Famously when Moshe came down from Sinai the first time and saw the Jews sinning he cast down the tablets of the law given to him by God. My question works on the basic assumption that these tablets were not given to Moshe personally, but that he was in fact working as an agent to accept them on behalf of the Jewish people as a whole. I do not have a source for this assumption but it stands to reason as it is clear that the second set of tablets were given to the Jewish people as a whole and kept in the ark (along with the first set).

My question then is if the tablets were not Moshe's to break, was he guilty of stealing or otherwise causing a loss to the Jewish people for breaking them?

I realize there is a statement in the Gemarah where cause affirms Moshe's choice to break the tablets, but I don't believe that bears on this discussion as that gemarah is not speaking from a legal perspective.

  • 1
    Cf. Shabbos 88a, that Hashem agreed to Moshe’s decision to smash the Luchos, and Nedarim 38a, that has a Hava Amina that the Torah was given to Moshe alone but concludes that the basic Torah was given to everyone.
    – DonielF
    Nov 4, 2019 at 1:41
  • Besides the Midrash that @DonielF alludes to, there's an explanation in Avot DeRav Nattan that details Moshe's thinking as to why he broke the tablets. I'll see if I can post it, later, unless someone else wants to do this.
    – DanF
    Nov 5, 2019 at 3:52

1 Answer 1


As the Tablets included the Holy names, it is strictly forbidden Deoraytah (Rambam Yesodei Hatora 6.1):

כָּל הַמְאַבֵּד שֵׁם מִן הַשֵּׁמוֹת הַקְּדוֹשִׁים הַטְּהוֹרִים שֶׁנִּקְרָא בָּהֶם הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לוֹקֶה מִן הַתּוֹרָה. שֶׁהֲרֵי הוּא אוֹמֵר בַּעֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים (גמרא שבת קכ ב) "וְאִבַּדְתֶּם אֶת שְׁמָם מִן הַמָּקוֹם הַהוּא לֹא תַעֲשׂוּן כֵּן לַה' אֱלֹהֵיכֶם":

Whosoever willfully destroys an inscription of any of the Holy Names is guilty of a sin punishable under the laws of the Torah with flogging. For, behold, it is said of idolatry: "And ye shall destroy their name from that place, but ye shall not do so unto the Lord your God" (Deut. 12.3–4).

Concerning stealing, the Tablets did not belong to anyone it wasn't a "property", just as the Torah in general, it was meant to be a sign of the covenant between G-d and the Jewish people and put in the Arc.

  • How do you know any of the names were erased?
    – Double AA
    Nov 4, 2019 at 12:57
  • @DoubleAA I'm just saying it's forbidden as the names can break, and that's Deorayso. Maybe the letters flew away and it lost its sanctity.
    – Al Berko
    Nov 4, 2019 at 13:49
  • So your saying as Safek Deorayta Lechurma?
    – Double AA
    Nov 4, 2019 at 13:52
  • @DoubleAA I claimed it many many times - what Moses did was unlawful. If he had asked G-d "Can I break it" - what would G-d say? I don't see its Din different from tearing a Torah scroll.
    – Al Berko
    Nov 4, 2019 at 13:55
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    Your source says that's about destroying God's name. What does that have to do with this?
    – Double AA
    Nov 4, 2019 at 14:55

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