Chapter 34

1And the Lord said to Moses: "Hew for yourself two stone tablets like the first ones. And I will inscribe upon the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke.
Hew for yourself: Heb. פְּסָל לְ. He [God] showed him [Moses] a sapphire mine from within his tent, and He said to him, “The [sapphire] chips shall be yours,” and from there Moses became very wealthy. -[from Tanchuma 29, Lev. Rabbah 32:2]
Hew for yourself: You broke the first ones. You hew others for yourself. This can be compared to a king who went abroad and left his betrothed with the maidservants. Because of the immoral behavior of the maidservants, she acquired a bad reputation. Her bridesman [the person appointed to defend the bride should any problems arise] arose and tore up her marriage contract. He said, “If the king decides to kill her, I will say to him, ‘She is not yet your wife.’” The king investigated and discovered that only the maidservants were guilty of immoral behavior. He [therefore] became appeased to her. So her bridesman said to him, “Write her another marriage contract because the first one was torn up.” The king replied to him, “You tore it up. You buy yourself another [sheet of] paper, and I will write to her with my [personal] hand [writing].” Likewise, the king represents the Holy One, blessed is He. The maidservants represent the mixed multitude. The bridesman is Moses, and the betrothed of the Holy One, blessed is He, is Israel. That is why it says: “Hew for yourself.” -[from Tanchuma 30]
2Be prepared for the morning, and in the morning you shall ascend Mount Sinai and stand before Me there on the top of the mountain.
prepared: Heb. נָכוֹן, ready.
3No one shall ascend with you, neither shall anyone be seen anywhere on the mountain, neither shall the sheep and the cattle graze facing that mountain."
No one shall ascend with you: Since the first ones [i.e., tablets] were accompanied by loud noises, sounds, and with a multitude, the evil eye affected them. [Our conclusion is that] there is nothing better than modesty. -[from Tanchuma 30]
4So he [Moses] hewed two stone tablets like the first ones, and Moses arose early in the morning and ascended Mount Sinai as the Lord had commanded him, and he took two stone tablets in his hand.
5And the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and He called out in the name of the Lord.
and He called out in the name of the Lord: We render: וּקְרָא בִשְׁמָא דַיְיָ, and he called out in the name of the Lord. [from Onkelos]
6And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed: Lord, Lord, benevolent God, Who is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness and truth,
Lord, Lord: This is God's Attribute of Compassion. [It is repeated,] once for before the person sins, and once for after he sins and repents.
God: Heb. אֵל. This too is an attribute of compassion [for God], and so he [the Psalmist] says: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Ps. 22:2). One cannot say to the Divine attribute of justice, “Why have You forsaken me?” I found this in the Mechilta (Exod. 15:2).
slow to anger: He puts off His anger and does not hasten to exact retribution, [hoping that] perhaps he [the sinner] will repent.
and abundant in loving-kindness: for those who need loving-kindness because they lack sufficient merits. -[from R.H. 17a]
and truth: to pay a good reward to those who do His will.
7preserving loving kindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and rebellion and sin; yet He does not completely clear [of sin] He visits the iniquity of parents on children and children's children, to the third and fourth generations."
preserving loving-kindness: that a person does before Him.
for thousands: For two thousand generations.
[iniquity and rebellion]: Iniquities (עִוֹנוֹת) are intentional sins. פְּשָׁעִים are sins committed out of rebellion, which a person commits [in order] to anger [God]. -[from Yoma 36b]
yet He does not completely clear [of sin]: Heb. וְנַקֵּה לֹא יְנַקֶּה. According to its simple interpretation, it means that He does not completely overlook the iniquity but exacts retribution for it little by little. Our Rabbis, however, interpreted [this expression to mean]: He clears those who repent, but does not clear those who do not repent (from Yoma 86a, targumim).
He visits the iniquity of parents on the children: when they hold onto the deeds of their parents in their hands [i.e., emulate their ways], for He already explained this in another verse, [that it means only] “of those who hate Me” (Exod. 20:5). -[from Ber. 7a]
and fourth generations: Heb. וְעַל רִבֵּעִים, the fourth generation. Thus, the [i.e., God’s] attribute of goodness exceeds the attribute of retribution by a ratio of one to five hundred. Concerning the attribute of goodness, He says: “preserving loving-kindness for thousands.” -[from Tosefta, Sotah 4:1]
8And Moses hastened, bowed his head to the ground and prostrated himself,
And Moses hastened: When Moses saw the Shechinah passing [in front of him] and he heard the voice calling, he immediately prostrated himself.
9and said: "If I have now found favor in Your eyes, O Lord, let the Lord go now in our midst [even] if they are a stiff necked people, and You shall forgive our iniquity and our sin and thus secure us as Your possession."
let the Lord go now in our midst: As You promised us, since You forgive iniquity. [Which means:] and if they are a stiff-necked people, and they rebelled against You, and You have said concerning this, “Lest I destroy you on the way” (Exod. 33:3), You [still] will forgive our iniquity, etc. There are [other instances where] כִּי [is used] instead of אִם if.
and thus secure us as Your possession: And You shall give us to Yourself as a special possession. (Other editions read: and You shall give us a special possession.) That is the [same] request of: “Then I and Your people will be distinguished” (Exod. 33:16), [meaning] that the Shechinah should not rest upon the pagan nations.
10And He said: "Behold! I will form a covenant; in the presence of all your people, I will make distinctions such as have not been created upon all the earth and among all the nations, and all the people in whose midst you are shall see the work of the Lord how awe inspiring it is that which I will perform with you.
[I will] form a covenant: Concerning this.
in the presence of all your people, I will make distinctions: Heb. נִפְלָאֹת אֶעֱשִֶׂה, an expression related to וְנִפְלִינוּ, “and [we] shall be distinguished” (Exod. 33:16), [meaning] that you shall be separated from all the pagan nations, that My Shechinah shall not rest upon them [these other nations].
11Keep carefully what I am commanding you today: Lo! I will drive out from before you the Amorites and the Canaanites, the Hittites and the Perizzites, the Hivvites and the Jebusites.
the Amorites…: Six nations are [enumerated] here [not the proverbial seven], because the Girgashites [i.e., the seventh nation] got up and emigrated because of them [the Israelites]. -[from Lev. Rabbah 17:6, Yerushalmi Shevi ith 6:1.]
12Beware lest you form a covenant with the inhabitant[s] of the land into which you are coming, lest it become a snare in your midst.
13But you shall demolish their altars, shatter their monuments, and cut down their sacred trees.
their sacred trees: This is a tree they worship.
14For you shall not prostrate yourself before another god, because the Lord, Whose Name is "Jealous One," is a jealous God.
Whose Name is “Jealous One”: He is zealous to mete out retribution, and He is not indulgent. That is [the meaning of] every expression of jealousy (קִנְאָה) [when used in connection with God]. [It] means that He is steadfast in His superiority [over other deities] and exacts retribution upon those who forsake Him.
15Lest you form a covenant with the inhabitant[s] of the land, and they [the gentiles] go astray after their gods, and they offer sacrifices to their gods, and they invite you, and you eat of their slaughtering,
and you eat of their slaughtering: You [may] think that there is no punishment for eating it, but [when you eat it] I consider it for you as if you endorsed its worship, for through this [eating of the sacrifice] you will come to take from their daughters for your sons.
16and you take of their daughters for your sons; then their daughters will go astray after their gods and lead your sons astray after their gods.
17You shall not make molten gods for yourself.
18The Festival of Unleavened Cakes you shall keep; seven days you shall eat unleavened cakes which I have commanded you, at the appointed meeting time of the month of spring, for in the month of spring you went out of Egypt.
the month of spring: The month of early ripening, when the grain first ripens.
19All that opens the womb is Mine, and all your livestock [that] bears a male, [by] the emergence of ox or lamb.
All that opens the womb is Mine: Among humans.
and all your livestock [that] bears a male…: Heb. תִּזָּכָר. And all your livestock that bears a [firstborn] male by the emergence of an ox or lamb [from the womb], meaning that a male will open its womb [i.e., its firstborn is a male].
emergence: Heb. פֶּטֶר, a word that means opening. Similarly, “The beginning of strife is like letting out (פּוֹטֵר) water” (Prov. 17:14). The “tav” of תִּזָּכָר is an expression of the feminine, referring to the [animal] that gives birth.
20And a firstborn donkey you shall redeem with a lamb; if you do not redeem it, you shall decapitate it; every firstborn of your sons you shall redeem, and they shall not appear before Me empty handed.
And a firstborn donkey: But not [the firstborn of] other unclean animals. -[from Bech. 5b]
you shall redeem with a lamb: [The owner] gives a lamb to the kohen, and it [becomes] the ordinary [unconsecrated] property of the kohen, and the firstborn donkey may be put to work by its owner. -[from Bech. 9b]
you shall decapitate it: He decapitates it with a cleaver. [The rationale is:] He caused the kohen to lose his money [by neglecting to give him the redemption lamb]. Therefore, he must lose his own money [by decapitating his donkey]. -[from Bech. 10b, Mechilta on Exod. 13:13]
every firstborn of your sons you shall redeem: His redemption is established as five selas, as it is said: “And his redemption you shall perform from the age of one month [by the evaluation of five shekels, etc.]” (Num. 18:16).
and they shall not appear before Me empty-handed: According to the simple meaning of the verse, this is a separate matter [from the rest of this verse] and is unrelated to the firstborn, because there is no obligation to appear [in the Temple] in the commandment dealing with the firstborn. Instead this is another warning, [meaning] and when you ascend [to the Temple] on the festivals, you shall not appear before Me empty-handed, [but] it is incumbent upon you to bring burnt offerings (Chag. 7a) whenever appearing before God. According to the way it is interpreted by a Baraitha, this is a superfluous verse [for this was already stated in Exod. 23:15], and it is free [i.e., has no additional reason for being here other than] to be used for a גְּזֵרָה שָׁוָה, [i.e.,] an instance of similar wording, to teach [us] about the provisions given a Hebrew slave [when he is freed]-that it is five selas from each kind [i.e., of sheep, grain, and wine], as much as the redemption of a firstborn. [This is elaborated upon] in tractate Kiddushin (17a).
21Six days you may work, and on the seventh day you shall rest; in plowing and in harvest you shall rest.
in plowing and in harvest you shall rest: [If this refers to the Sabbath,] why are plowing and harvest mentioned [in particular, and not other kinds of work]? Some of our Rabbis say that this [verse prohibits] plowing before the seventh year [i.e., the sixth year] which enters the seventh year [i.e., plowing that benefits crops that grow in the seventh year], and the harvest of the seventh year that grows after the seventh year [i.e., crops that have at least one third of their growth during the seventh year must be treated with the sanctity of the seventh year]. This is to teach you that we must add from the unholy [the year preceding the seventh year] to the holy [the seventh year]. Accordingly, this is its meaning: “Six days you may work, and on the seventh day you shall rest” -and [concerning] the work of the six days, which I have permitted you, there is a year in which plowing and harvest are prohibited. The plowing and harvest of the seventh year need not be stated, because it already says: “Your field you shall not sow…” (Lev. 25:4). [Consequently, we deduce that this verse means the plowing before the seventh year and the harvest after the seventh year.] Others [of the Rabbis] say that [the verse] speaks only about the [weekly] Sabbath, and the plowing and harvest mentioned in its context are to inform you that just as [the prohibited] plowing is optional [plowing], so is harvest [referred to here] optional [harvesting]. The harvest of the omer [however] is excluded [from this prohibition] because it is mandatory, and [consequently] it supersedes the Sabbath. -[from R.H. 9a]
22And you shall make for yourself a Festival of Weeks, the first of the wheat harvest, and the festival of the ingathering, at the turn of the year.
the first of the wheat harvest: [This is the festival] on which you bring the two breads made from the wheat [as in Lev. 23:17].
the first: For it is the first meal offering brought to Temple from the new wheat crop, because the meal offering of the omer on Passover is brought from the barley. -[from Men. 84a]
and the festival of the ingathering: Heb. וְחַג הָאָָסִיף, [which occurs] at the time you gather your grain from the field into the house. This gathering (אִסִיפָה) is a term denoting bringing into the house, like “you shall take it (וַאִסַפְתּוֹ) into your house” (Deut. 22:2).
at the turn of the year: which is at the return of the year, at the beginning of the coming year. [I.e., it is in the month of Tishri, which is the first month of the year, counting from Creation.]
at the turn of: Heb. תְּקוּפַת, a term denoting going around and encompassing (הַקָּפָה) [i.e., going in a circle].
23Three times during the year shall all your male[s] appear directly before the Master, the Lord, the God of Israel.
all your male[s]: Heb. כָּל זְכוּרְ, all the males among you. [This is repeated elsewhere as are] many commandments in the Torah, [which] are stated and repeated, many of them three or four times, in order to cause liability and mete out punishment according to the number of the negative commandments they contain and the number of positive commandments they contain.
24When I drive out nations from before you and I widen your border, no one will covet your land when you go up, to appear before the Lord, your God, three times each year.
I drive out: Heb. אוֹרִישׁ as the Targum renders: אִתָרֵ, I will drive out, and so is “begin to drive out (רָשׁ) ” (Deut. 2:31), and so is “and he drove out (וַיוֹרֶשׁ) the Amorites” (Num. 21:32), an expression of driving out.
and I widen your border: And [this way] you will be far from the Temple, and [so] you cannot constantly appear before Me. Therefore, I am setting these three pilgrimage festivals for you.
25You shall not slaughter [or sprinkle] the blood of My sacrifice with leaven, and the offering of the Passover feast shall not remain overnight until the morning.
You shall not slaughter…: You shall not slaughter the Passover sacrifice as long as leaven still exists. This is a [specific] warning to the slaughterer, to the one who sprinkles the blood, or to one of the members of the group [bringing this sacrifice]. -[from Pes. 63b]
shall not remain overnight until the morning: As the Targum [Onkelos] paraphrases: [it shall not remain overnight until the morning away from the altar]. Remaining overnight on top of the altar has no effect [i.e., does not disqualify the sacrifice] (Mechilta, Exodus 23:18), and [the prohibition of] staying overnight is only completed at the break of dawn (Zev. 87a).
and the offering of the Passover feast: [This refers to] its sacrificial parts. From here you learn [to apply this rule to all instances of] burning the fats or the limbs [of sacrifices, namely that it may not be performed after the break of dawn if the sacrificial parts stayed off the altar all night until the break of dawn].
26The choicest of the first of your soil you shall bring to the house of the Lord, your God. You shall not cook a kid in its mother's milk."
The choicest of the first of your soil: [This refers to the fruits] of the seven species delineated as the praise of your land, “A land of wheat and barley, vines, [figs, and pomegranates, a land of oil-producing olives,] and honey” (Deut. 8:8). That is the honey of dates. -[from Bikkurim 3:1]
You shall not cook a kid: This is the warning against [cooking] meat and milk [together]. This commandment is written in the Torah three times (Exod. 23:19, Deut. 14:21), one for eating, one for deriving benefit, and one for the prohibition of cooking. -[from Chul. 115b]
a kid: Heb. גְּדִי. Any young offspring is meant, even a calf or a lamb. Since [the Torah] had to specify in many places גְּדִי עִזִּים [when a young goat is meant], you learn that [mention of] גְּדִי unqualified means all sucklings. -[from Chul. 113b]
in its mother’s milk: This excludes fowl, which has no milk, which is not prohibited by the Torah but by the decree of the Scribes [the Sages]. -[from Chul. 113a]
27The Lord said to Moses: "Inscribe these words for yourself, for according to these words I have formed a covenant with you and with Israel."
these words: But you are not permitted to write down the Oral Torah. -[from Gittin 60b]
28He was there with the Lord for forty days and forty nights; he ate no bread and drank no water, and He inscribed upon the tablets the words of the Covenant, the Ten Commandments.
29And it came to pass when Moses descended from Mount Sinai, and the two tablets of the testimony were in Moses' hand when he descended from the mountain and Moses did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant while He had spoken with him
And it came to pass when Moses descended: when he brought the latter [second] tablets on Yom Kippur.
that… had become radiant: Heb. קָרַן, an expression meaning horns (קַרְנַיִם) because light radiates and protrudes like a type of horn. From where did Moses [now] merit these rays of splendor [which he did not have when he descended with the first tablets (Gur Aryeh)]? Our Rabbis said: [Moses received it] from the cave, when the Holy One, blessed is He, placed His hand on his face, as it is said: “and I will cover you with My hand” (Exod. 33:22). -[from Midrash Tanchuma 37]
30that Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses and behold! the skin of his face had become radiant, and they were afraid to come near him.
and they were afraid to come near him: Come and see how great the power of sin is! Because when they had not yet stretched out their hands to sin [with the golden calf], what does He say? “And the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire atop the mountain, before the eyes of the children of Israel” (Exod. 24:17), and they were neither frightened nor quaking. But since they had made the calf, even from Moses’ rays of splendor they recoiled and quaked. [from Sifrei Nasso 11, Pesikta d’Rav Kahana, p. 45]
31But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the princes of the community returned to him, and Moses would speak to them.
the princes of the community: Heb. הַנְשִׂאִים בָּעֵדָה lit., the princes in the community, like נְשִׂיאֵי הָעֵדָה, the princes of the community.
and Moses would speak to them: [sharing] the Omnipresent’s message, and this entire passage is in the present tense.
32Afterwards all the children of Israel would draw near, and he would command them everything that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai.
Afterwards… would draw near: After he taught the elders, he would repeat and teach the chapter or the halachah to the Israelites. The Rabbis taught: What was the order of teaching? Moses would learn from the mouth of Almighty. Aaron would enter, and Moses would teach him his chapter. Aaron would move away and sit at Moses’ left. His [Aaron’s] sons would enter, and Moses would teach them their chapter. They would move away, and Eleazar would sit at Moses’ right and Ithamar would sit at Aaron’s left. [Then] the elders would enter, and Moses would teach them their chapter. The elders would move away and sit down on the sides. [Then] the entire nation would enter, and Moses would teach them their chapter. Thus, the entire nation possessed one [lesson from Moses], the elders possessed two, Aaron’s sons possessed three, Aaron possessed four, etc., as is stated in Eruvin (54b).
33When Moses had finished speaking with them, he placed a covering over his face.
he placed a covering over his face: Heb. מַסְוֶה, as the Targum [Onkelos] renders: בֵּיתאַפֵּי. [מַסְוֶה] is an Aramaic expression. In the Talmud (Keth. 62b) [we read]: לִבָּהּ סָוֵי, her heart saw, and also in [tractate] Kethuboth (60a): יְהַוָה קָא מַסְוֶה לְאַפָּה an expression meaning “looking.” He [the nursing infant] was looking at her [his mother]. Here too, מַסְוֶה is a garment placed in front of the face and a covering over the eyes. In honor of the rays of splendor, so that no one would derive pleasure from them, he [Moses] would place the covering in front of them [his eyes] and remove it when he spoke with the Israelites, and when the Omnipresent spoke to him until he left. When he would leave, he would leave without the covering.
34When Moses would come before the Lord to speak with Him, he would remove the covering until he left; then he would leave and speak to the children of Israel what he would be commanded.
and speak to the children of Israel: And they would see the rays of splendor on his face, and when he would leave them.
35Then the children of Israel would see Moses' face, that the skin of Moses' face had become radiant, and [then] Moses would replace the covering over his face until he would come [again] to speak with Him.
Moses would replace the covering over his face until he would come [again] to speak with Him.: And when he came to speak with Him, he would remove it from his face.