The Yerushalmi, corroborated by Tanhuma, says that the tablets were two large sapphire stones, and weighed too much to be possibly carried by one person. The letters God engraved on them miraculously lightened them. This allowed Moses to carry the tablets. When the letters “saw” the Golden Calf which the Jewish people had made, they were revolted and “flew” out of the tablets, back to their divine source, leaving Moses with a burden he could not bear. So Moses dropped them. [Taanit Y 4:5; also Tanhuma on Ki Tisa 30]

But practically all other commentators say Moses willfully smashed the tablets. This is corroborated by the plain text of the Torah:

So I gripped the two tablets, flung them away with both my hands, and smashed them before your eyes. [Deut. 9:17]

Did anybody try to resolve the contradiction?

  • What contradiction? While the letters flew up so the stones would have been too haevy to carry, Moshe pushed them away with his hands before he had to drop them. Thus, both statements are accurate. Commented Aug 2, 2020 at 23:19

3 Answers 3


The Rashbam brings down the Pirkey D'Rav Eliezer 45 who explains that when he was no longer able to carry them because they became so heavy he threw them slightly away from himself. The Chizkuni also says this.

There are many explanations why he did so but the point is that he didn't just let fall on their own. He made a conscious effort to assist in them falling and breaking. Even though they may have fallen anyway had he not done so.

  • 4
    When hashem says in Dev 10 " על הלחת הראשנים אשר שברת" that seems to indicate intention to destroy on Moshe's part. If he was not able to carry them and their falling was inevitable, then why would there need to be any validation of his action of destruction? ( אמר לו, יפה עשית ששברת.)
    – rosends
    Commented Aug 3, 2020 at 0:53
  • Had they fallen on their own Moshe would have been an ones and not considered having a part in it. His effort to deliberately break them while he was still able to hold them, made him the one to have done it. Similar to killing a gosses.
    – Schmerel
    Commented Aug 3, 2020 at 0:59
  • Can you please quote the actual words of the Pirkei Drabi Eliezer? When I looked in that chapter all I see regarding this episode is: ולאחר ארבעים יום לקח את הלוחות וירד אל המחנה בשבעה עשר בתמוז ושבר את הלוחות והרג את חוטאי ישראל
    – user6591
    Commented Aug 3, 2020 at 17:48
  • I Don't have a Pirkey D'Rav Eliezer here but it is brought down that way in the Rashbam on the Posuk in Parshas Key Sisa. IIRC The chizkuni also brings it down that way
    – Schmerel
    Commented Aug 3, 2020 at 18:00
  • @Schmerel -- I added the link to your post. Pirkey D'Rav Eliezer 45 doesn't seem to add to what I posted initially. Commented Aug 3, 2020 at 18:13

Although not directly answering your interesting query I think you might be interested in the תשובה of הרב Zalman Sorotzkin ז"ל in מאזנים למשפט סימן ה regarding a ס"ת which fell down. You will find it here https://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=973&st=&pgnum=23&hilite= He writes that he heard that in reality the לוחות were too heavy to carry but the רוחניות in the air kept them up. Through the חטא העגל the air got "spoilt" and as a result משה רבינו couldn't anymore carry them and they fell down. Because of that, whenever ח"ו a ספר תורה falls, the מנהג is to fast as we take it as a sign that "the spiritual air got spoilt".


[Throw] - Moshe's anger was kindled, and he flung the tablets from his hands, shattering them at the foot of the mountain.. * [Shemot (Exodus) 32:19] (וַיִּֽחַר־אַ֣ף משֶׁ֗ה וַיַּשְׁלֵ֤ךְ מִיָּדָו֙ אֶת־הַלֻּחֹ֔ת וַיְשַׁבֵּ֥ר אֹתָ֖ם תַּ֥חַת הָהָֽר)

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