|Moshe’s Shiny Face
Published: Tuesday, February 25, 2020 10:38:44 PM
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After his third forty day stay on Mount Sinai, Moshe descended on the 10th of Tishrei – Yom Kippur carrying the second set of the Holy Tablets. These replaced the First Tablets that Moshe broke when he saw the Jews worshipping the Golden Calf. Moshe’s extended stay on Mount Sinai in G‑d’s presence left a permanent impression on his body – his face radiated G‑d’s Light! As the Torah states “Moshe was not aware that the skin of his face had become radiant.” (Shemot 34:29)
Why did Moshe’s face not shine when he received the First Tablets? G‑d Himself chiseled the first set of tablets out of the sapphire stone from His very own Throne of Glory. However, the Second Tablets were chiseled by Moshe from sapphire stone buried beneath his tent. Thus, it was specifically this second set of tablets rather than the First Tablets that made Moshe’s face shine.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that this is because when G‑d gives us a gift without us working to earn it, it does NOT penetrate our very being. Therefore the First Tablets were broken, whereas the Second Tablets remain intact forever, hidden beneath the Temple Mount.
The message is that when we exert ourselves and work for Holy endeavors, it remains with us permanently. But Holiness that is received unearned can be more easily lost. As the saying goes, “Easy Come, Easy Go.”
Because Moshe dug up the Sapphire stone beneath his tent and chiseled the Second Tablets himself, their Holiness penetrated his physical body, and therefore his face shone only by the Second Tablets. Similarly, the effort and exertion we expend in Torah study and fulfilling G‑d’s Mitzvot refines even our physical bodies. If we exert ourselves to the point that the Holy Torah penetrates us, our faces will also shine. As John Lennon famously sang, “WE ALL SHINE ON.”
The shortest Mishna in the Talmud states in Tractate Avot, “ACCORDING TO THE PAIN IS THE GAIN!”