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Engraved on Both Sides

Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11-34:35 )

by Rabbi Ron Jawary

Truth is always staring at us right in the face.

The Torah teaches us that the Ten Commandments that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai were carved out by the Almighty on both sides (Exodus 32:15-16). Our sages understand this to mean that the tablets could be miraculously read on all sides. Whichever way you turned them, wherever you stood, the words would say the same thing.

The reason they had to be written that way was to ingrain in us that no matter how we try to twist the words, no matter how hard we try to justify our actions, those words will stare us in the face, telling us, "Don't do what's wrong; do what's right!" It seems to be teaching us one of the most essential lessons in life: the ends do not justify the means.

We all tend to rationalize when we want to do something we know to be wrong, and the Torah is teaching us that to reach the highest level of spirituality and morality, to stand with the Divine, we need to do what's right -- not what we want.

In fact, Rashi teaches us that there is no greater mitzvah than conquering a desire to do something wrong, whether to say a negative word or to eat at McDonalds. There aren't enough blessings in the world to repay a person for that act of self-restraint.

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