Part 2 out of 7

At first Moses was inclined to give no ear to this letter, but God
said to him: "I, through whose word the world came into being, I
bring men to Me and do not thrust them back. I permitted Jethro to
approach Me, and did not push him from Me. So do thou, too,
receive this man, who desires to betake himself under the wings of
the Shekinah, let him approach, and do not repulse him." God
herewith taught Moses that one should repulse with the left hand,
and beckon with the right. [154]

Moses, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, together with the seventy elders
of Israel, carrying with them the sacred Ark, hastened to welcome
Jethro kindly; and Moses so honored his father-in-law as to make
an obeisance before him and kiss him. Before Moses told his
father-in-law of the great miracles God had wrought for Egypt,
such as the exodus from Egypt, the cleaving of the sea, the rain of
manna, and the rest, he offered him the greeting of peace; for great
is peace, that precedes event he praise of God. [155] After the
peace-greeting, Moses, to draw his father-in-law nearer to true
faith in God and His revelation, began to relate to him the miracles
that God had wrought for them at the exodus from Egypt, during
the passing through the Red Sea, and during the war with Amalek.
He said, moreover, "In the manna that God gives us we perceive
the taste of bread, of meat, of fish, in short, of all the dishes there
are. Out of the well that God gives us we draw a drink that
possesses the taste of old wine as well as new, of milk and of
honey, in short, of all the beverages that exist." "We shall," Moses
continued, "receive six other gifts from God, the land of Israel, the
future world, the new world, the sovereignty of David, the
institution of priests, and of Levites."

When Jethro heard all this, he determined to become a Jew and to
believe in the only God, and although he felt a pang at heart upon
hearing that the Egyptians had perished - for no one should scoff at
a heathen before a proselyte who is not a Jew of ten generation's
standing - still he burst into a song of praise to God for the deeds
He had one for His people. In truth, it reflects shame upon Moses
and the sixty myriads of Jews that they had not given thanks to
God for the release from Egypt, until Jethro came and did so. He
said: "Praised be God who delivered Moses and Aaron, as well as
the whole nation of Israel, from the bondage of Pharaoh, that great
dragon, and of the Egyptians. Truly, great is the Lord before all
gods, for whereas formerly not a single slave succeeded in
escaping from Egypt, He led sixty myriads out of Egypt. There is
no god whom I had not, at some time in my life, worshipped, but
not I must admit that none is like the God of Israel. This God had
not been unbeknown to me heretofore, but now I know Him better,
for His fame will sound throughout the world, because He visited
upon the Egyptians exactly what they had planned to undertake
against Israel. They wanted to destroy Israel by water, and by
water were they destroyed." [156]

With sacrifices and a feast was the arrival of Jethro celebrated, for
after he had made the burnt offering not far from the bush of
thorns that had been unscathed by fire, Jethro prepared a feast of
rejoicing for the whole people, [157] at which Moses did not
consider it below the dignity to wait on the guests in person. In this
he followed the example of Abraham, who in person waited on the
three angels, though they appeared in the guise of idolatrous

Abraham like Moses sought to follow in the ways of the Lord, to
provide each according to his wants, and to grant to everybody
what he lacks, whether he be a righteous man, or an idolater, who
through his sins conjures up God's wrath. [158]

To this feast the people sat down according to their tribes. They
ate, drank and were merry, while Aaron and Jethro with their
relatives sang songs of thanksgiving to God, and praised Him as
the Creator and Donor of their lives and their liberty. At the same
time they gave due appreciation to Moses, through whose courage
everything had happily come to pass. In his words of gratitude to
Moses, Jethro also gave expression to many glorious eulogies on
the people of Israel, but he especially extolled Moses, who through
difficulties and dangers had shown so much courage in the
salvation of his friends. [159]


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, [160] 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."
[161] "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." [162]

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." [163]

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.
[164] 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. [165]


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.
[166] 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. [167] 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. [168]

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. [169] 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. [170]

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. [171]

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.
[172] 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." [174]

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. [175] 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." [176]
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." [178] 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. [179]


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.
[180] 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." [181] "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.'" [182]


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." [183] 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." [184]

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. [185] 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." [186]

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." [187]


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. [188] 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." [189]
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. [190]

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. [191]


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. [192]

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. [193] 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.
[194] 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. [195]

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. [196]


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. [197] 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. [198]

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. [199]

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. [200] 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. [201]

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." [202] 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. [203] 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. [204]

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. [205]

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

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. [206] 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. [207]
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. [208]


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." [209]

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. [210] 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. [211] 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." [212]

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." [213]

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. [214] 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. [215] 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." [216]


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. [217]

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." [218] 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. [220] 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. [221]

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." [222]

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." [223] 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. [224] 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." [225]

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. [226]

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. [227] 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?"
[228] 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. [229]

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." [230]

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. [231] 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. [233]

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." [234] 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. [235]


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. [236]

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." [237]


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. [238] 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. [239]

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. [240]

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. [241] 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. [242]

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.'" [243]

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. [244]


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. [245]
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. [246]
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

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."
[247] 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. [248]


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." [249] 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." [250]

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." [251]

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. [252] 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. [253]

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." [255]

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." [257]

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. [258] 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. [259] 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. [260]


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. [261] 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. [262] 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. [263]

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." [264] 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. [265]

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. [266]

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." [267] 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. [268] 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. [269]

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. [270] 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. [271]

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. [272]


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. [273] 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. [274]

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." [275] 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." [276]


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,
[277] 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." [278] 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. [279]

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. [280]

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. [282] 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.'" [283]

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. [284] 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. [285]

Forty days and forty nights, from the eighteenth day of Tammus to
the twenty-eight day of Ab, did Moses stay in heaven, [286]
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. [287]

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. [288] 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


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