If the children
of Israel received the Torah at Mount Sinai, why did Moses come down bearing
only “the two tablets of the testimony” luchot ha’aidoot (Exodus 32:15),
rather than a complete scroll of law?

The Biblical narrative states that
God brought the Israelites to Mount Sinai and spoke the Ten Commandments,
beginning with “I am the Lord your God!” Some commentators argue that the people
were so intimidated by God’s voice, that they could only tolerate hearing the
first two commandments as they rang out from the heavens. The people then
beseeched Moses to intercede and deliver the remaining eight commandments. Moses
then ascended Mount Sinai and did not return to the Israelites for 40

Ten Commandments…forty days? Obviously, something more than Moses
reviewing Ten Commandments was happening on that mountaintop. Tradition tells us
that during the time Moses remained on Mount Sinai he received all of the
written and oral Torah.

Moses was uniquely endowed and capable of
learning all of halacha (Jewish law), as well as the methods of deriving
halacha, in just over a month. However, it was not possible to teach what
he learned to the entire nation in less than 40 years

God therefore
began with the Ten Commandments, which could be understood and followed on a
simple as well as a complex level. For example, honoring one’s mother and father
(#5), on the simple level, means giving respect to one’s parents. When studied
further, however, one discovers that this commandment is also about gratitude to
God, the ultimate Creator.

Thus, the Ten Commandments are seen as the
cornerstone of the Torah, containing both the religious (“I am the Lord your
God”) and legal elements (“Do not steal”) of the Torah.

This Treat was
last posted on May 18, 2011.