Shaarei Yosher, sec. 6: Refinement – Conclusion

To my mind, one can use this idea to elaborate what our sages explained in Nedarim (folio 38[a]) on the verse “carve for yourself”. Moses didn’t get rich except through the extras of the Tablets. This is an amazing idea – [is it possible that] Hashem couldn’t find any way to make Moses wealthy except through the extras of the Tablets? But through what we said, we can explain this. Through this change of how Tablets are to be readied, there was given opportunity for those who receive the Torah to fear, to accept upon themselves the yoke of Torah. Through this it becomes appropriate for anyone entering the gates of Torah to separate themselves from all the preoccupations of his world. As they interpret the verse “‘it is not on the other side of the sea’ it is not found at salesman or importers.” However, if the first Tablets had remained, then it would be sufficient to establish an easy hour for Torah, and spend most of your time trading and buying. For this reason the Holy One showed Moses as a sign to all who accept the Torah that He would prepare for them their income through the making of the Tablet; any “extras that are carved away” will provide them with income.
ולדעתי יש להמתיק בזה מה שדרשו חז״ל בנדרים (דף ל״ח.) על הכתוב “פסל לך”, “לא העשיר משה אלא מפסולתן של לוחות”, והוא ענין נפלא שלא מצא הקב״ה, סבה אחרת להעשיר את משה רק על ידי פסולת של הלוחות, ועל פי האמור, יש לפרש ענין זה, שעל פי השתנות הכנת הלוחות, ניתן מקום למקבלי תורה לפחוד, לקבל עליהם עול תורה, שהרי על פי זה ראוי לכל באי שערי תורה להפריש את עצמם מכל עסקי העולם, וכדרשם על הכתוב “לא מעבר לים הוא”, שלא תמצא לא בסחרנים ולא בתגרנים, מה שאין כן שאם היו הלוחות הראשונים קיימים, שאז היה די לקבוע שעה קלה לתורה, ולעסוק רוב העתים במסחר וקנין, ולענין זה הראה הקב״ה שיהיה משה רבינו ע״ה לאות לכל מקבלי התורה שיזמין ה׳ להם פרנסתם בתוך עשית הלוחות איזה פסולת שעל ידי זה יתפרנסו.

The Torah as it was given in the Second Luchos on Yom Kippur requires much work to acquire and retain. Rav Shimon observes that this means that mastery of Torah requires an investment of time, and therefore a profession, or simply bitul Torah — not learning Torah by wasting time, will interfere that that goal.

Instead, we are to view life as the pursuit of middos and Torah, the tablets and the writing upon them. And any money we earn is a side-effect of middos work. This is what is symbolized by Moshe’s being supported through the shards removed when chiseling the luchos.


But I want to look at Rav Shimon Shkop’s statement from another angle, that of the majority of us who do lack the skills or opportunity to live as Rav Shimon did, and instead do end up spending much of their waking hours pursuing a career.

In the list of generations from Adam to Noach, the Torah gives this enigmatic summary of Chanokh’s life:

כא וַיְחִי חֲנוֹךְ חָמֵשׁ וְשִׁשִּׁים שָׁנָה, וַיּוֹלֶד אֶת מְתוּשָׁלַח. כב וַיִּתְהַלֵּךְ חֲנוֹךְ אֶת הָאֱ-לֹהִים אַחֲרֵי הוֹלִידוֹ אֶת מְתוּשֶׁלַח שְׁלֹשׁ מֵאוֹת שָׁנָה, וַיּוֹלֶד בָּנִים וּבָנוֹת. כג וַיְהִי כָּל יְמֵי חֲנוֹךְ: חָמֵשׁ וְשִׁשִּׁים שָׁנָה וּשְׁלֹשׁ מֵאוֹת שָׁנָה. כד וַיִּתְהַלֵּךְ חֲנוֹךְ אֶת הָאֱלֹהִים, וְאֵינֶנּוּ כִּי לָקַח
אֹתוֹ אֱלֹהִים

21: Chanokh lived 560 years, and he fathered Mesushelach. 22: Chanokh walked with G-d after he fathered Mesushelach 400 years and father [other] sons and dautghers. 23: All the days of Chanokh were 365 years. 24: Chanokh walked with G-d and is gone, for G-d took him.

To compare to the other men in the list of generations, the first “vayis-helekh Chanokh es haE-lokim” is instead of the usual “vayechi Mehalalel” or “vayechi Yered“, and the last verse replaces the one word, “vayamos — and he died”. Chanokh isn’t described as living and dying, but as walking with G-d while here and then walking away with Him to heaven.

An often quoted medrash, explains this uniqueness. The version found in Medrash Talpiot, written by Rav Eliyahu haKohein in 18th cent Izmir reads: “Chanokh was a cobbler, and with each stitch on a shoe he would say, ‘Barukh sheim kevod malkhuso le’olam va’ed — Blessed be the reputation of the glory of His rule until the end of time’.”

Rabbi Yisrael Salanter explains that the point of this medrash could not be that while he was sewing, he was not fully present, lost in spiritual thought. It is halachically prohibited not to pay attention to work others are paying him for. Rather, Chanokh’s spirituality was one with his concentrating on the quality of his work, that each stitch should be good strong and yield a comfortable shoe.

And it seems that he was so successful in unifying heaven and earth as he stitched the shoes’ uppers to their soles, that he entered heaven without it being described as “death”.

Man was made to earn a living, and man was made to perfect himself, to refine the tablet upon which he would write his Torah. Rav Shimon tells us that these are the same goal. That this is the lesson we are to take from the idea that Moshe supported himself through the pieces he chiseled off the sapphire that would become the luchos.


So concludes the philosophical portion of
Rav Shimon Shkop’s introduction to Shaarei Yosher.

And your thoughts...?