I'm trying to understand how Moshe positioned his hands in carrying the Luchot down Mount Sinai (both the first set before he broke them and the second set). Were they under them or grasping the sides? I know that contrary to popular depictions, the luchot were not rounded tablets but each were 6 long x 6 wide x 3 thick tefachim blocks (Although I saw an article mention of sources from the Yerushalmi here that the width may have actually been 3 tefachim).

But in either case, does this mean that they were higher vertically or were they flat blocks with a length at least as much as the width? Also, if they were flat, did he carry them stacked or not? I couldn't tell from the Talmud in Bava Batra 14a because it uses the word "length" (Archan) and not "height" (Gavo'ah) so I thought it could be read either way.

  • A rectangular prism can be turned so that any given side can be considered the "height".
    – magicker72
    Jun 28, 2022 at 20:51
  • @magicker72 I know that. I'm just wondering which way they way they were positioned for him at that moment.
    – Ari
    Jun 29, 2022 at 14:01
  • Maybe he stopped several times to reposition.
    – magicker72
    Jun 29, 2022 at 18:32
  • You want to know how his hands were positioned?? What prompt this question? It should be mentioned that the luchos were extremely heavy (they were made from sapphire), so it is quite likely that Moshe didn't actually carry them, rather it floated itself (הארון נושא את נושאיו).
    – yih613
    Jul 7, 2022 at 1:41

1 Answer 1


Moshe descended walking backwards down Har Sinai, facing the cloud of Hashem. The Luchot, which weighed 40 seah, were suspended in the air slightly above each of Moshe's hands. And the two (6x6x3) Luchot were separated from each other by two hand-breadths.

Moshe only grabbed hold of the Luchot to smash them, after their holiness left due to the sin of the golden calf.

Rabbeinu Chananel, on Shemot 32:15

ויפן וירד משה מן ההר. We learn from this word ויפן, he turned around, that Moses descended while facing the cloud just as he had done when ascending the mountain. In other words, just as he had ascended facing the cloud, he now descended keeping his face toward the cloud, walking backwards.

The Or HaChaim, on Devarim 9:17

ואתפש בשני הלחות ואשלכם, "and I took hold of the two Tablets and I flung them, etc." Why did Moses have to mention that "he took hold" of something which was already in his hands? Perhaps as long as the Israelites had not yet been guilty of sin the Tablets were suspended in the air slightly above Moses' hands so that he could not actually touch them. This may be what is meant when we were told in verse 16: "and the two Tablets of the covenant "were above my two hands." Moses had not said that the two Tablets were "in his hands." They seemed to carry themselves. Once Moses espied the golden calf, the Tablets lost their holiness so that Moses had to "take hold of them" with his hands.

Talmud Yerushalmi, Taanit 4:5:2

Rebbi Samuel bar Naḥman in the name of Rebbi Jonathan: The tablets were six hand-breadths long and three wide. Moses held two hand-breadth, the Holy One, praise to Him two hand-breadth, and two hand-breadths of space were between them. When Israel sinned in that way, the Holy One wanted to seize them from Moses’s hand, but Moses’s hand had the better of it and seized them from Him. That is what the verse praises him at the end and says, and all the strong hand, peace shall be on the hand which had the better on mine. Rebbi Joḥanan in the name of Rebbi Yose ben Abbai: the tablets wanted to fly off but Moses held them, [as is written,] I grabbed the two tablets. Deut. 9:17.

It was stated in the name of Rebbi Nehemiah, the writing itself flew off. Rebbi Ezra in the name of Rebbi Jehudah ben Rebbi Simon: The tablets were a load of forty seah but the writing was carrying them. When the writing flew off they were too heavy for Moses’s hands, they fell, and broke.

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