Parshat Eikev: The Order of the Manufacture of the Aron and Luchot

At that time Hashem said to me : Carve for yourself two stone Tablets like the first. And ascend the mountain, to Me. And make for yourself a wooden Ark. (Devarim 10:1)

1. The order for the carving of the Luchot and the building of the Aron

In his final address, Moshe retells the incident of the Egel HaZahav – the Golden Calf. He explains that he broke the first Luchot – the Tablets of the Decalogue. Moshe prayed for Bnai Yisrael and they were forgiven. Hashem tells Moshe to carve a new set of Tablets and construct an Aron – an Ark – for their storage.

Rashi explains that Hashem commanded Moshe to first carve the Luchot. Afterwards, he was commanded to construct the Aron. In their manufacture, Moshe reversed this order. He reasoned that the Ark must be ready to receive the Tablets upon their completion. It would be inappropriate to create the Luchot prior to assembling a suitable instrument for their storage. Rashi implies that Hashem acquiesced to Moshe’s decision.[1]

2. The order of their commandments reflects the relationship between the Luchot and the Aron

Rav Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik Zt”l asks an obvious question. Rashi indicates that Moshe had reasoned properly. It was appropriate to first construct the Aron. However, it cannot be denied that Hashem first commanded Moshe in to carve the Luchot! If Moshe’s conclusion was indeed the correct one, then why did Hashem not follow the logical order suggested by Moshe?

Rav Soloveitchik offers a simple explanation. An example will help introduce his reasoning. Assume we decide to design and manufacture a product. First, we must select the product we will manufacture. We must develop a design; then, we will devise a plan for its manufacture. Once we have completed all of these tasks, we can decide on the best packaging for our product. Logically, the development of the product and the plan for its manufacture precede the design of its packaging. However, this does not dictate the order of manufacture. Once we have completed the design of the product and the packaging, we must begin manufacture. We may decide to manufacture the product and its packaging simultaneously. We might even decide to manufacture the packaging prior to the product. This will assure that packaging is immediately available when the product is manufactured.

Now let us apply this reasoning to our problem. The Aron was designed solely for the containment of the Luchot. The commandment to create an Ark was only meaningful after the concept of the Luchothad emerged. Therefore, Hashem first instructed Moshe in the creation of the Tablets. Afterwards, He instructed Moshe to assemble the Ark. In other words, the order in which the commandments were imparted to Moshe reflected the relationship between these two objects – the Luchot and the Aron. The Luchot are the more fundamental element. The Aron exists only as a container for the Luchot.

3. The order of the commandments did not dictate the order of manufacture

Because Hashem’s communication of the commandments was designed to reflect this relationship, the commandment to fabricate the Tablets preceded the commandment to construct the Ark. Moshe understood that the order of the commandments reflected this relationship but did not dictate the order for the manufacture of the Luchot and Aron. He grasped that he was responsible to determine the most appropriate order for manufacture and first created the Ark. The Ark was ready and waiting for the Tablets when Moshe descended with them from Sinai.[2]

Reciting One Hundred Blessings Each Day

And now Israel, what does Hashem your G-d ask from you? Only to fear Hashem your G-d, to go in all of His ways, and to love Him, and to serve Hashem your G-d with your entire heart and your entire soul. (Devarim 10:12)

1. Maimonides connects the daily blessings to tefilah

This pasuk instructs us to fear, love, and serve Hashem. The Talmud relates to this pasuk an importanthalachah. The Sages established an obligation to recite one hundred blessings each day. Although this is a Rabbinical obligation, our Sages relate it to this passage.[3] What is the relationship between the obligation to recite one hundred blessings and this pasuk? Maimonides’ treatment of this obligation will help answer this question.

Maimonides places his discussion of these blessings in the section of his code – Mishne Torah – that deals with the daily prayers. Maimonides explains that the Torah requires that we pray to Hashem each day.[4] The Sages extended this obligation. They created prayer services for the morning, afternoon, and evening. Maimonides introduces his discussion of daily blessings by explaining that in addition to establishing the prayer services and the text of the prayers, the Sages established numerous blessing to be recited each day. These include a blessing recited when lying down to sleep at night, various blessings recited at various points in the morning, and even a blessing said after leaving the bathroom.[5] This introduction implies that the Sages’ attention to the daily prayers and their establishment of daily blessings are somehow interrelated. It is clear from the placement of the discussion of these blessings within the laws of the daily prayers and his comments when introducing the discussion of the daily blessings that Maimonides regards these daily blessings as related to the basic obligation of prayer. Therefore, the function of these blessings can be better understood through improving one’s appreciation of prayer.

2. Tefilah provides a moment of clarity regarding our relationship with Hashem

Maimonides explains that prayer is an expression of service to Hashem.[6] There are two aspects to Divine service. Divine service involves an action. When we pray, we perform an external activity. Service is also the expression of an attitude. This attitude communicated by prayer is one of recognition of our relationship to Hashem. Prayer expresses a realization that we are His servants.

This attitude is difficult to achieve. Furthermore, for various reasons, it is even more difficult to maintain. First, by nature, human-beings are egocentric. We spend most of our time and energy involved in activities that serve our own material and emotional needs. These pursuits reinforce our inflated sense of self-importance. This makes it difficult to truly recognize and embrace Hashem as Creator and Master of all existence. At times, we can break through our biases and realize that our egocentric perceptions are false. However, human frailty – our egocentric nature – quickly reasserts itself. We forget Hashem and our duty to Him. Second, we spend most of our time occupied with our material endeavors. Even when we do achieve a moment of clarity regarding our relationship with Hashem, our mundane needs quickly distract us and the moment is lost.

3. Tefilah is not enough

Tefilah is an act of service to Hashem. It reminds us of our relationship with Hashem. It is the antidote to our innate self-centeredness. It provides the moment of clarity in which we embrace Hashem as the true cause of all existence. However, tefilah is performed only three times during the day. In-between the moments of recognition that tefilah is designed to evoke, are long hours of self-centered or mundane activity during which our recognition fades and retreats from our consciousness. In order to be effective, the clarity achieved in tefilah must be renewed throughout our day. We need constant reminders.

This explains Maimonides’ treatment of the daily blessings. These blessings provide the reminders. They re-evoke the recognition achieved through tefilah. Therefore, Maimonides regards these blessings as an extension of the concept of tefilah. These blessings are designed to reinforce the lesson of tefilah— that we are the servants of Hashem and He is Creator and Master. Because of Maimonides’ understanding of the relationship between prayer and the daily blessings, he places the laws of the daily blessings within the section of his code dealing with tefilah and introduces the blessings by relating them to the Sages’ establishment of the daily prayer services and their texts.

We can now understand the requirement reciting one hundred blessings each day. Fulfilling this obligation provides frequent reminders, throughout the day, of our relationship to Hashem. These reminders help prevent our slipping back into our self-centered perceptions. The relationship of this obligation to our passage is now clear. The passage expresses the obligations to love, fear, and serve Hashem. The Rabbinical enactment of daily blessings and the requirement to recite one hundred such blessings each day are designed to reinforce the attitude of service expressed in the pasuk.

[1] Rabbaynu Shlomo ben Yitzchak (Rashi), Commentary on Sefer Devarim 10:1.
[2] Mesechet Yoma 69b.Rav Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik, Chidushai HaGRIZ on T’NaCH and Aggadah, Parshat Ekev.
[3] Mesechet Menachot 43b.
[4] Rabbaynu Moshe ben Maimon (Rambam / Maimonides) Mishne Torah, Hilchot Tefilah 1:1.
[5] Rabbaynu Moshe ben Maimon (Rambam / Maimonides) Mishne Torah, Hilchot Tefilah, chapter 7.
[6] Rabbaynu Moshe ben Maimon (Rambam / Maimonides) Mishne Torah, Hilchot Tefilah, chapter 7.