Rav Kook Torah

Ki Tissa: The Luchot's Miraculous Letters


The Luchot — the stone tablets that Moses carried down from Mount Sinai — were truly remarkable. The Torah describes them as being “made by God” and “written with God’s script” (Exod. 32:16).

What was so unusual about the writing on the Luchot?

The letters on the Luchot were engraved on both sides. According to Talmudic tradition, this engraving went all the way through the stone, from one side to the other.

This tradition is especially amazing when taking into account that two Hebrew letters — the final Mem (ם) and the Samekh (ס) — have the topological shape of a donut. How did the holes inside these letters — holes fashioned in stone — not fall out?

“Rav Hisda noted: The Mem and the Samekh letters in the Luchot stood there miraculously” (Shabbat 104a).

Why were the Luchot accompanied by continual miracles? And is it significant that there were miracles specifically with the letters Mem and Samekh?

Freedom from Causality

What is the essence of a Divine miracle? Supernatural phenomena demonstrate that the world is not limited to a system of cause and effect. They reveal the Divine force that sustains all of reality, both material and spiritual, directly from the word of God, Creator of all.

This a fundamental tenet of Torah. We are free to act as we choose. We are not robots, acting out our lives as dictated by causal determinism, bound by the dictates of nature, genetics, and environment.

In particular, this quality of freedom is related to the Luchot, the symbol of the covenant of Torah at Sinai. The Sages noted that the word charut, describing the words engraved on the Luchot, can be read as cheirut — freedom. “The only free person,” they taught, “is one who engages in the study of Torah” (Avot 6:2).

The Luchot announced to the world: just as my letters stand by God’s will, unfettered by the laws of physics, so too, you are free to act as you choose. The entire universe is upheld by God’s will.

מ"ם סמ"ך

Supported by God’s Spirit

Why did this miracle specifically relate to the Mem and the Samekh?

The letter Mem refers to water (mayim) — the first created substance: “God’s spirit moved over the water” (Gen. 1:2). This primordial substance was supported by God’s spirit, the basis of all reality. Divine will transcends all aspects of causality; it is the basis for the absolute freedom which the Torah gives the world.

In particular, this letter is the Final Mem (ם) — the Closed or Esoteric Mem — indicating the hidden spiritual source of the universe.

With regard to the letter Samekh: the word someikh means “to support.” The universe is not bound by causal determinism, but is supported and sustained by God’s will and His infinite light and good.

This is the essence of miracles in the world. They were revealed in the past, are revealed in the present, and will be revealed in the future, through the light of Torah and its message of freedom.

(Adapted from Ein Eyah, vol. IV, p. 249.)

Illustration image: ‘Moses with the Tablets of the Law’ (Rembrandt, 1659)