventy silverlings in litigation costs for the sake of gaining one silverling, and did their utmost to lengthen their disputes at law. When on say that Moses was about to cast a decision against him, he demanded that his lawsuit be adjourned, declaring that had witnesses and other proofs, which he would bring forward on the next occasion. But they were not merely litigious and disputations, they were also spiteful, and vented their temper on Moses. If Moses went out early, they would say: "Behold the son of Amram, who betakes himself early to the gathering of manna, that he may get the largest grains." If he went out late, they would say: "Behold the son of Amram, he goes through the multitude, to gather in marks of hone." But if he chose a path aside from the crowd, they said: "Behold the son of Amram, who makes it impossible for us to follow the simple commandment, to hone a sage." Then Moses said: "If I did this you were not content, and if I did that you were not content! I can no longer bear you alone. 'The Eternal, your God, hath multiplied you, and behold, ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude. The Lord, God of you fathers, make you a thousand times so many as ye are, and bless you, as he hath promised you!"
The Israelites were not content with this blessing of Moses, and said to him: "O our teacher Moses, we do not desire thee to bless us, we have had much greater blessings given to us. God spoke to our father Abraham: 'I will bless thee and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore,' and thou dost limit our blessings." Moses cried: "I am only a creature of flesh and blood, limited in my powers, hence is my blessing limited. I give you my blessing, but the blessing of God remains preserved for ye, and He will bless you unlimitedly, and multiply you as the fish of the sea and the sands on the seashore, as the star in the sky and the plants on the earth."
After he had bestowed his blessing upon them, he asked them to propose capable pious men, that he might appoint them as judges and leaders over them. He said: "If a man were to present himself to me as a candidate for this position of honor, I alone should not be able to decide to what tribe he belonged, and whence he came; but you know them, and hence it is advisable for you to propose them. Do not think, however, that I feel I must abide by your choice, for it depends solely upon me, whether or not I shall appoint them."
The people were very eager to carry this plan of Moses into execution, and requested him to settle the matter as quickly as possible. But their motive was self-interested, for every one among them said: "Moses will now appoint about eighty thousand officials. If I myself should not be among them, surely my son will be, and if not he, my grandson, and with a gift of some kind it will be an easy matter to induce such a judge to look after my interests at court." Moses, of course, was not deceived about their true sentiments; still, he paid no further attention to them, and picked out the best men among the people, though they were not possessed of nearly all the good qualities Jethro had thought essential for judges and leaders of people. With kindly words he invited them to assume their offices, and said: "Blessed are ye that are judged worthy of being leader of the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, of a people whom God called His friends, His brothers, His flock, and other titles of love." He impressed upon them that they must possess much patience, and must not become impatient if a lawsuit is brought before them more than once. "Heretofore," he said, "you belonged to yourselves, but from now you belong to the people; for you judge between every man, and his brother and his neighbor. If ye are to appoint judges, do so without respect of persons. Do not say 'I will appoint that man because he is a handsome man or a strong man, because he is my kinsman, or because he is a linguist.' Such judges will declare the innocent guilty and the guilty innocent, not through wickedness, but through ignorance; and God will reckon the appointment of such judges against you, as a perversion of justice, on account of your respect of persons. If a wealthy man and a poor man come before you to court, do not say: 'Why should I insult the rich man for so small a matter? I will rather give judgement in his favor, and then, outside the court, tell him to give the poor man what he demands, as he is in the right.' But do not, on the other hand, if the poor man is in the wrong, say: 'The rich man is obliged to assist the poor anyhow, I will now decide in favor of the poor, that in a decent way he may, without begging, obtain money from his rich fellow-man.' Do not, moreover, say: 'I fear to pronounce judgement, lest that man kill my son, burn my barn, or destroy my plants,' for the judgement is God's."
After these admonitions, Moses instructed the new judges in legal procedure, in both civil and criminal cases, and at the same time urged the people no to deny the judges the veneration due him. For great is the importance of justice. For him who hates it, there is no remedy; but the judge who decides conscientiously is the true peacemaker, for the weal of Israel, of the commonwealth, and indeed of all living creatures.
Although the installation of elders on Moses' part came to pass in accordance with the command of God, still it was Jethro upon whose advice Moses besought God to lighten his burden, and to permit him partly to transfer the leadership of the people to others. Hence he did not conceal the name of the adviser, but announced it to all the people, and immortalized him as such in the Holy Scriptures; for he deemed it praiseworthy to appreciate duly the merits of others. It had, however, been part of God's scheme to reward Jethro for the love he bore the Torah; and for this reason did He allow it to come to pass that Moses had to have his attention called to the plan of installing the elders through his father-in-law, that the Holy Scriptures might devote a whole chapter to the plan of Jethro.
This, however, is not the only reward for Jethro's piety, who, in his love for the Torah, excelled all proselytes. A miracle occurred on the very first day of his arrival in camp for manna in his honor descended at the noon hour, the hour of his arrival; and, moreover, in as great quantities as was wont to rain down for sixty myriads of Israelites. He did not have to exert himself to gather the food, for it came over his body, so all he had to do was to carry his hand to his mouth to partake of it. Jethro, nevertheless, did not remain with Moses, but returned to his native land. Moses, of course, tried to persuade his father-in-law to stay. He said to him: "Do not think that we shall continue to move thus slowly through the desert, nay, we shall now move directly to the promised land." Only to urge Jethro to stay longer with them did Moses use the words "we move," so that his father-in-law might believe that Moses too would enter the promised land, for otherwise he would hardly have allowed himself to be persuaded to join the march to Palestine. Moses continued: "I do not want to mislead thee, hence I will tell thee that the land will be divided only among the twelve tribes, and that thou has no claim to possession of lands; but God bade us be kind to the proselytes, and to thee we shall be kinder than to all other proselytes." Jethro, however, was not to be persuaded by his son-in-law, considering himself in duty bound to return to his native land. For the inhabitants of his city had for many years made a habit of having him store their valuable, as none possessed their confidence in such a measure as he. If he had stayed still longer with Moses, people would have declared that he had absconded with all these things and fled to Moses to share it with him, and that would have been a blot on his fair name and that of Moses. Jethro had furthermore made many debts during the year in which he came to Moses, for, owing to the hail God had sent upon Egypt before the exodus of Israel, a great famine had arisen in Jethro's home too, and he had found himself obliged to lend money for the support of the poor. If he were not now to return to his home, people would say that he had run away in order to evade his creditors, and such talk concerning a man of piety would have been desecration of the Divine Name. So he said to Moses: "There are people who have a fatherland, but no property there; there are also property-holders who have no family; but I have a fatherland, and have property there as well as a family; hence I desire to return to my fatherland, my property, and my family." But Moses would not yield so soon, and said to his father-in-law: "If thou dost not accompany us as a favor, I will command thee to do so, that the Israelites might not say thou hadst been converted to our religion only in the expectation of receiving a share in the promised land, but hadst returned to thy home when thou didst discover that proselytes have no claim on property in the Holy Land. Through thy refusal to move with us, thou wilt give the heathens an opportunity to say that the Jews do not accept proselytes, since they did not accept even their own king's father-in-law, but allowed him to return to his own land. Thy refusal will injure the glory of God, for the heathens will keep away from the true faith. But if thou wilt wander with us, I assure thee that they seed shall share with us the Temple, the Torah, and the future reward of the pious. How canst thou, moreover, who hast seen all the miracles of God wrought for us during the march through the desert; who wert a witness of the way in which even the Egyptians became fond of us-how canst thou now depart from us? It is a sufficient motive for thee to remain with us, in order to officiate as a member of the Sanhedrin, and teach the Torah. We, on our part, want to retain thee, only that thou mightest in difficult cases enlighten our eyes; for thou wert the man who gave us good and fair counsel, to which God Himself could not refuse His assent." Jethro replied: "A candle may glow in the dark, but not when the sun and the moon; of what avail would my candle-light be? I had, therefore, better return to my home city that I may make proselytes of its inhabitants, instruct them in the Torah, and lead them under the wings of the Shekinah." Amid great marks of honor, and provided with rich gifts, Jethro returned to his home, where he converted his kinsmen and his compatriots to the belief in the true God, as he had intended.
The descendants of Jethro later settled in Palestine, where the fruitful land of Jericho was allotted to them as a dwelling place. After the capture of Palestine, the tribes, by mutual consent, agreed that the fertile strip of land at Jericho should fall to the share of the tribe on whose land the Temple was to be erected. But when its erection was postponed for a long time, they agreed to allot this piece of land to Jethro's sons, because they, being proselytes, had no other possession in the Holy Land. Four hundred and eighty years did the descendants of Jethro dwell in Jericho, when, upon the erection of the Temple at Jerusalem, they relinquished it to the tribe of Judah, who claimed it as an indemnity for the site of the Temple.
Jethro's descendants inherited his devotion to the Torah, like him dedicating their lives entirely to its study. So long as Joshua lived, they sat at this master's feet, but when he died, they said: "We left our fatherland and came here only for the sake of studying the Torah; if we were now to spend our time in cultivating the soil, when should we study the Torah?" They therefore gave up their dwelling-place in Jericho, and moved to the cold barren wilderness, to Jabez, who there had his house of instruction. But when they there beheld the priests, the Levites, and the noblest of the Jews, they said, "How can we, proselytes, presume to sit beside these?" Instead of sitting within the house of instruction, they remained at the entrance of it, where they listened to the lectures, and in this manner made further progress in the study of the Torah. They were rewarded for their piety, their prayer was heard by God, and their good deeds served as a protection to Israel; and on account of their pious actions they were called "the families of the scribes," the Tirathites, the Shimeathites, and the Suchathites, names designating their piety and devotion to the Torah.
One of the descendants of Jethro was Jonadab, son of Rechab, who, when he heard from a prophet that God would destroy the Temple, bade all his children, as a toke of mourning, to drink no wine, use no oil for anointing themselves, nor cut their hair, nor dwell in houses. The Rechabites obeyed this command of their sire, and as a reward for this, God made a covenant with them that their descendants should always be members of the Sanhedrin, and teachers of Israel. The covenant with the Rechabites was even stronger than that with David, for to the house of the latter God promised to keep the covenant only if his descendants were pious, but He made an unconditional covenant with the Rechabites. God rewarded them for their devotion to Him in this way, although they did not belong to the Jewish nation. From this one can gather how great would have been their reward if they had been Israelites.
Moses sent his father-in-law Jethro back to his home, shortly before the revelation on Mount Sinai. He thought: "When God gave us a single commandment of the Torah in Egypt, the Passover, He said, 'There shall no stranger eat thereof.' Surely Jethro may not look on when God bestows on us the whole Torah." Moses was right: God did not want Jethro to be present at the revelation. He said: "Israel was in Egypt, bound to work with clay and bricks, at the same time as Jethro was sitting at home in peace and quiet. He who suffers with the community shall share their future joys, but he who does not share the sufferings of the community shall not take part in their rejoicing."
God had not only good cause to delay the giving of the Torah until after the departure of Jethro, but the time He chose to bestowing it was also chosen for a good reason. Just as a female proselyte, or a woman freed from captivity, or an emancipated slave, may not enter wedlock before she has for three months lived as a free Jewess, so God also waited three months after the deliverance of Israel from the bondage and the slavery of Egypt, before His union with Israel on Mount Sinai. God furthermore treated His bride as did that king who went to the marriage ceremony only after he had overwhelmed his chosen bride with many gifts. So did Israel first receive manna, the well, and the quails, and not till then was the Torah granted them. Moses, who had received this promise when God had first appeared to him, viz., "When thou has brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain"-waited most longingly for the promised time, saying, "When will this time come to pass?" When the time drew near, God said to Moses, "The time is at hand when I shall bring about something entirely new."
This new miracle of which God spoke was the healing of all the sick among the Jews. God had wanted to give the Torah to the Jews immediately after the exodus from Egypt, but among them were found many that were lame, halt, or deaf; wherefore God said: "The Torah is without a blemish, hence would I not bestow it on a nation that has in it such as are burdened with defects. Nor do I want to wait until their children shall have grown to manhood, for I do not desire any longer to delay the delight of the Torah." For these reasons nothing was left Him to do, but to heal those afflicted with disease. In the time between the exodus from Egypt and the revelation on Mount Sinai, all the blind among the Israelites regained their sight, all the halt became whole, so that the Torah might be given to a sound and healthy people. God wrought for that generation the same miracle which He will hereafter bring about in the future world, when "the eyes of the blind shall be opened, the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped, the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongues of the dumb sing." Not only physically was this generation free from blemishes, but spiritually, too, it stood on a high plane, and it was the combined merits of such a people that made them worthy of their high calling. Never before or after lived a generation as worthy as this of receiving the Torah. Had there been but one missing, God would not have given them the Torah: "for He layeth up wisdom for the righteous; He is a buckler to them that walk uprightly."
For one other reason did God delay the revelation of the Torah. He had intended giving them the Torah immediately after their exodus from Egypt, but at the beginning of the march through the desert, great discord reigned among them. Nor was harmony established until the new moon of the third month, when they arrived at Mount Sinai; whereupon God said: "The ways of the Torah are ways of loveliness, and all its paths are paths of peace; I will yield the Torah to a nation that dwells in peace and amity." This decision of God, now to give them the Torah, also shows how mighty is the influence of penance. For they had been sinful upon their arrival at Mount Sinai, continuing to tempt God and doubting His omnipotence. After a short time, however, they changed in spirit; and hardly had they reformed, when God found them worthy of revealing to them the Torah.
The third month was chosen for the revelation, because everything that is closely connected with the Torah and with Israel is triple in number. The Torah consists of three parts, the Pentateuch, the Prophets, and the Hagiographa; similarly the oral law consists of Midrash, Halakah, and Haggadah. The communications between God and Israel were carried on by three, Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. Israel also is divided into three divisions, priests, Levites, and laymen; and they are, furthermore, the descendants of the three Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For God has a preference for "the third": It was the third of Adam's sons, Seth, who became the ancestor of humanity, and so too it was the third among Noah's sons, Shem, who attained high station. Among the Jewish kings, too, it was the third, Solomon, whom God distinguished before all others. The number three plays a particularly important part in the life of Moses. He belonged to the tribe of Levi, which is not only the third of the tribes, but has a name consisting of three letters. He himself was the third of the children of the family; his own name consists of three letters; in his infancy he had been concealed by his mother throughout three months; and in the third month of the year, after a preparation of three days, did he receive the Torah on a mountain, the name of which consists of three letters.
The mountain on which God made his revelation bears six names: It is called the Desert Sin, because God there announced His commandments; it is called the Desert Kadesh, because Israel was sanctified there; the Desert Kadmut because the pre-existing Torah was there revealed; the Desert Paran because Israel there was greatly multiplied; the Desert Sinai because the hatred of God against the heathens began there, for the reason that they would not accept the Torah; and for this same reason is it called Horeh, because the annihilation of the heathens was there decreed by God. For the wrath of God against the heathens dates from their refusal to accept the Torah offered them.
Before God gave Israel the Torah, He approached every tribe and nation, and offered them the Torah, that hereafter they might have no excuse to say, "Had the Holy one, blessed be He, desired to give us the Torah, we should have accepted it." He went to the children of Esau and said, "Will ye accept the Torah?" They answered Him, saying, "What is written therein?" He answered them, "Thou shalt not kill." Then they all said: "Wilt Thou perchance take from us the blessing with which our father Esau was blessed? For he was blessed with the words, 'By thy sword shalt thou live." We do not want to accept the Torah." Thereupon He went to the children of Lot and said to them, "Will ye accept the Torah?" They said, "What is written therein?" He answered, "Thou shalt not commit unchastity." They said: "From unchastity do we spring; we do no want to accept the Torah." Then He went to the children of Ishmael and said to them, "Do ye want to accept the Torah?" They said to Him, "What is written therein?" He answered, "Thou shalt not steal." They said: "Wilt Thou take from us the blessing with which our father was blessed? God promised him: 'His hand will be against every man.' We do not want to accept the Thy Torah." Thence He went to all the other nations, who likewise rejected the Torah, saying: "We cannot give up the law of our fathers, we do not want Thy Torah, give it to Thy people Israel." Upon this He came to Israel and spoke to them, "Will ye accept the Torah?" They said to Him, "What is written therein?" He answered, "Six hundred and thirteen commandments." They said: "All that the Lord has spoken will we do and be obedient." "O Lord of the world!" they continued, "We acted in accordance with Thy commandments before they were revealed to us. Jacob fulfilled the first of the Ten Commandments by bidding his sons put away strange gods that were among them. Abraham obeyed the commandment not to take the name of the Lord in vain, for he said: 'I have lifted up mine hand unto the Lord, the most high God.' Joseph fulfilled the commandment to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy; and when his brothers came to him, he had everything for their welcome prepared on Friday. Isaac observed the law to honor his father and his mother, when he allowed Abraham to bind him on the altar as a sacrifice. Judah observed the commandment not to kill when he said to his brothers, 'What profit is it if we slay our brother and conceal his blood?' Joseph observed the law: 'Thou shalt not commit adultery,' when he repulsed the desire of the wife of Potiphar. The other sons of Jacob observed the commandment: 'Thou shalt not steal,' saying: 'How then should we steal out of thy lord's house silver and gold?' Abraham observed the commandment: 'Thou shalt not bear false witness,' for he was a true witness, and bore witness before all the world that Thou art the Lord of all creation. It was Abraham, also, who observed the last of the Ten Commandments 'Thou shalt not covet,' saying: 'I will not take from a thread even to a shoe-latchet.'"
While the nations and peoples were refusing to accept the Torah, the mountains among themselves were fighting for the honor of being chosen as the spot for the revelation. One said: "Upon me shall the Shekinah of God rest, and mine shall be this glory," whereupon the other mountain replied: "Upon me shall the Shekinah rest, and mine shall be this glory." The mountain of Tabor said to the mountain of Hermon: "Upon me shall the Shekinah rest, mine shall be this glory, for in times of old, when in the days of Noah the flood came over the earth, all the mountains that are under the heavens were covered with water, whereas it did not reach my head, nay, not even my shoulder. All the earth was sunk under water, but I, the highest of the mountains, towered high above the waters, hence I am called upon to bear the Shekinah." Mount Hermon replied to Mount Tabor: "Upon me shall the Shekinah rest, I am the destined one, for when Israel wished to pass through the Red Sea, it was I who enabled them to do so, for I settled down between the two shores of the sea, and they moved from one side to the other, through my aid, so that not even their clothes became wet." Mount Carmel was quite silent, but settled down on the shore of the sea, thinking: "If the Shekinah is to repose on the sea, it will rest upon me, and if it is to repose on the mainland, it will rest upon me." Then a voice out of the high heavens rang out and said: "The Shekinah shall not rest upon these high mountains that are so proud, for it is not God's will that the Shekinah should rest upon high mountains that quarrel among themselves and look upon one another with disdain. He prefers the low mountains, and Sinai among these, because it is the smallest and most insignificant of all. Upon it will He let the Shekinah rest." The other mountains hereupon said to God, "Is it possible that Thou are partial, and wilt give us no reward for our good intention?" God replied: "Because ye have striven in My honor will I reward ye. Upon Tabor will I grant aid to Israel at the time of Deborah, and upon Carmel will I give aid to Elijah."
Mount Sinai was given the preference not for its humility alone, but also because upon it there had been no worshipping of idols; whereas the other mountains, owing to their height, had been employed as sanctuaries by the idolaters. Mount Sinai has a further significance, too, for it had been originally a part of Mount Moriah, on which Isaac was to have been sacrificed; but Sinai separated itself from it, and came to the desert. Then God said: "Because their father Isaac lay upon this mountain, bound as a sacrifice, it is fitting that upon it his children receive the Torah." Hence God now chose this mountain for a brief stay during the revelation, for after the Torah had been bestowed, He withdrew again to heaven. In the future world, Sinai will return to its original place, Mount Moriah, when "the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills."
Just as Sinai was chosen as the spot for the revelation owing to its humility, so likewise was Moses. When God said to Moses, "Go, deliver Israel," he in his great humility, said: "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt? There are nobler and wealthier than I." But God replied: "Thou are a great man, thee have I chosen out of all Israel. Of thee shall the prophet of the future say, 'I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted on chosen out of the people.'" Moses in his humility, however, still stood apart and would not accept the office offered him, until God said to him "Why dost thou stand apart? If they are not to be delivered by thee, by none other will they be delivered." When, likewise, at God's command Moses had erected the Tabernacle, he did not enter it, out of great humility, until God said to him, "Why dost thou stand outside? Thou are worthy to serve Me."
On the second day of the third month, Moses received word form God to betake himself to Mount Sinai, for without this direct summons he would not have gone there. This time, as at all times, when God desired to speak with Moses, He twice called him by name, and after he had answered, "Here I am," God's revelation to him followed. When Moses had been carried to God in a cloud, which was always ready to bear him to God and the restore him to men, God said to him: "Go and acquaint the women of Israel with the principles of Judaism, and try with kindly words to persuade them to accept the Torah; but expound the full contents of the Torah to the men, and with them speak solemn words concerning it."
There were several reasons for his going to the women first. God said: "When I created the world, I gave My commandment concerning the forbidden fruit to Adam only, and not to his wife Eve, and this omission had the effect that she tempted Adam to sin. Hence it appears advisable that the women first hear My commandments, and the men will then follow their counsel." God, furthermore, knew that women are more scrupulous in their observance of religious percepts, and hence He first addressed Himself to them. Then, too, God expected the women to instruct their children in the ways of the Torah, wherefore He sent His messenger first to them.
The words that Moses was to address to the women as well as to the men, to the Sanhedrin as well as to the people, were as follows: "You yourselves have seen-for it is not from writings, or through tradition, or from the mouths of others that ye learn it-what I did for you in Egypt; for although they were idolaters, slayers of men, and men of lewd living, still I punished them not for these sins, but only for the wrong done to you. But ye will I carry on the wings of eagles, on the day of the revelation at Sinai, and ye will I bring to Me when the Temple shall be erected. Since I have wrought for you so many miracles, even before you had received the Torah and observed the laws, how many more miracles will I work for you, when you will have received the Torah and observed the laws! The beginning of all things is hard, but as soon as you will have grown accustomed to obedience, all else will be easy to you. If you will now observe the Abrahamic covenant, the Sabbath, and the commandment against idolatry, then will you be My possession; for although everything belongs to Me, Israel will be My especial possession, because I led them out of Egypt, and freed them from bondage. With respect to Israel, God is like one who receive many fields as an heritage, but one he purchased himself, and the one he earned was dearest to his heart. I will reign alone over you, as My possession, I and none other, so long as you keep yourselves aloof from other peoples. If not, other peoples shall reign over you. But if you obey Me, you shall be a nation, not only free from care, but also a nation of priests, and a holy nation."
If Israel had not sinned through worshipping the Golden Calf, there would be among them no caste of priests, the nation would have been a nation of priests, and it was only after their sin that the greater part of the people lost the right to priesthood.
God now instructed Moses to transmit to the people His words without adding to them or diminishing from them, in the precise order and in the same tongue, the Hebrew. Moses hereupon betook himself to the people to deliver his message, without first seeing his family. He first addressed the word of God to the elders, for he never forgot the honor due the elders. Then, in simple and well arranged form, he repeated it to all the people, including the women. Joyfully and of his own impulse, every Israelite declared himself willing to accept the Torah, whereupon Moses returned to God to inform Him of the decision of the people. For although God, being omniscient, had no need of hearing from Moses the answer of the people, still propriety demands that one who is sent on a message return to make a report of his success to him who sent him. God hereupon said to Moses: "I will come to thee in a thick cloud and repeat to thee the commandments that I gave thee on Marah, so that what thou tellest them may seem to the people as important as what they hear from Me. But not only in thee shall they have faith, but also in the prophets and sages that will come after thee."
Moses then returned to the people once more, and explained to them the serious effects that disregard of the law would have upon them. The first time he spoke to them about the Torah, he expounded its excellencies to them, so as to induce them to accept it; but now he spoke to them of the terrible punishments they would bring upon themselves, if they did not observe the laws. The people did not, however, alter their resolution, but were full of joy in the expectation of receiving the Torah. They only wished Moses to voice to God their desire to hear Him impart His words directly to them, so they said to Moses, "We want to hear the words of our King from Himself." They were not even content with this, but wanted to see the Divine presence, for "hearing is not like seeing." God granted both their wishes, and commanded Moses to tell them to prepare themselves during the next two days for receiving the Torah.
Just as one who is to be admitted to Judaism must first submit to the three ceremonies of circumcision, baptism, and sacrifice, so Israel did not receive the Torah until they had performed these three ceremonies. They had already undergone circumcision in Egypt. Baptism was imposed upon them two days before the revelation on Mount Sinai. On the day preceding the revelation Moses recorded in a book the covenant between Israel and their God, and on the morning of the day of the revelation, sacrifices were offered as a strengthening of the covenant.
As there were no priests at that time, the service was performed by the elders of Israel, who in spite of their age performed their duty with youthful vigor. Moses erected an altar on Mount Sinai, as well as twelve memorial pillars, one for each tribe, and then bade them bring bulls, as a burnt offering and a peace offering. The blood of these animals was then separated exactly into two halves. This was attended to by the angel Michael, who guided Moses' hand, and so conducted the separation of the blood that there might be not a drop more in one half than in the other. God upon this said to Moses: "Sprinkle the one half of the blood upon the people, as a token that they will not barter My glory for the idols of other peoples; and sprinkle the other half on the altar, as a token that I will not exchange them for any other nation." Moses did as he was bidden, and lo! the miracle came to pass that the blood of a few animals sufficed to sprinkle every single Israelite.
Before this covenant between God and Israel had been made, Moses read aloud to the people all of the Torah, that they might know exactly what they were taking upon themselves. This covenant was made a second time in the desert of Moab by Moses, and a third time by Joshua after the entrance into the promised land, on the mountains of Gerizim and Ebal.
Although the people had now clearly expressed their desire to accept the Torah, still God hesitated to give it to them, saying: "Shall I without further ado give you the Torah? Nay, bring Me bondsmen, that you will observe it, and I will give you the Torah." Israel: "O Lord of the world! Our fathers are bondsmen for us." God: "Your fathers are My debtors, and therefore not good bondsmen. Abraham said, 'Whereby shall I know it?' and thus proved himself lacking in faith. Isaac loved Esau, whom I hated, and Jacob did not immediately upon his return from Padan-Aram keep his vow that he had made upon his way there. Bring Me good bondsmen and I will give you the Torah." Israel: "Our prophets shall be our bondsmen." God: "I have claims against them, for 'like foxes in the deserts became your prophets.' Bring Me good bondsmen and I will give you the Torah." Israel: "We will give Thee our children as bondsmen." God: "Well, then, these are good bondmen, on whose bond I will give you the Torah." Hereupon the Israelites brought their wives with their babes at their breasts, and their pregnant wives, and God made the bodies of the pregnant women transparent as glass, and He addressed the children in the womb with these words: "Behold, I will give your fathers the Torah. Will you be surety for them that they will observe it?" They answered: "Yea." He furthermore said: "I am your God." They answered: "Yea." "Ye shall have no other gods." They said: "Nay." In this wise the children in the womb answered every commandment with "Yea," and every prohibition with "Nay." As it was the little children upon whose bond God gave His people the Torah, it comes to pass that many little children die when Israel does not observe the Torah.
From the first day of the third month, the day on which Israel arrived at Mount Sinai, a heavy cloud rested upon them, and every one except Moses was forbidden to ascend the mountain, yea, they durst not even stay near it, lest God smite those who pushed forward, with hail or fiery arrows. The day of the revelation announced itself as an ominous day even in the morning, for diverse rumblings sounded from Mount Sinai. Flashes of lightning, accompanied by an ever swelling peal of horns, moved the people with mighty fear and trembling. God bent the heavens, moved the earth, and shook the bounds of the world, so that the depths trembled, and the heavens grew frightened. His splendor passed through the four portals of fire, earthquake, storm and hail. The kings of the earth trembled in their palaces, and they all came to the villain Balaam, and asked him if God intended the same fate for them as for the generation of the flood. But Balaam said to them: "O ye fools! The Holy One, blessed be He, has long since promised Noah never again to punish the world with a flood." The kings of the heathen, however, were not quieted, and furthermore said: "God has indeed promised never again to bring a flood upon the world, but perhaps He now means to destroy it by means of fire." Balaam said: "Nay, God will not destroy the world either through fire or through water. The commotion throughout nature was caused through this only, that He is not about to bestow the Torah upon His people. 'The Eternal will give strength unto His people.'" At this all the kings shouted, "May the Eternal bless His people with peace," and each one, quieted in spirit, went to his house.
Just as the inhabitants of the earth were alarmed at the revelation, and believed the end of all time had arrived, so too did the earth. She thought the resurrection of the dead was about to take place, and she would have to account for the blood of the slain that she had absorbed, and for the bodies of the murdered whom she covered. The earth was not calmed until she heard the first words of the Decalogue.
Although phenomena were perceptible on Mount Sinai in the morning, still God did not reveal Himself to the people until noon. For owing to the brevity of the summer nights, and the pleasantness of the morning sleep in summer, the people were still asleep when God had descended upon Mount Sinai. Moses betook himself to the encampment and awakened them with these words: "Arise from your sleep, the bridegroom is at hand, and is waiting to lead his bride under the marriage-canopy." Moses, at the head of the procession, hereupon brought the nation to its bridegroom, God, to Sinai, himself going up the mountain. He said to God: "Announce Thy words, Thy children are ready to obey them." These words of Moses rang out near and far, for on the occasion, his voice, when he repeated the words of God to the people, had as much power as the Divine voice that he heard.
It was not indeed quite of their own free will that Israel declared themselves ready to accept the Torah, for when the whole nation, in two divisions, men and women, approached Sinai, God lifted up this mountain and held it over the heads of the people like a basket, saying to them: "If you accept the Torah, it is well, otherwise you will find you grave under this mountain." They all burst into tears and poured out their heart in contrition before God, and then said: "All that the Lord hath said, will we do, and be obedient." Hardly had they uttered these words of submission to God, when a hundred and twenty myriads of angels descended, an provided every Israelite with a crown and a girdle of glory-Divine gifts, which they did not lose until they worshipped the Golden Calf, when the angels came and took the gifts away from them. At the same time with these crowns and girdles of glory, a heavenly radiance was shed over their faces, but this also they later lost through their sins. Only Moses retained it, whose face shone so brightly, that if even to-day a crack were made in his tomb, the light emanating from his corpse would be so powerful that it could not but destroy all the world.
After God had bestowed upon Israel these wonderful gifts, He wanted to proceed to the announcement of the Torah, but did not desire to do so while Moses was with Him, that the people might not say it was Moses who had spoken out of the cloud. Hence He sought an excuse to be rid of him. He therefore said to Moses: "Go down, warn the people, that they shall not press forward to see, for if even one of them were to be destroyed, the loss to Me would be as great as if all creation had been destroyed. Bid Nadab and Abihu also, as well as the first born that are to perform priestly duties, beware that they do not press forward." Moses, however, desirous of remaining with God, replied: "I have already warned the people and set the bounds beyond which they may not venture." God hereupon said to Moses: "Go, descend and call upon Aaron to come up with thee, but let him keep behind thee, while the people do not move beyond the positions thou hadst assigned them." Hardly had Moses left the mountain, when God revealed the Torah to the people.
This was the sixth revelation of God upon earth since the creation of the world. The tenth and last is to take place on the Day of Judgement.
The heavens opened and Mount Sinai, freed from the earth, rose into the air, so that its summit towered into the heavens, while a thick cloud covered the sides of it, and touched the feet of the Divine Throne. Accompanying God on one side, appeared twenty-two thousand angels with crowns for the Levites, the only tribe that remained true to God while the rest worshipped the Golden Calf. On the second side were sixty myriads, three thousand five hundred and fifty angels, each bearing a crown of fire for each individual Israelite. Double this number of angels was on the third side, whereas on the fourth side they were simply innumerable. For God did not appear from one direction, but from all four simultaneously, which, however, did not prevent His glory from filling the heaven as well as all the earth. In spite of these innumerable hosts of angels there was no crowding on Mount Sinai, no mob, there was room for all the angels that had appeared in honor of Israel and the Torah. They had, however, at the same time received the order to destroy Israel in case they intended to reject the Torah.
The first word of God on Sinai was Anoki, "It is I." It was not a Hebrew word, but and Egyptian word that Israel first heard from God. He treated them as did that king his home-coming son, whom, returning from a long stay over sea, he addressed in the language the son had acquired in a foreign land. So God addressed Israel in Egyptian, because it was the language they spoke. At the same time Israel recognized in this word "Anoki," that is was God who addressed them. For when Jacob had assembled his children around his death-bed, he warned them to be mindful of the glory of God, and confided to them the secrets that God would hereafter reveal to them with the word "Anoki." He said: "With the word 'Anoki' He addressed my grandfather Abraham; with the word 'Anoki' He addressed my father Isaac, and with the word 'Anoki' He addressed me. Know, then, that when He will come to you, and will so address, you, it will be He, but not otherwise."
When the first commandment had come out of the mouth of God thunder and lightning proceeded from His mouth, a torch was at His right, and a torch at His left, and His voice flew through the air, saying: "My people, My people, House of Israel! I am the Eternal, you God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt." When Israel heard the awful voice, they flew back in their horror twelve miles, until their souls fled from them. Upon this the Torah turned to God, saying: "Lord of the world! Hast Thou given me to the living, or to the dead?" God said: "To the living." The Torah: "But they are all dead." God: "For thy sake will I restore them to life." Hereupon He let fall upon them the dew that will hereafter revive the dead, and they returned to life.
The trembling of heaven and earth that set in upon the perception of the Divine voice, alarmed Israel so greatly that they could hardly stand on their feet. God hereupon sent to every one of them two angels; on lay his hand upon the heart of each, that his soul might not depart, and on to lift the head of each, that he might behold his Maker's splendor. They beheld the glory of God as well as the otherwise invisible word when it emanated from the Divine vision, and rolled forward to their ears, whereupon they perceived these words: "Wilt thou accept the Torah, which contains two hundred and forty-eight commandments, corresponding to the number of the members of they body?" They answered: "Yea, yea." Then the word passed from the ear to the mouth; it kissed the mouth, then rolled again to the ear again to the ear, and called to it: "Wilt thou accept the Torah, which contains three hundred and sixty-five prohibitions, corresponding to the days of the year?" And when they replied, "Yea, yea," again the word turned from the ear to the mouth and kissed it. After the Israelites had in this wise taken upon themselves the commandments and the prohibitions, God opened the seven heavens and the seven earths, and said: "Behold, these are My witnesses that there is none like Me in the heights or on earth! See that I am the Only One, and that I have revealed Myself in My splendor and My radiance! If anyone should say to you, 'Go, serve other gods,' then say: 'Can one who has seen his Maker, face to face, in His splendor, in His glory and His strength, leave Him and become an idolater?' See, it is I that have delivered you out of the house of bondage; it is I that cleaved the seas before you and led you on dry land, while I submerged you enemies in the depths. I am the God of the dry land as well as the sea, of the past as well as of the future, the God of this world as well as of the future worlds. I am the God of all nations, but only with Israel is My name allied. If they fulfil My wishes, I, the Eternal, am merciful, gracious and long suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth; but if you are disobedient, then will I be a stern judge. If you had not accepted the Torah, no punishment could have fallen upon you were you not to fulfil it, but now that you have accepted it, you must obey it."
In order to convince Israel of the unity and uniqueness of God, He bade all nature stand still, that all might see that there is nothing beside Him. When God bestowed the Torah, no bird sang, no ox lowed, the Ofannim did not fly, the Seraphim uttered not their "Holy, holy, holy," the sea did not roar, no creature uttered a sound-all listened in breathless silence to the words announced by an echoless voice, "I am the Lord you God."
These words as well as the others, made know by God on Mount Sinai, were not heard by Israel alone, but by the inhabitants of all the earth. The Divine voice divided itself into the seventy tongues of men, so that all might understand it; but whereas Israel could listen to the voice without suffering harm, the souls of the heathens almost fled from them when they heard it. When the Divine voice sounded, all the dead in Sheol were revived, and betook themselves to Sinai; for the revelation took place in the presence of the living as well as of the dead, yea, even the souls of those who were not yet born were present. Every prophet, every sage, received at Sinai his share of the revelation, which in the course of history was announced by them to mankind. All heard indeed the same words, but the same voice, corresponding to the individuality of each, was God's way of speaking with them. And as the same voice sounded differently to each one, so did the Divine vision appear differently to each, wherefore God warned them not to ascribe the various forms to various beings, saying: "Do not believe that because you have seen Me in various forms, there are various gods, I am the same that appeared to you at the Red Sea as a God of war, and at Sinai as a teacher."
After Israel had accepted the first commandment with a "Yea," God said: "As you have now acknowledged Me as you sovereign, I can now give you commands: Thou shalt not acknowledge the gods of other nations as such, for they bring no advantage to those who adore them; this thou shalt not do while I exist. I have given you my Torah in order to lend sovereignty to you, hence you must not kindle My wrath by breaking My covenant through idolatry. You shall not worship dead idols, but Him who kills and restores to life, and in whose hand are all living things. Do not learn the works of other nations, for their works are vanity. I, the Eternal, you God, rule over zeal and am not ruled by it; I wait until the fourth generation to visit punishment. But those who love Me, or fear Me, will I reward even unto the thousandth generation."
When Moses heard these words, according to which God would visit upon the descendants the sins of their fathers only if the consecutive generations were one after another sinful, he cast himself upon the ground and thanked God for it; for he knew it never occurred among Israel that three consecutive generations were sinful.
The third commandment read: "O My people of Israel, none among you shall call the name of the Lord in vain, for he who swears falsely by the name of the Lord shall not go unpunished on the great Judgement Day." Swearing falsely has terrible consequences not only for the one who does it, but it endangers all the world. For when God created the world, He laid over the abyss a shard, on which is engraved the Ineffable Name, that the abyss may not burst forth and destroy the world. But as often as on swears falsely in God's name, the letters of the Ineffable Name fly away, and as there is then nothing to restrain the abyss, the waters burst forth from it to destroy the world. This would surely come to pass, if God did not sent the angel Ya'asriel, who has charge of the seventy pencils, to engrave anew the Ineffable Name on the shard.
God said then to Israel, "If you accept My Torah and observe My laws, I will give you for all eternity a thing most precious that I have in My possession." "And what," replied Israel, "is that precious thing which Thou wilt give us if we obey Thy Torah?" God: "The future world." Israel: "But even in this world should we have a foretaste of that other." God: "The Sabbath will give you this foretaste. Be mindful of the Sabbath on the seventh day of the creation of the world." For when the world was created, the seventh day came before God, and said to Him: "All that Thou has created is in couples, why not I?" Whereupon God replied, "The community of Israel shall be thy spouse." Of this promise that God had made to the seventy day, He reminded the people on Mount Sinai, when he gave them the fourth commandment, to keep the Sabbath holy.
When the nations of the earth heard the first commandment, they said: "There is no king that does not like to see himself acknowledged as sovereign, and just so does God desire His people to pledge unto Him their allegiance." At the second commandment they said: "No king suffers a king beside himself, nor does the God of Israel." At the third commandment they said: "Is there a king that would like to have people swear false oaths by his name?" At the fourth commandment they said: "No King dislikes to see his birthday celebrated." But when the people heard the fifth commandment, "Honor thy father and thy mother," they said: "According to our laws, if a man enrolls himself as a servant of the king, he thereby disowns his parents. God, however, makes it a duty to honor father and mother; truly, for this is honor due to Him."
It was with these words that the fifth commandment was emphasized: "Honor thy parents to whom thou owest existence, as thou honorest Me. Honor the body that bore thee, and the breasts that gave thee suck, maintain thy parents, for thy parents took part in thy creation." For man owes his existence to God, to his father, and to his mother, in that he receives from each of his parents five of the parts of his body, and ten from God. The bones, the veins, the nails, the brain, and the white of the eye come from the father. The mother gives him skin, flesh, blood, hair, and the pupil of the eye. God gives him the following: breath, soul, light of countenance, sight, hearing, speech, touch, sense, insight, and understanding. When a human being honors his parents, God says: "I consider it as if I had dwelled among men and they had honored Me," but if people do not honor their parents, God say: "It is good that I do not dwell among men, or they would have treated Me superciliously, too."
God not only commanded to love and fear parents as Himself, but in some respects He places the honor due to parents even higher than that due Him. A man is only then obliged to support the poor or to perform certain religious ceremonies, if he has the wherewithal, but it is the duty of each one even to go begging at men' doors, if he cannot otherwise maintain his parents.
The sixth commandment said: "O My people Israel, be no slayers of men, do not associate with murderers, and shun their companionship, that your children may not learn the craft of murder." As a penalty for deeds of murder, God will send a devastating war over mankind. There are two divisions in Sheol, an inner and an outer. In the latter are all those who were slain before their time. There they stay until the course of the time predestined them is run; and every time a murder has been committed, God says: "Who has slain this person and has forced Me to keep him in the outer Sheol, so that I must appear unmerciful to have removed him from earth before his time?" On the Judgement Day the slain will appear before God, and will implore Him: "O Lord of the world! Thou hast formed me, Thou hast developed me, Thou hast been gracious unto me while I was in the womb, so that I left it unharmed. Thou in Thy great mercy hast provided for me. O Lord of all worlds! Grant me satisfaction from this villain that knew no pity for me." Then God's wrath will be kindled against the murderer, into Gehenna will he throw him and damn him for all eternity, while the slain will see satisfaction given him, and be glad.
The seventh commandment says: "O My people of Israel, be not adulterers, nor the accomplices or companions of adulterers, that your children after you may not be adulterers. Commit no unchaste deeds, with your hands, feet, eyes, or ears, for as a punishment therefore the plague will come over the world."
This is the eighth commandment: "Be not thief, nor the accomplice or companion of thieves, that your children may not become thieves." As a penalty for robbery and theft famine will come upon the world. God may forgive idolatry, but never theft, and He is always ready to listen to complaints against forgers and robbers.
The ninth commandment reads: "O My people of Israel, bear not false witness against your companions, for in punishment for this the clouds will scatter, so that there may be no rain, and famine will ensue owing to drought." God is particularly severe with a false witness because falsehood is the one quality that God did not create, but is something that men themselves produces.
The content of the tenth commandment is: "O My people Israel, covet not the possessions of your neighbors, for owing to this sin will the government take their possessions from the people, so that even the wealthiest will become poor and will have to go into exile." The tenth commandment is directed against a sin that sometimes leads to a trespassing of all the Ten Commandments. If a man covets his neighbor's wife and commits adultery, he neglects the first commandment: "I am the Eternal, thy God," for he commits his crime in the dark and thinks that none sees him, not even the Lord, whose eyes float over all the world, and see good as well as evil. He oversteps the second commandment: "Thou shalt not have strange gods besides Me..., I am a jealous God," who is wroth against faithlessness, whether toward Me, or toward men. He breaks the third commandment: "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain," for he swears he has not committed adultery, but he did so. He is the cause of profanation of the Sabbath, the consecration of which God commands in the fourth commandment, because in his illegal relation he generates descendants who will perform priestly duties in the Temple on the Sabbath, which, being bastards, they have no right to do. The fifth commandment will be broken by the children of the adulterer, who will honor as a father a strange man, and will not even know their true father. He breaks the sixth commandment: "Thou shalt not kill," if he is surprised by the rightful husband, for every time a man goes to a strange woman, he does so with the consciousness that this may lead to his death or the death of his neighbor. The trespassing of the seventh commandment: "Thou shalt not commit adultery," is the direct outcome of a forbidden coveting. The eighth commandment: "Thou shalt not steal," is broken by the adulterer, for he steals another man's fountain of happiness. The ninth commandment" "Thou shalt not bear false witness," is broken by the adulterous woman, who pretends that the fruit of her criminal relations is the child of her husband. In this way, the breaking of the tenth commandment has not only led to all the other sins, but has also the evil effect that the deceived husband leaves his whole property to one who is not his son, so that the adulterer robs him of his possessions as well as of his wife.
The Ten Commandments are so closely interwoven, that the breaking of one leads to the breaking of another. But there is a particularly strong bond of union between the first five commandments, which are written on one table, and the last five, which were on the other table. The first commandment: "I am the Lord, thy God," corresponds to the sixth: "Thou shalt not kill," for the murderer slays the image of God. The second: "Thou shalt have no strange gods before me," corresponds to the seventh: "Thou shalt not commit adultery," for conjugal faithlessness is as grave a sin as idolatry, which is faithlessness to God. The third commandment: "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain," corresponds to the eighth: "Thou shalt not steal," for theft leads to false oath. The fourth commandment: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy," corresponds to the ninth: "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor," for he who bears false witness against his neighbor commits as grave a sin as if he had borne false witness against God, saying that He had not created the world in six days and rested on the seventh, the Sabbath. The fifth commandment: "Honor thy father and thy mother," corresponds to the tenth: "Covet not thy neighbor's wife," for one who indulges this lust produces children who will not honor their true father, but will consider a stranger their father.
The Ten Commandments, which God first revealed on Mount Sinai, correspond in their character to the ten words of which He had made use at the creation of the world. The first commandment: "I am the Lord, thy God," corresponds to the first word at the creation: "Let there be light," for God is the eternal light. The second commandment: "Thou shalt have no strange gods before me," corresponds to the second word: "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters." For God said: "Choose between Me and the idols; between Me, the fountain of living waters, and the idols, the stagnant waters." The third commandment: "Thou shalt not take the name of thy God in vain" corresponds to the word: "Let the waters be gathered together," for as little as water can be gathered in a cracked vessel, so can a man maintain his possession which he has obtained through false oaths. The fourth commandment: "Remember to keep the Sabbath holy," corresponds to the word: "Let the earth bring forth grass," for he who truly observes the Sabbath will receive good things from God without having to labor for them, just as the earth produces grass that need not be sown. For at the creation of man it was God's intention that he be free from sin, immortal, and capable of supporting himself by the products of the soil without toil. The fifth commandment: "Honor thy father and thy mother," corresponds to the word: "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven," for God said to man: "I gave thee two lights, thy father and thy mother, treat them with care." The sixth commandment: "Thou shalt not kill," corresponds to the word: "Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature," for God said: "Be not like the fish, among whom the great swallow the small." The seventh commandment: "Thou shalt not commit adultery," corresponds to the word: "Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind," for God said: "I chose for thee a spouse, abide with her." The eighth commandment: "Thou shalt not steal," corresponds to the word: "Behold, I have given you every herb-bearing seed," for none, said God, should touch his neighbor's goods, but only that which grows free as the grass, which is the common property of all. The ninth commandment: "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor," corresponds to the word: "Let us make man in our image." Thou, like thy neighbor, art made in My image, hence bear not false witness against thy neighbor. The tenth commandment: "Thou shalt not covet the wife of thy neighbor," corresponds to the tenth word of the creation: "It is not good for man to be alone," for God said: "I created thee a spouse, and let not one among ye covet his neighbor's wife."
After Israel had heard the Ten Commandments, they supposed that God would on this occasion reveal to them all the rest of the Torah. But the awful vision on Mount Sinai, where they heard the visible and saw the audible-the privilege was granted them that even the slave women among them saw more than the greatest prophet of later times-this vision has so exhausted them that they would surely have perished, had they heard another word from God. They therefore went to Moses and implored him to be the intermediator between them and God. God found their wish right, so that He not only employed Moses as His intermediator, but determined in all future times to send prophets to Israel as messengers of His words. Turning to Moses, God said: "All that they have spoken is good. If it were possible, I would even now dismiss the Angel of Death, but death against humanity has already been decreed by Me, hence it must remain. Go, say unto them: 'Return to your tents,' but stay thou with Me." In these words God indicated to Israel that they might again enter upon conjugal relations, from which they has abstained throughout three days, while Moses should forever have to deny himself all earthly indulgences.
Moses in his great wisdom now knew how, in a few words, to calm the great excitement of the myriads of men, saying to them: "God gave you the Torah and wrought marvels for you, in order, through this and through the observances of the laws which He imposed upon you, to distinguish you before all other nations on earth. Consider, however, that whereas up to this time you have been ignorant, and your ignorance served as your excuse, you now know exactly what to do and what not to do. Until now you did not know that the righteous are to be rewarded and the godless to be punished in the future world, but now you know it. But as long as you will have a feeling of shame, you will not lightly commit sins." Hereupon the people withdrew twelve miles from Mount Sinai, while Moses stepped quite close before the Lord.
In the immediate proximity of God are the souls of the pious, a little farther Mercy and Justice, and close to these was the position Moses was allowed to occupy. The vision of Moses, owing to his nearness to God, was clear and distinct, unlike that of the other prophets, who saw but dimly. He is furthermore distinguished from all the other prophets, that he was conscious of his prophetic revelations, while they were unconscious in the moments of prophecy. A third distinction of Moses, which he indeed shared with Aaron and Samuel, was that God revealed Himself to him in a pillar of cloud.
In spite of these great marks of favor to Moses, the people still perceived the difference between the first two commandments, which they heard directly from God, and those that they learned through Moses' intercession. For when they heard the words, "I am the Eternal, thy Lord," the understanding of the Torah became deep-rooted in their hearts, so that they never forgot what they thus learned. But they forgot some of the things Moses taught, for as man is a being of flesh and blood, and hence ephemeral, so are his teachings ephemeral. They hereupon came to Moses, saying: "O, if He would only reveal Himself once more! O that once more He would kiss us with the kisses of His mouth! O that understanding of the Torah might remain firm in our hearts as before!" Moses answered: "It is no longer possible now, but it will come to pass in the future world, when He will put His law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts."
Israel had another reason for regretting the choice of an intermediator between themselves and God. When they heard the second commandment: "Thou shalt have no strange gods beside Me," the evil impulse was torn out from their hearts. But as soon as they requested Moses to intercede for them, the evil impulse set in once more in its old place. In vain, however, did they plead with Moses to restore the former direct communication between them and God, so that the evil impulse might be taken from them. For he said: "It is no longer possible now, but in the future world He will 'take out of your flesh the stony heart.'"
Although Israel had now heard only the first two commandments directly from God, still the Divine apparition had and enormous influence upon this generation. Never in the course of their lives was any physical impurity heard of among them, nor did any vermin succeed in infesting their bodies, and when they died, their corpses remained free from worms and insects.
The day on which God revealed Himself on Mount Sinai was twice as long as ordinary days. For on that day the sun did not set, a miracle that was four times more repeated for Moses' sake. When this long day had drawn to its close, Moses ascended the holy mountain, where he spent a week to rid himself of all mortal impurity, so that he might betake himself to God into heaven. At the end of his preparations, God called him to come to Him. Then a cloud appeared and lay down before him, but he knew not whether to ride upon it or merely to hold fast to it. Then suddenly the mouth of the cloud flew open, and he entered into it, and walked about in the firmament as a man walks about on earth. Then he met Kemuel, the porter, the angel who is in charge of twelve thousand angels of destruction, who are posted at the portals of the firmament. He spoke harshly to Moses, saying: "What dost thou here, son of Amram, on this spot, belonging to the angels of fire?" Moses answered: "Not of my own impulse do I come here, but with the permission of the Holy One, to receive the Torah and bear it down to Israel." As Kemuel did not want to let him pass, Moses struck him and destroyed him out of the world, whereupon he went on his way until the angel Hadarniel came along.
This angel is sixty myriads of parasangs taller than his fellows, and at every word that passes out of his mouth, issue twelve thousand fiery lightning flashes. When he beheld Moses he roared at him: "What dost thou here, son of Amram, here on the spot of the Holy and High?" When Moses heard his voice, he grew exceedingly frightened, his eyes shed tears, and soon he would have fallen from the cloud. But instantly the pity of God for Moses was awakened, and He said to Hadarniel: "You angels have been quarrelsome since the day I created you. In the beginning, when I wanted to create Adam, you raised complaint before Me and said, 'What is man that Thou are mindful of him!' and My wrath was kindled against you and I burned scores of you with My little finger. Now again ye commence strife with the faithful one of My house, whom I have bidden to come up here to receive the Torah and carry it down to My chosen children Israel, although you know that if Israel did not receive the Torah, you would no longer be permitted to dwell in heaven." When Hadarniel heard this, he said quickly to the Lord: "O Lord of the world! It is manifest and clear to Thee, that I was not aware he came hither with Thy permission, but since I now know it, I will be his messenger and go before him as a disciple before his master." Hadarniel hereupon, in a humble attitude, ran before Moses as a disciple before his master, until he reached the fire of Sandalfon, when he spoke to Moses, saying: "Go, turn about, for I may not stay in this spot, or the fire of Sandalfon will scorch me."
This angel towers above his fellows by so great height, that it would take five hundred years to cross over it. He stands behind the Divine Throne and binds garlands for his Lord. Sandalfon does not know the abiding spot of the Lord either, so that he might set the crown on His head, but he charms the crown, so that it rises of its own accord until it reposes on the head of the Lord. As soon as Sandalfon bids the crown rise, the hosts on high tremble and shake, the holy animals burst into paeans, the holy Seraphim roar like lions and say: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory." When the crown has reached the Throne of Glory, the wheels of the Throne are instantly set in motion, the foundations of its footstool tremble, and all the heavens are seized with trembling and horror. As soon as the crown now passes the Throne of Glory, to settle upon its place, all the heavenly hosts open their mouths, saying: "Praised be the glory of the Eternal from His place." And when the crown has reached its destination, all the holy animals, the Seraphim, the wheels of the Throne, and the hosts on high, the Cherubim and the Hashmalim speak with one accord: "The Eternal is King, the Eternal was King, the Eternal will be King in all eternity."
Now when Moses beheld Sandalfon, he was frightened, and in his alarm came near to falling out of the cloud. In tears he imploringly begged God for mercy, and was answered. In His bountiful love of Israel, He Himself descended from the Throne of His glory and stood before Moses, until he had passed the flames of Sandalfon.
After Moses had passed Sandalfon, he ran across Rigyon, the stream of fire, the coals of which burn the angels, who dip into them every morning, are burned, and then arise anew. This stream with the coals of fire is generated beneath the Throne of Glory out of the perspiration of the holy Hayyot, who perspire fire out of fear of God. God, however, quickly drew Moses past Rigyon without his suffering any injury.
As he passed on he met the angel Gallizur, also called Raziel. He it is who reveals the teachings to his Maker, and makes known in the world what is decreed by God. For he stands behind the curtains that are drawn before the Throne of God, and sees and hears everything. Elijah on Horeb hears that which Raziel calls down into the world, and passes his knowledge on. This angel performs other functions in heaven. He stands before the Throne with outspread wings, and in this way arrests the breath of the Hayyot, the heat of which would otherwise scorch all the angels. He furthermore puts the coals of Rigyon into a glowing brazier, which he holds up to kings, lords, and princes, and from which their faces receive a radiance that makes men fear them. When Moses beheld him, he trembled, but God led him past unhurt.
He then came to a host of Angels of Terror that surround the Throne of Glory, and are the strongest and mightiest among the angels. These now wished to scorch Moses with their fiery breath, but God spread His radiance of splendor over Moses, and said to him: "Hold on tight to the Throne of My Glory, and answer them." For as soon as the angels became aware of Moses in heaven, they said to God: "What does he who is born of woman here?" And God's answer was as follows: "He has come to receive the Torah." They furthermore said: "O Lord, content Thyself with the celestial beings, let them have the Torah, what wouldst Thou with the dwellers of the dust?" Moses hereupon answered the angels: "It is written in the Torah: 'I am the Eternal, thy Lord, that have led thee out of the land of Egypt and out of the house of bondage.' Were ye perchance enslaved in Egypt and then delivered, that ye are in need of the Torah? It is further written in the Torah: 'Thou shalt have no other gods.' Are there perchance idolaters among ye, that ye are in need of the Torah? It is written: 'Thou shalt not utter the name of the Eternal, thy God, in vain,' Are there perchance business negotiations among ye, that ye are in need of the Torah to teach you the proper form of invocation? It is written: 'Remember to keep the Sabbath holy.' Is there perchance any work among you, that ye are in need of the Torah? It is written: 'Honor thy father and thy mother.' Have ye perchance parents, that ye are in need of the Torah? It is written: 'Thou shalt not kill.' Are there perchance murderers among ye, that ye are in need of the Torah? It is written: 'Thou shalt not commit adultery.' Are there perchance women among ye, that ye are in need of the Torah? It is written: 'Thou shalt not steal.' Is there perchance money in heaven, that ye are need of the Torah? It is written: 'Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.' Is there perchance any false witness among ye, that ye are in need of the Torah? It is written: 'Covet not the house of thy neighbor.' Are there perchance houses, fields, or vineyards among ye, that ye are in need of the Torah?" The angels hereupon relinquished their opposition to the delivering of the Torah into the hands of Israel, and acknowledged that God was right to reveal it to mankind, saying: "Eternal, our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth! Who hast set Thy glory upon the heavens."
Moses now stayed forty days in heaven to learn the Torah from God. But when he started to descend and beheld the hosts of the angels of terror, angels of trembling, angels of quaking, and angels of horror, then through his fear he forgot all he had learned. For this reason God called the angel Yefefiyah, the prince of the Torah, who handed over to Moses the Torah, "ordered in all things and sure." All the other angels, too, became his friends, and each bestowed upon him a remedy as well as the secret of the Holy Names, as they are contained in the Torah, and as they are applied. Even the Angel of Death gave him a remedy against death. The applications of the Holy Names, which the angels through Yefefiyah, the prince of the Torah, and Metatron, the prince of the Face, taught him, Moses passed on to the high-priest Eleazar, who passed them to his son Phinehas, also known as Elijah.
When Moses reached heaven, he found God occupied ornamenting the letters in which the Torah was written, with little crown-like decorations, and he looked on without saying a word. God then said to him: "In thy home, do not people know the greeting of peace?" Moses: "Does it behoove a servant to address his Master?" God: "Thou mightest at least have wished Me success in My labors." Moses hereupon said: "Let the power of my Lord be great according as Thou hast spoken." Then Moses inquired as the significance of the crowns upon the letter, and was answered: "Hereafter there shall live a man called Akiba, son of Joseph, who will base in interpretation a gigantic mountain of Halakot upon every dot of these letters." Moses said to God: "Show me this man." God: "Go back eighteen ranks." Moses went where he was bidden, and could hear the discussions of the teacher sitting with his disciples in the eighteenth rank, but was not able to follow these discussions, which greatly grieved him. But just then he heard the disciples questioning their master in regard to a certain subject: "Whence dost thou know this?" And he answered, "This is a Halakah given to Moses on Mount Sinai," and not Moses was content. Moses returned to God and said to Him: "Thou has a man like Akiba, and yet dost Thou give the Torah to Israel through me!" But God answered: "Be silent, so has it been decreed by Me." Moses then said: "O Lord of the world! Thou has permitted me to behold this man's learning, let see also the reward which will be meted out to him." God said: "Go, return and see." Moses saw them sell the flesh of the martyr Akiba at the meat market. He said to God: "Is this the reward for such erudition?" But God replied: "Be silent, thus have I decreed."
Moses then saw how God wrote the word "long-suffering" in the Torah, and asked: "Does this mean that Thou hast patience with the pious?" But God answered: "Nay, with sinners also am I long-suffering." "What!" exclaimed Moses, "Let the sinners perish!" God said no more, but when Moses implored God's mercy, begging Him to forgive the sin of the people of Israel, God answered him: "Thou thyself didst advice Me to have no patience with sinners and to destroy them." "Yea," said Moses, "but Thou didst declare that Thou art long-suffering with sinners also, let now the patience of the Lord be great according as Thou has spoken."
The forty days that Moses spent in heaven were entirely devoted to the study of the Torah, he learned the written as well as the oral teaching, yea, even the doctrines that an able scholar would some day propound were revealed to him. He took an especial delight in hearing the teachings of the Tanna Rabbi Eliezer, and received the joyful message that this great scholar would be one of his descendants.
The study of Moses was so planned for the forty days, that by day God studied with him the written teachings, and by night the oral. In this way was he enabled to distinguish between night and day, for in heaven "the night shineth as the day." There were other signs also by which he could distinguish night from day; for if he heard the angels praise God with "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts," he knew that it was day; but if they praised Him with "Blessed be the Lord to whom blessing is due," he knew it was night. Then, too, if he saw the sun appear before God and cast itself down before Him, he knew that it was night; if, however, the moon and the stars cast themselves at His feet, he knew that it was day. He could also tell time by the occupation of the angels, for by day they prepared manna for Israel, and by night they sent it down to earth. The prayers he heard in heaven served him as another token whereby he might know the time, for if he heard the recitation of the Shema' precede prayer, he knew that it was day, but if the prayer preceded the recitation of the Shema', then it was night.
During his stay with Him, God showed Moses all the seven heavens, and the celestial temple, and the four colors that he was to employ to fit up the tabernacle. Moses found it difficult to retain the color, whereupon God said to him: "Turn to the right," and as he turned, he saw a host of angels in garments that had the color of the sea. "This," said God, "is violet." Then He bade Moses turn to the left, and there he saw angels dressed in red, and God said: "This is royal purple." Moses hereupon turned around to the rear, and saw angels robed in a color that was neither purple nor violet, and God said to him: "This color is crimson." Moses then turned about and saw angels robed in white, and God said to him: "This is the color of twisted linen."
Although Moses now devoted both night and day to the study of the Torah, he still learned nothing, for hardly had he learned something from God when he forgot it again. Moses thereupon said to God: "O Lord of the world! Forty days have I devoted to studying the Torah, without having profited anything by it." God therefore bestowed the Torah upon Moses, and now he could descend to Israel, for now he remembered all that he had learned.
Hardly had Moses descended from heaven with the Torah, when Satan appeared before the Lord and said: "Where, forsooth, is the place where the Torah is kept?" For Satan knew nothing of the revelation of God on Sinai, as God had employed him elsewhere on purposes, that he might not appear before him as an accuser, saying: "Wilt Thou give the Torah to a people that forty days later will worship the Golden Calf?" In answer to Satan's question regarding the whereabouts of the Torah, God said: "I gave the Torah to Earth." To earth, then, Satan betook himself with his query: "Where is the Torah?" Earth said: "God knows of its course, He knoweth its abiding-place, for 'He looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven.'" Satan now passed on to the sea to seek for the Torah, but the sea also said: "It is not with me," and the abyss said: "It is not in me." Destruction and death said: "We have heard the fame thereof with our ears." Satan now returned to God and said: "O Lord of the world! Everywhere have I sought the Torah, but I found it not." God replied: "Go, seek the son of Amram." Satan now hastened to Moses and asked him: "Where is the Torah that God hath given thee?" Whereupon Moses answered: "Who am I, that the Holy One, blessed be He, should have given me the Torah?" God hereupon spoke to Moses: "O Moses, thou utterest a falsehood." But Moses answered: "O Lord of the world! Thou hast in Thy possession a hidden treasure that daily delights Thee. Dare I presume to declare it my possession?" Then God said: "As a reward for thy humility, the Torah shall be named for thee, and it shall henceforth be known as the Torah of Moses."
Moses departed from the heavens with the two tables on which the Ten Commandments were engraved, and just the words of it are by nature Divine, so too are the tables on which they are engraved. These were created by God's own hand in the dusk of the first Sabbath at the close of the creation, and were made of a sapphire-like stone. On each of the two tables are the Ten Commandments, four times repeated, and in such wise were they engraved that the letters were legible on both sides, for, like the tables, the writing and the pencils for inscription, too, were of heavenly origin. Between the separate commandments were noted down all the precepts of the Torah in all their particulars, although the tables were not more than six hands in length and as much in width. It is another of the attributes of the tables, that although they are fashioned out of the hardest stone, they can still be rolled up like a scroll. When God handed the tables to Moses, He seized them by the top third, whereas Moses took hold of the bottom third, but on third remained open, and it was in this way that the Divine radiance was shed upon Moses' face.
When God revealed Himself upon Mount Sinai, all Israel sang a song of jubilation to the Lord, for their faith in God was on this occasion without bounds and unexampled, except possibly at the time of the Messiah, when they likewise will cherish this firm faith. The angels, too, rejoiced with Israel, only God was down-cast on this day and sent His voice "out of thickest darkness," in token of His sorrow. The angels hereupon said to God: "Is not the joy that Thou hast created Thine?" But God replied: "You do not know what the future will bring." He knew that forty days later Israel would give the lie to the words of God: "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me," and would adore the Golden Calf. And truly, God had sufficient cause to grow sad at this thought, for the worship of the Golden Calf had more disastrous consequences for Israel than any other of their sins. God had resolved to give life everlasting to the nation that would accept the Torah, hence Israel upon accepting the Torah gained supremacy over the Angel of Death. But they lost this power when they worshipped the Golden Calf. As a punishment for this, their sin, they were doomed to study the Torah in suffering and bondage, in exile and unrest, amid cares of life and burdens, until, in the Messianic time and in the future world, God will compensate them for all their sufferings. But until that time there is no sorrow that falls to Israel's lot that is not in part a punishment for their worship of the Golden Calf.
Strange as it may seem that Israel should set out to worship this idol at the very time when God was busied with the preparation of the two tables of the law, still the following circumstances are to be considered. When Moses departed from the people to hasten to God to receive the Torah, he said to them: "Forty days from to-day I will bring you the Torah." But at noon on the fortieth day Satan came, and with a wizard's trick conjured up for the people a vision of Moses lying stretched out dead on a bier that floated midway between earth and heaven. Pointing to it with their fingers, they cried: "This is the man Moses that bought us up out of the land of Egypt." Under the leadership of the magicians Jannes and Jambres, they appeared before Aaron, saying: "The Egyptians were wont to carry their gods about with them, to dance and play before them, that each might be able to behold his gods; and now we desire that thou shouldst make us a god such as the Egyptians had." When Hur, the son of Miriam, whom Moses during his absence had appointed joint leader of the people with Aaron, owing to his birth which placed him among the notables of highest rank, beheld this, he said to them: "O ye frivolous ones, you are no longer mindful of the many miracles God wrought for you." In their wrath, the people slew this pious and noble man; and, pointing out his dead body to Aaron, they said to him threateningly: "If thou wilt make us a god, it is well, if not we will dispose of thee as of him." Aaron had no fear for his life, but he thought: "If Israel were to commit so terrible a sin as to slay their priest and prophet, God would never forgive them." He was willing rather to take a sin upon himself than to cast the burden of so wicked a deed upon the people. He therefore granted them their wish to make them a god, but he did it in such a way that he still cherished the hope that this thing might not come to pass. Hence he demanded from them not their own ornaments for the fashioning of the idol, but the ornaments of their wives, their sons, and their daughters, thinking: "If I were to tell them to bring me gold and silver, they would immediately do so, hence I will demand the earrings of their wives, their sons, and their daughters, that through their refusal to give up their ornaments, the matter might come to nought." But Aaron's assumption was only in part true; the women indeed did firmly refuse to give up their jewels for the making of a monster that is of no assistance to his worshippers. As a reward for this, God gave the new moons as holidays to women, and in the future world too they will be rewarded for their firm faith in God, in that, like the new moons, they too, may monthly be rejuvenated. But when the men saw that no gold or silver for the idol was forthcoming from the women, they drew off their own earrings that they wore in Arab fashion, and brought these to Aaron.
No living calf would have shaped itself out of the gold of these earrings, if a disaster had not occurred through an oversight of Aaron. For when Moses at the exodus of Israel from Egypt set himself to lifting the coffin of Joseph out of the depths of the Nile, he employed the following means: He took four leaves of silver, and engraved on each the image of one of the beings represented at the Celestial Throne,-the lion, the man, the eagle, and the bull. He then cast on the river the leaf with the image of the lion, and the waters of the river became tumultuous, and roared like a lion. He then threw down the leaf with the image of man, and the scattered bones of Joseph united themselves into an entire body; and when he cast in the third leaf with the image of the eagle, the coffin floated up to the top. As he had no use for the fourth leaf of silver with the image of the bull, he asked a woman to store it away for him, while he was occupied with the transportation of the coffin, and later forgot to reclaim the leaf of silver. This was now among the ornaments that the people brought to Aaron, and it was exclusively owing to this bull's image of magical virtues, that a golden bull arose out of the fire into which Aaron put the gold and silver.
When the mixed multitude that had joined Israel in their exodus from Egypt saw this idol conducting itself like a living being, they said to Israel: "This is thy God, O Israel." The people then betook themselves to the seventy members of the Sanhedrin and demanded that they worship the bull that had led Israel out of Egypt. "God," said they, "had not delivered us out of Egypt, but only Himself, who had in Egypt been in captivity." The members of the Sanhedrin remained loyal to their God, and were hence cut down by the rabble. The twelve heads of the tribes did not answer the summons of the people any more than the members of the Sanhedrin, and were therefore rewarded by being found worthy of beholding the Divine vision.
But the people worshipped not only the Golden Calf, they made thirteen such idols, one each for the twelve tribes, and one for all Israel. More than this, they employed manna, which God in His kindness did not deny them even on this day, as an offering to their idols. The devotion of Israel to this worship of the bull is in part explained by the circumstance that while passing through the Red Sea, they beheld the Celestial Throne, and most distinctly of the four creatures about the Throne, they saw the ox. It was for this reason that they hit upon the notion that the ox had helped God in the exodus from Egypt, and for this reason did they wish to worship the ox beside God.
The people then wanted to erect an altar for their idol, but Aaron tried to prevent this by saying to the people: "It will be more reverential to your god if I build the altar in person," for he hoped that Moses might appear in the meantime. His expectation, however, was disappointed, for on the morning of the following day, when Aaron had at length completed the altar, Moses was not yet at hand, and the people began to offer sacrifices to their idol, and to indulge in lewdness.
When the people turned from their God, He said to Moses, who was still in heaven: "'Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.'" Moses, who until then had been superior to the angels, now, owing to the sins of Israel, feared them greatly. The angels, hearing that God meant to send him from His presence, wanted to kill him, and only by clinging to the Throne of God, who covered him with His mantle, did he escape from the hands of the angels, that they might do him no harm. He had particularly hard struggle with the five Angels of Destruction: Kezef, Af, Hemah, Mashhit, and Haron, whom God had sent to annihilate Israel. Moses then hastened to the three Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and said to them: "If ye are men who are participators of the future life, stand by me in this hour, for your children are as a sheep that is led to the slaughter." The three Patriarchs united their prayers with those of Moses, who said to God; "Hast Thou not made a vow to these three to multiply their seed as the stars, and are they now to be destroyed?" In recognition of the merits of these three pious men, God called away three of the Angels of Destruction, leaving only two: whereupon Moses further importuned God: "For the vow Thou madest to Israel, take from them the angel Mashhit;" and God granted his prayer. Moses continued: "For the vow Thou madest me, take from them also the angel Haron." God now stood by Moses, so that he was able to conquer this angel, and he thrust him down deep into the earth in a spot that is possession of the tribe of Gad, and there held him captive.
So long as Moses lived this angel was held in check by him, and if he tried, even when Israel sinned, to rise out of the depths, open wide his mouth, and destroy Israel with his panting, all Moses had to do was to utter the name of God, and Haron, or as he is sometimes called, Peor, was drawn once more into the depths of the earth. At Moses' death, God buried him opposite the spot where Peor is bound. For should Peor, if Israel sinned, reach the upper world and open his mouth to destroy Israel with his panting, he would, upon seeing Moses' grave, be so terror-stricken, that he would fall back into the depths once more.
Moses did indeed manage the Angels of Destruction, but it was a more difficult matter to appease God in His wrath. He addressed Moses harshly, crying: "The grievous sins of men had once caused Me to go down from heaven to see their doings. Do thou likewise go down from heaven now. It is fitting that the servant be treated as his master. Do thou now go down. Only for Israel's sake have I caused this honor to fall to thy lot, but now that Israel has become disloyal to Me, I have not further reason thus to distinguish thee." Moses hereupon answered: "O Lord of the world! Not long since didst Thou say to me: 'Come now, therefore, and I will send thee that thou mayest bring forth My people out of Egypt;' and now Thou callest them my people. Nay, whether pious or sinful, they are Thy people still." Moses continued: "What wilt Thou now do with them?" God answered: "I will consume them, and I will make of thee a great nation." "O Lord of the world!" replied Moses, "If the three-legged bench has no stability, how then shall the one-legged stand? Fulfil not, I implore Thee, the prophecies of the Egyptian magicians, who predicted to their king that the star 'Ra'ah' would move as a harbinger of blood and death before the Israelites." Then he began to implore mercy for Israel: "Consider their readiness to accept the Torah, whereas the sons of Esau rejected it." God: "But they transgressed the precepts of the Torah; one day were they loyal to Me, then instantly set to work to make themselves the Golden Calf." Moses: "Consider that when in Thy name I came to Egypt and announced to them Thy name, they at once believed in me, and bowed down their heads and worshipped Thee." God: "But they now bow down their heads before their idol." Moses: "Consider that they sent Thee their young men to offer Thee burnt offerings." God: "They now offered sacrifices to the Golden Calf." Moses: "Consider that on Sinai they acknowledged that Thou are their God." God: "They now acknowledge that the idol is their god."
All these arguments with God did not help Moses; he even had to put up with having the blame for the Golden Calf laid on his shoulders. "Moses," said God, "when Israel was still in Egypt, I gave thee the commission to lead them out of the land, but not take with thee the mixed multitude that wanted to join them. But thou in thy clemency and humility didst persuade Me to accept the penitent that do penance, and didst take with thee the mixed multitude. I did as thou didst beg me, although I knew what the consequences would be, and it is now these people, 'thy people,' that have seduced Israel to idolatry." Moses now thought it would be useless to try to secure God's forgiveness for Israel, and was ready to give up his intercession, when God, who in reality meant to preserve Israel, but only like to hear Moses pray, now spoke kindly to Moses to let him see that He was not quite inaccessible to his exhortations, saying: "Even in Egypt did I foresee what this people would do after their deliverance. Thou foresawest only the receiving of the Torah on Sinai, but I foresaw the worship of the Calf as well." With these words, God let Moses perceive that the defection of Israel was no surprise to Him, as He had considered it even before the exodus from Egypt; hence Moses now gathered new courage to intercede for Israel. He said: "O Lord of the world! Israel has indeed created a rival for Thee in their idol, that Thou are angry with them. The Calf, I supposed, shall bid stars and moon to appear, while Thou makest the sun to rise; Thou shalt send the dew and he will cause the wind to blow; Thou shalt send down the rain, and he shall bid the plants to grow." God: "Moses, thou are mistaken, like them, and knowest not that the idol is absolutely nothing." "If so," said Moses, "why art Thou angry with Thy people for that which is nothing?" "Besides," he continued, "Thou didst say Thyself that it was chiefly my people, the mixed multitude, that was to blame for this sin, why then are Thou angry with Thy people? If Thou are angry with them only because they have not observed the Torah, then let me vouch for the observance of it on the part of my companions, such as Aaron and his sons, Joshua and Caleb, Jair and Machir, as well as many pious men among them, and myself." But God said: "I have vowed that 'He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the Lord only, he shall be utterly destroyed,' and a vow that has once passe My lips, I can not retract." Moses replied: "O Lord of the world! Has not Thou given us the law of absolution from a vow, whereby power is given to a learned man to absolve any one from his vows? But every judge who desires to have his decisions accounted valid, must subject himself to the law, and Thou who has prescribed the law of absolution from vows through a learned man, must subject Thyself to this law, and through me be absolved from Thy vow." Moses thereupon wrapped his robe about him, seated himself, and bade God let him absolve Him from his vow, bidding Him say: "I repent of the evil that I had determined to bring upon My people." Moses then cried out to Him: "Thou are absolved from Thine oath and vow."
When Moses descended from Sinai, he there found his true servant Joshua, who had awaited him on the slope of the mountain throughout all the forty days during which Moses stayed in heaven, and together they repaired to the encampment. On approaching it, they heard cries of the people, and Joshua remarked to Moses: "There is a noise of war in the camp," but Moses replied: "Is it possible that thou, Joshua, who art one day destined to be the leader of sixty myriads of people, canst not distinguish among the different kinds of dins? This is no cry of Israel conquering, nor of their defeated foe, but their adoration of an idol." When Moses had now come close enough to the camp to see what was going on there, he thought to himself: "How now shall I give to them the tables and enjoin upon them the prohibition of idolatry, for the very trespassing of which, Heaven will inflict capital punishment upon them?" Hence, instead of delivering to them the tables, he tried to turn back, but the seventy elders pursued him and tried to wrest the tables from Moses. But his strength excelled that of the seventy others, and he kept the tables in his hands, although these were seventy Seah in weight. All at once, however, he saw the writing vanish from the tables, and at the same time became aware of their enormous weight; for while the celestial writing was upon them, they carried their own weight and did not burden Moses, but with the disappearance of the writing all this changes. Now all the more did Moses feel loath to give the tables without their contents to Israel, and besides he thought: "If God prohibited one idolatrous Israelite from partaking of the Passover feast, how much more would He be angry if I were now to give all the Torah to an idolatrous people?" Hence, without consulting God, he broke the tables. God, however, thanked Moses for breaking the tables.
Hardly had Moses broken the tables, when the ocean wanted to leave its bed to flood the world. Moses now "took the Calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strewed it upon the water," saying to the waters: "What would ye upon the dry land?" And the waters said: "The world stands only through the observance of the Torah, but Israel has not been faithful to it." Moses hereupon said to the water" "All that have committed idolatry shall be yours. Are you now satisfied with these thousands?" But the waters were not to be appeased by the sinners that Moses cast into them, and the ocean would not retreat to its bed until Moses made the children of Israel drink of it.
The drinking of these waters was one of the forms of capital punishment that he inflicted upon the sinners. When, in answer to Moses' call: "Who is on the Lord's side? Let him come unto me," all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him-they who had not taken part in the adoration of the Golden Calf,-Moses appointed these Levites as judges, whose immediate duty it was to inflict the lawful punishment of decapitation upon all those who had been seen by witnesses to be seduced to idolatry after they had been warned not to do so. Moses gave the command as though he had been commissioned to do so by God. This was not actually so, but he did it in order to enable the judges appointed by him to punish all the guilty in the course of one day, which otherwise, owing to the procedure of Jewish jurisprudence, could not well have been possible. Those who, according to the testimony of witnesses, had been seduced to idolatry, but who could not be proven to have been warned beforehand, were not punished by temporal justice, they died of the water that Moses forced them to drink; for this water had upon them the same effect as the curse-bringing water upon the adulterous woman. But those sinners, too, against whom no witnesses appeared, did not escape their fate, for upon them God sent the plague to carry them off.
Those who were executed by these judgements numbered three thousand, so that Moses said to God: "O Lord of the world! Just and merciful art Thou, and all Thy deeds are deeds of integrity. Shall six hundred thousand people-not to mention all who are below twenty years of age, and all the many proselytes and slaves-perish for the sake of three thousand sinners?" God could no longer withhold His mercy, and determined to forgive Israel their sins. It was only after long and fervent prayers that Moses succeeded in quite propitiating God, and hardly had he returned from heaven, when he again repaired thither to advance before God his intercession for Israel. He was ready to sacrifice himself for the sake of Israel, and as soon as punishment had been visited on the sinners, he turned to God with the words: "O Lord of the world! I have now destroyed both the Golden Calf and its idolaters, what cause for ill feeling against Israel can now remain? The sins these committed came to pass because Thou hadst heaped gold and silver upon them, so that the blames is not wholly theirs. 'Yet now, if Thou wilt, forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book which Thou has written.'"
These bold words of Moses were not without consequences for him, for although God thereupon replied: "Whosoever hath sinned against Me, him will I blot out of My blood," still it was on account of this that his name was omitted from one section of the Pentateuch. But for Israel his words created an instant revulsion of feeling in God, who now addressed him kindly, and promised that he would send His angel, who would lead the people into the promised land. These words indicated to Moses that God was not yet entirely appeased, and he could further see this in the punishment that fell upon Israel on that day. Their weapons, which every man among them had received at the revelation on Sinai, and which had miraculous virtues, having the name of God engraved upon them, were taken from them by the angels, and their robes of purple likewise. When Moses saw from this that God's wrath was still upon Israel, and that He desired to have nothing further to do with them, he removed his tent a mile away from the camp, saying to himself: "The disciple may not have intercourse with people whom the master has excommunicated."
Not only the people went out o this tent whenever they sought the Lord, but the angels also, the Seraphim, and the heavenly hosts repaired thither, the sun, the moon, and the other heavenly bodies, all of whom knew that God was to be found there, and that the tent of Moses was the spot where they were to appear before their Creator. God, however, was not at all pleased to see Moses keep himself aloof from the people, and said to him: "According to our agreement, I was to propitiate thee every time thou wert angry with the people, and thou wert to propitiate Me when My wrath was kindled against them. What is now to become of these poor people, if we be both angry with them? Return, therefore, into the camp to the people. But if thou wilt not obey, remember that Joshua is in the camp at the sanctuary, and he can well fill thy place." Moses replied: "It is for Thy sake that I am angry with them, and now I see that still Thou canst not forsake them." "I have," said God, "already told thee, that I shall send and angel before them." But Moses, by no means content with this assurance, continued to importune God not to entrust Israel to an angel, but to conduct and guide them in person.
Forty days and forty nights, from the eighteenth day of Tammus to the twenty-eight day of Ab, did Moses stay in heaven, beseeching and imploring God to restore Israel once more entirely into His favor. But all his prayers and exhortations were in vain, until at the end of forty days he implored God to set the pious deeds of the three Patriarchs and of the twelve sons of Jacob to the account of their descendants; and only then was his prayer answered. H said: "If Thou art angry with Israel because they transgressed the Ten Commandments, be mindful for their sake of the ten tests to which Thou didst subject Abraham, and through which he nobly passed. If Israel deserves at Thy hands punishment by fire for their sin, remember the fire of the limekiln into which Abraham let himself be cast for the glory of Thy name. If Israel deserves death by sword, remember the readiness with which Isaac laid down his neck upon the altar to be sacrificed to Thee. If they deserve punishment by exile, remember for their sake how their father Jacob wandered into exile from his paternal home to Haran." Moses furthermore said to God: "Will the dead ever be restored to life?" God in surprise retorted: "Hast thou become a heretic, Moses, that thou dost doubt the resurrection?" "If," said Moses, "the dead never awaken to life, then truly Thou art right to wreak vengeance upon Israel; but if the dead are to be restored to life hereafter, what wilt Thou then say to the fathers of this nation, if they ask Thee what has become of the promise Thou hadst made to them? I demand nothing more for Israel," Moses continued, "than what Thou were willing to grant Abraham when he pleaded for Sodom. Thou wert willing to let Sodom survive if there were only ten just men therein, and I am now about to enumerate to Thee ten just men among the Israelites: myself, Aaron, Eleazar, Ithamar, Phinehas, Joshua, and Caleb." "But that is only seven," objected God. Moses, not at all abashed, replied: "But Thou hast said that the dead will hereafter be restored to life, so count with these the three Patriarchs to make the number ten complete." Moses' mention of the names of the three Patriarchs was of more avail than all else, and God granted his prayer, forgave Israel their transgression, and promised to lead the people in person.
Moses still cherished three other wishes: that the Shekinah might dwell with Israel; that the Shekinah might not dwell with other nations; and lastly, that he might learn to know the ways of the Lord whereby He ordained good and evil in the world, sometimes causing suffering to the just and letting the unjust enjoy happiness, whereas at other times both were happy, or both were destined to suffer. Moses laid these wishes before God in the moment of His wrath, hence God bade Moses wait until His wrath should have blown over, and then He granted him his first two wishes in full, but his third in part only. God showed him the great treasure troves in which are stored up the various rewards for the pious and the just, explaining each separated one to him in detail: in this one were the rewards of those who give alms; in that one, of those who bring up orphans. In this way He showed him the destination of each one of the treasures, until at length they came to one of gigantic size. "For whom is this treasure?" asked Moses, and God answered: "Out of the treasures that I have shown thee I give rewards to those who have deserved them by their deeds; but out of this treasure do I give to those who are not deserving, for I am gracious to those also who may lay no claim to My graciousness, and I am bountiful to those who are not deserving of My bounty."
Moses now had to content himself with the certainty that the pious were sure of their deserts; without, however, learning from God, how it sometimes comes to pass that evil doers, too, are happy. For God merely stated that He also shows Himself kind to those who do not deserve it, but without further assigning the why and the wherefore. But the reward to the pious, too, was only in part revealed to him, for he beheld the joys of Paradise of which they were to partake, but not the real reward that is to follow the feast in Paradise; for truly "eye hath not seen, beside the Lord, what He hath prepared for him that waiteth for Him."
By means of the following incident God showed Moses how little man is able to fathom the inscrutable ways of the Lord. When Moses was on Sinai, he saw from that station a man who betook himself to a river, stooped down to drink, lost his purse, and without noticing it went his way. Shortly after, another man cam, found the money, pocketed it, and took to his heels. When the owner of the purse became aware of his loss, he returned to the river, where he did not find his money, but saw a man, who came there by chance to fetch water. To him he said: "Restore to me the money that a little while ago I left here, for none can have taken it if not thou." When the man declared that he had found none of the money nor seen any of it, the owner slew him. Looking with horror and amazement on this injustice on earth, Moses said to God: "I beseech Thee, show my Thy ways. Why has this man, who was quite innocent, been slain, and why hath the true thief gone unpunished?" God replied: "The man who found the money and kept it merely recovered his own possession, for he who had lost the purse by the river, had formerly stolen it from him; but the one who seemed to be innocently slain is only making atonement for having at one time murdered the father of his slayer." In this way, God granted the request of Moses, "to show him His ways," in part only. He let him look into the future, and let him see every generation and it sages, every generation and its prophets, every generation and its expounders of the Scriptures, every generation and its leaders, ever generation and its pious men. But when Moses said: "O Lord of the world! Let me see by what law Thou dost govern the world; for I see that many a just man is lucky, but many a one is not; many a wicked man is lucky, but many a one is not; many a rich man is happy, but many a one is not; many a poor man is happy, but many a one is not;" then God answered: "Thou canst not grasp all the principles which I apply to the government of the world, but some of them shall I impart to thee. When I see human beings who have no claim to expectations from Me either for their own deeds or for those of their fathers, but who pray to Me and implore Me, then do I grant their prayers and give them what they require from subsistence."
Although God had now granted all of his wishes, still Moses received the following answer to his prayer, "I beseech Thee, show me Thy glory": "Thou mayest not behold My glory, or else thou wouldst perish, but in consideration of My vow to grant thee all thy wishes, and in view of the fact that thou are in possession of the secret of My name, I will meet thee so far as to satisfy thy desire in part. Lift the opening of the cave, and I will bid all the angels that serve Me pass in review before thee; but as soon as thou hearest the Name, which I have revealed to thee, know then that I am there, and bear thyself bravely and without fear.'
God has a reason for not showing His glory to Moses. He said to him: "When I revealed Myself to thee in the burning bush, thou didst not want to look upon Me; now thou are willing, but I am not."
The cave in which Moses concealed himself while God passed in review before him with His celestial retinue, was the same in which Elijah lodged when God revealed Himself to him on Horeb. If there had been in it an opening even as tiny as a needle's point, both Moses and Elijah would have been consumed by the passing Divine light, which was of an intensity so great that Moses, although quite shut off in the cave, nevertheless caught the reflection of it, so that from its radiance his face began to shine. Not without great danger, however, did Moses earn this distinction; for as soon as the angels heard Moses request God to show him His glory, they were greatly incensed against him, and said to God: "We, who serve Thee night and day, may not see Thy glory, and he, who is born of woman, asks to see it!" In their anger they made ready to kill Moses, who would certainly have perished, had not God's hand protected him from the angels. Then God appeared in the cloud.
It was the seventh time that He appeared on earth, and taking the guise of a precentor of a congregation, He said to Moses: "Whenever Israel hath sinned, and calleth Me by the following thirteen attributes, I will forgive them their sins. I am the Almighty God who provides for all creatures. I am the Merciful One who restrains evil from human kind. I am the Gracious One who helps in time of need. I am the Long-Suffering to the upright as well as to the wicked. I am Bountiful to those whose own deed do not entitle them to lay claim to rewards. I am Faithful to those who have a right to expect good from Me; and preserve graciousness unto the two-thousandth generation. I forgive misdeeds and even atrocious actions, in forgiving those who repent." When Moses heard this, and particularly that God is long-suffering with sinners, he prayed: "O forgive, then, Israel's sin which they committed in worshipping the Golden Calf." Had Moses now prayed, "Forgive the sins of Israel unto the end of all time," God would have granted that too, as it was a time of mercy; but as Moses asked forgiveness for this one sin only, this one only was pardoned, and God said: "I have pardoned according to thy word."
The day on which God showed Himself merciful to Moses and to His people, was the tenth day of Tishri, the day on which Moses was to receive the tables of the law from God for the second time, and all Israel spent it amid prayer and fasting, that the evil spirit might not again lead them astray. Their ardent tears and exhortations, joined with those of Moses, reached heaven, so that God took pity upon them and said to them: "My children, I swear by my lofty Name that these your tears shall be tears of rejoicing for you; that this day shall be a day of pardon, of forgiveness, and of the canceling of sins for you, for your children, and your children's children to the end of all generations."
This day was not set for the annual Day of Atonement, without which the world could not exist, and which will continue even in the future world when all other holy days will cease to be. The Day of Atonement, however, is not only a reminiscence of the day on which God was reconciled to Israel and forgave them their sins, but it is also the day on which Israel finally received the Torah. For after Moses has spent forty days in prayer, until God finally forgave Israel their sins, he began to reproach himself for having broken the tables of the law, saying" "Israel asked me to intercede for them before God, but who will, on account of my sin, intercede before God for my sake?" Then God said to him: "Grieve not for the loss of the first two tables, which contained only the Ten Commandments. The second tables that I am now ready to give thee, shall contain Halakot, Midrash, and Haggadot."
At the new moon of the month Elul, Moses had the trumpet sounded throughout the camp, announcing to the people that he would once more betake himself to God for forty days to receive the second tables from Him, so that they might be alarmed by his absence; and he stayed in heaven until the tenth day of Tishri, on which day he returned with the Torah and delivered it to Israel.
Whereas the first tables had been given on Mount Sinai amid great ceremonies, the presentation of the second tables took place quietly, for God said: "There is nothing lovelier than quiet humility. The great ceremonies on the occasion of presenting the first tables had the evil effect of directing an evil eye toward them, so that they were finally broken." In this also were the second tables differentiated from the first, that the former were the work of God, and the latter, the work of man. God dealt with Israel like the king who took to himself to wife and drew up the marriage contract with his own hand. One day the king noticed his wife engaged in very intimate conversation with a slave; and enraged at her unworthy conduct, he turned here out of his house. Then he who had given the bride away at the wedding came before the king and said to him: "O sire, dost thou not know whence thou didst take thy bride? She had been brought up among the slaves, and hence is intimate with them." The king allowed himself to be appeased, saying to the other: "Take paper and let a scribe draw up a new marriage contract, and here take my authorization, signed in my own hand." Just so did Israel fare with their God when Moses offered the following excuse for their worship of the Golden Calf: "O Lord, dost Thou not know whence Thou hast brought Israel, out of a land of idolaters?" God replied: "Thou desirest Me to forgive them. Well, then, I shall do so, now fetch Me hither tables on which I may write the words that were written on the first. But to reward thee for offering up thy life for their sake, I shall in the future send thee along with Elijah, that both of you together may prepare Israel for the final deliverance."
Moses fetched the tables out of a diamond quarry which God pointed out to him, and the chips that fell, during the hewing, from the precious stone made a rich man of Moses, so that he now possessed all the qualifications of a prophet-wealth, strength, humility, and wisdom. In regard to the last-named be it said, that God given in Moses' charge all the fifty gates of wisdom except one.
As the chips falling from the precious stone were designed for Moses alone, so too had originally the Torah, written on these tables, been intended only Moses and his descendants; but he was benevolent of spirit, and imparted the Torah to Israel. The wealth that Moses procured for himself in fashioning the Torah, was a reward for having taken charge of the corpse of Joseph while all the people were appropriating to themselves the treasures of Egyptians. God now said: "Moses deserves the chips from the tables. Israel, who did not occupy themselves with labors of piety, carried off the best of Egypt at the time of their exodus. Shall Moses, who saw to the corpse of Joseph, remain poor? Therefore will I make him rich through these chips."
During the forty days he spent in heaven, Moses received beside the two tables all the Torah-the Bible, Mishnah, Talmud, and Haggadah, yea, even all that ever clever scholars would ask their teacher was revealed to him. When he now received the command from God to teach all this to Israel, he requested God to write down all the Torah and to give it to Israel in that way. But God said: "Gladly would I give them the whole in writing, but it is revealed before Me that the nations of the world will hereafter read the Torah translated into Greek, and will say: 'We are the true Israel, we are the children of God.' Then I shall say to the nations: 'Ye claim to be MY children, do ye not know that those only are My children to whom I have confided My secret, the oral teaching?'" This was the reason why the Pentateuch only was given to Moses in writing, and the other parts of the Torah by word of mouth. Hence the covenant God made with Israel reads: "I gave ye a written and an oral Torah. My covenant with you says that ye shall study the written Torah as a written thing, and the oral as an oral; but in case you confound the one with the other you will not be rewarded. For the Torah's sake alone have I made a covenant with you; had ye not accepted the Torah, I should not have acknowledged you before all other nations. Before you accepted the Torah, you were just like all other nations, and for the Torah's sake alone have I lifted you above the others. Even your king, Moses, owes the distinction he enjoys in this world and in the world hereafter to the Torah alone. Had you not accepted the Torah, then should I have dissolved the upper and the under worlds into chaos."
Forty days and forty nights Moses now devoted to the study of the Torah, and in all the time he ate no bread and drank no water, acting in accordance with the proverb, "If thou enterest a city, observe its laws." The angels followed this maxim when they visited Abraham, for they there ate like men; and so did Moses, who being among angels, like the angels partook of no food. He received nourishment from radiance of the Shekinah, which also sustains the holy Hayyot that bear the Throne. Moses spent the day in learning the Torah from God, and the night in repeating what he had learned. In this way he set an example for Israel, that they might occupy themselves with the Torah by night and by day.
During this time Moses also wrote down the Torah, although the angels found it strange that God should have given him the commission to write down the Torah, and gave expression to their astonishment in the following words, that they addressed to God: "How is it that Thou givest Moses permission to write, so that he may write whatever he will, and say to Israel, 'I gave you the Torah, I myself wrote it, and then gave it to you?'" But God answered: "Far be it from Moses to do such a thing, he is a faithful servant!"
When Moses had complete the writing of the Torah, he wiped his pen on the hair of his forehead, and from this heavenly ink that cleaved to his forehead originated the beams of light that radiated from it. In this way God fulfilled to Moses the promise: "Before all thy people I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation." On Moses' return from heaven, the people were greatly amazed to see his face shining, and there was fear, too, in their amazement. This fear was a consequence of their sin, for formerly they had been able to bear without fear the sight of "the glory of the Lord that was like devouring fire," although it consisted of seven sheaths of fire, laid one over another; but after their transgression they could not even bear to look upon the countenance of the man who had been the intermediator between themselves and God. But Moses quieted them, and instantly set about imparting to the people the Torah he had received from God.
His method of instruction was as follows: first came Aaron, to whom he imparted the word of God, and as soon as he had finished with Aaron, came the sons of Aaron, Eleazar and Ithamar, and he instructed them, while Aaron sat at his right hand, listening. When he had finished with the sons of Aaron, the elders appeared to receive instruction, while Eleazar sat at the right hand of his father, and Ithamar at the left hand of Moses, and listened; and when he had finished with the elders, the people came and received instruction, whereupon Moses withdrew. Then Aaron went over what had been taught, and his sons likewise, and the elders, until every one, from Aaron down to every man out of the people, had four times repeated what he had learned, for in this way had God bidden Moses impress the Torah four times upon Israel.
At sight of the rays that emanated from Moses' face, the people said to him: "We were humbled by God owing to that sin we had committed. God, thou sayest, had forgiven us, and is reconciled to us. Thou, Moses, were include in our humiliation, and we see that He has once more exalted thee, whereas, in spite of the reconciliation with God, we remain humbled." Hereupon Moses betook himself to God and said; "When Thou didst humble them, Thou didst humble me also, hence shouldst Thou now raise them too, if Thou has raised me." God replied: "Truly, as I have exalted thee, so will I exalt them also; record their number, and through this show the world how near to My heart is the nation that before all others acknowledged Me as their king, singing by the Red Sea: 'This is my God, and I will exalt Him.'" Moses then said to God: "O Lord of the world! Thou hast so many nation in Thy world, but Thou carest nothing about recording their numbers, and only Israel dost Thou bid me count." God replied: "All these multitudes do not belong to Me, they are doomed to the destruction of Gehenna, but Israel is My possession, and as a man most prizes the possession he paid for most dearly, so is Israel most dear to Me, because I have with great exertions made it My own." Moses further said to God: "O Lord of the world! To our father Abraham Thou made the following promises: 'And I will make thy seed as the stars in the heavens,' but now Thou biddest me number Israel. If their forefather Abraham could not count them, how, then, should I?" But God quieted Moses, saying: "Thou needest not actually count them, but if thou wouldst determine their number, add together the numerical value of the names of the tribes, and the result will be their number." And truly in this way did Moses procure the sum total of the Jews, which amounted to sixty myriads less three thousand, the three thousand having been swept away by the plague in punishment for their worship of the Golden Calf. Hence the difference between the number at the exodus from Egypt, when Moses had counted them for the first time, and the number at the second census, after the losses incurred by the plague. God treated Israel as did that king his herd, who ordered the shepherds tell the tale of the sheep when he heard that wolves had been among them and had killed some, having this reckoning made in order to determine the amount of his loss.
The occasions on which, in the course of history, Israel were numbered, are as follows: Jacob counted his household upon entering Egypt; Moses counted Israel upon the exodus from Egypt; after the worship of the Golden Calf; at the arrangement into camp divisions; and at the distribution of the promised land. Saul twice instituted a census of the people, the first time when he set out against Nahash, the Ammonite, and the second time when he set out in war upon Amalek. It is significant of the enormous turn in the prosperity of the Jews during Saul's reign, that at the first census every man put down a pebble, so that the pebbles might be counted, but at the second census the people were so prosperous that instead of putting down a pebble, every man brought a lamb. There was a census in the reign of David, which, however, not having been ordered by God, had unfortunate consequences both for the king and for the people. Ezra instituted the last census when the people returned from Babylon to the Holy Land. Apart from these nine censuses, God will Himself count His people in the future time when their number will be so great that no mortal will be able to count them.
There was an offering to the sanctuary connected with the second census in Moses' time, when every one above twenty years of age had to offer up half a shekel. For God said to Moses: "They indeed deserve death for having made the Golden Calf, but let each one offer up to the Eternal atonement money for his soul, and in this way redeem himself from capital punishment." When the people heard this, they grieved greatly, for they thought: "In vain did we exert ourselves in taking booty from the Egyptians, if we are not to yield up our hard-earned possessions as atonement money. The law prescribes that a man pay fifty shekels of silver for dishonoring a woman, and we who have dishonored the word of God, should have to pay at least an equal amount. The law furthermore decrees that if an ox kill a servant, his owner shall pay thirty shekels of silver, hence every Israelite should have to discharge such a sum, for 'we changed our glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass.' But these two fines would not suffice, for we slandered God, He who brought us out of Egypt, by calling out to the Calf, 'This is thy God, that brought thee up out of Egypt,' and slander is punishable by law with one hundred shekels of silver." God who knew their thoughts, said to Moses: "Ask them why they are afraid. I do not ask of them to pay as high a fine as he who dishonors or seduces a woman, nor the penalty of a slanderer, nor that of the owner of a goring ox, all that I ask of them is this," and hereupon he showed Moses at the fire a small coin that represented the value of half a shekel. This coin each one of those who had passed through the Red Sea was to give as an offering.
There were several reasons why God asked particularly for the value of half a shekel as a penalty. As they committed their sin, the worship of the Golden Calf, in the middle, that is the half of the day, so they were to pay half of a shekel; and, furthermore, as they committed their sin in the sixth hour of the day, so were they to pay half a shekel, which is six grains of silver. This half shekel, furthermore, contains ten gerahs, and is hence the corresponding fine for those who trespassed the Ten Commandments. The half shekel was also to be an atonement for the sin committed by the ten sons of Jacob, who sold their brother Joseph as a slave, for whom each had received half a shekel as his share.
When, on that memorable Day of Atonement, God indicated His forgiveness to Israel with the words, "I have forgiven them according as I have spoken," Moses said: "I now feel convinced that Thou hast forgiven Israel, but I wish Thou wouldst show the nations also that Thou are reconciled with Israel." For these were saying: "How can a nation that heard God's word on Sinai, 'Thou shalt have no other gods before Me,' and that forty days later called out to the Calf, 'This is thy god, O Israel,' expect that God would ever be reconciled to them?" God therefore said to Moses: "As truly as thou livest, I will let My Shekinah dwell among them, so that all my know that I have forgiven Israel. My sanctuary in their midst will be a testimony of My forgiveness of their sins, and hence it may well be called a 'Tabernacle of Testimony.'"
The erection of a sanctuary among Israel was begun in answer to a direct appeal from the people, who said to God: "O Lord of the world! The kings of the nations have palaces in which are set a table, candlesticks, and other royal insignia, that their king may be recognized as such. Shalt not Thou, too, our King, Redeemer, and Helper, employ royal insignia, that all the dwellers of the earth may recognize that Thou are their King?" God replied: "My children, the kings of the flesh and blood need all these things, but I do not, for I need neither food nor drink; nor is light necessary to Me, as can well be seen by this, that My servants, the sun and the moon, illuminate all the world with the light they receive from Me; hence ye need do none of these things for Me, for without these signs of honor will I let all good things fall to your lot in recognition of the merits of your fathers." But Israel answered: "O Lord of the world! We do not want to depend on our fathers. 'Doubtless Thou are our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not." God hereupon said: "If you now insist upon carrying out your wish, do so, but do it in the way I command you. It is customary in the world that whosoever had a little son, cares for him, anoints him, washes him, feeds him, and carries him, but as soon as the son is come of age, he provides for his father a beautiful dwelling, a table, and a candlestick. So long as you were young, did I provide for you, washed you, fed you with bread and meat, gave you water to drink, and bore you on eagles' wings; but now that you are come of age, I wish you to build a house for Me, set therein a table and a candlestick, and make an altar of incense within it." God then gave them detailed instruction for furnishing the Tabernacle, saying to Moses; "Tell Israel that I order them to build Me a tabernacle not because I lack a dwelling, for, even before the world had been created, I had erected My temple in the heavens; but only as a token of My affection for you will I leave My heavenly temple and dwell among you, 'they shall make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.'"
At these last words Moses seized by a great fear, such as had taken possession of him only on two other occasions. Once, when God said to him, "Let each give a ransom for his soul," when, much alarmed, he said: "If a man were to give all that he hath for his soul, it would not suffice." God quieted him with the words, "I do not ask what is due Me, but only what they can fulfil, half a shekel will suffice." Then again, fear stirred Moses when God said to him: "Speak to Israel concerning My offering, and My bread for My sacrifices made by fire," and he said trembling, "Who can bring sufficient offerings to Thee? 'Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beast thereof sufficient for a burnt offering.'" Then again God quieted him with the words, "I demand not according to what is due Me, but only that which they can fulfil, one sheep as a morning sacrifice, and one sheep as an evening sacrifice." The third time, God was in the midst of giving Moses instructions concerning the building of the sanctuary, when Moses exclaimed in fear: "Behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee, how much less this sanctuary that we are to build Thee?" And this time also God quieted him with the words, "I do not ask what is due Me, but only that which they can fulfil; twenty boards to the north, as many to the south, eight in the west, and I shall then so draw My Shekinah together that it may find room under them." God was indeed anxious to have a sanctuary erected to Him, it was the condition on which He led them out of Egypt, yea, in a certain sense the existence of all the world depended on the construction of the sanctuary, for when the sanctuary had been erected, the world stood firmly founded, whereas until then it had always been swaying hither and thither. Hence the Tabernacle in its separate parts also corresponded to the heaven and the earth, that had been created on the first day. As the firmament had been created on the second day to divide the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above, so there was a curtain in the Tabernacle to divide between the holy and the most holy. As God created the great sea on the third say, so did He appoint the laver in the sanctuary to symbolize it, and as He had on that day destined the plant kingdom as nourishment for man, so did He now require a table with bread in the Tabernacle. The candlestick in the Tabernacle corresponded to the two luminous bodies, the sun and the moon, created on the fourth day; and the seven branches of the candlestick corresponded to the seven planets, the Sun, Venus, Mercury, the Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars. Corresponding to the birds created on the fifth day, the Tabernacle contained the Cherubim, that had wings like birds. On the sixth, the last day of creation, man had been created in the image of God to glorify his Creator, and likewise was the high priest anointed to minister in the Tabernacle before the Lord and Creator.
Legends of the Jews [Table of Contents]
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