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July 15: Smashing Tablets

July 15, 2014

torah-mosesTraditionally observant Jews will be fasting today: The Fast of Tammuz, which takes place three weeks before Tisha B’Av, commemorates the date (by biblical calculation) on which Moses, in 1313 BCE, descended from Mount Sinai, saw the idolatrous worship of the Golden Calf, and smashed the Tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments. The Fast of Tammuz also commemorates the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem by the Roman military in 69 CE, after a lengthy siege, and three other calamities recorded in Jewish religious texts. One midrash in the Jerusalem Talmud states that (according to Rabbi Yochanan) Moses forgot whatever Torah he had absorbed from God on each of the forty days they communed on Mt. Sinai — until God, on the fortieth day, bestowed it all as a gift. Then why did God not bestow it all on the first day? asks Yochanan. “In order to encourage the teaching of those who learn in a non-traditional manner.” To see Mel Brooks as Moses, look below.

“Let not Your anger, Eternal One, blaze forth against Your people, whom You delivered from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand. Let not the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he delivered them, only to kill them off in the mountains and to annihilate them from the face of the earth.’ Turn from Your blazing anger, and renounce the plan to punish Your people.” —Moses to God, Exodus 32:10-13