Parshas Ki Tisa – The Miraculous Mem and Samach

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Due to the proximity of Purim to Shabbos (especially in Yerushalyim) there are no sources. But so as to not break up the continuity of this Dvar Torah, we sent it anyway.

This week’s Parsha is in between the two sets of Parshiyos of the Mishkan. First we read the command for the construction in Terumah and Tezaveh. Then in Vayakhel Pekudei we read the actualization of those commands, and in the words of the Ramban, “the return of the Shechinah in the camp of Klal Yisroel as in the homes of the Avos.” But in between the command and the construction comes Ki Tisa. Ki Tisa has many ideas in it, but the major theme is the sin of the Eigel.

The sin of the Eigel caused a drastic change in the spiritual level of the world. As it says in Tehillim, in the Shir Shel Yom of Tuesday, “I said that you are as angels, but you will instead die like Adam after the sin.” In many sources one of these differences is in the spiritual level of the Mishkan that would have been before the Eigel, and the actuality which is was what takes place after. That is why there are Parshiyos of the Mishkan before the sin, what could have been; and the Mishkan after the sin, what actually was.

But even within Matan Torah itself, there is a difference. The original Luchos were on a much higher level than the second Luchos. This is clear in the Pesukim. The original Luchos were completely a product of HaShem. In the second Luchos, the writing was from HaShem, but the material was formed by Moshe from earthly material and brought up to HaShem. But I would like to deal with a very specific question.

Chazal teach us that the Mem and Samach of the Luchos were miraculous. The last Pasuk where we learn about the first Luchos, immediately before Moshe smashes them, says that they are written from both sides of the Luchos. Chazal explain that this means that the writing went all the way through, and could be read from both sides of the stone tablets. This would work for all the letters aside from the Mem and the Samach. Since those are the two letters which are a complete circle, there was nothing to hold the middle in place. That is the miracle of the Mem and the Samach. There are two questions to be dealt with. Why those specific letters? And, was this miracle by the first Luchos, or even the second Luchos?

It is not by accident that the two letters are the basic shapes, a circle and a square. A circle is the basic shape of the world. The RAN in Nedarim brings a Yerushalmi, that there is nothing in the natural world that is a square. The entire world is a circle/sphere. The Ba’alei Sod explain that this is because the goal of the world is that everything should be connected to HaShem. The Sod HaYichud, the complete unification of everything back to its source, is that nothing will be distant from HaShem. In a circle everything is equidistant from the center. That is why the Gemarra says that in Gan Eden all the Tzadikim will sit in a circle around HaShem. There is no differentiation in their distance from HaShem. So the world is created in a circle. That is the Samach.

The Mem is the opposite. It is a manmade shape. It represents what man accomplishes. The earth is described as the “four corners of the earth”. That is the arena where man can act and change the world. The Gemarra says that three of the four sides of the world are open. Man is to close the fourth side. This letter represents the impact of man on the world.

These two letters therefore are the total of the world, HaShem’s plan and our activity to reach that. That is why together they add up to one hundred, a complete number of all ten Sefiros, multiplied by each other. Because they represent the world, the miraculous interior comes to teach us, that even though the external aspect of the world seems to be natural, the internal core only exists as a miracle. Even in the Samach, there is an internal depth greater than what we see.

Still the other question remains. Did the second Luchos also have this miraculous writing? Was the revelation of the miraculous core of the world only when we were before the sin and the world was like in Gan Eden, or was this also true even after the sin?

There seem to be different approaches in various later sources about this, and I was unable to find a clear proof in any earlier source. But based on the arrangement of the Pesukim, it seems that this was a unique miracle for the first Luchos. This also fits very well with some of the approaches to what this miracle meant.

The Torah is made up of two aspects, Torah Sh’Bichtav and Torah Sh’Bal Peh. In the first Luchos, this illumination of Torah Sh’Bichtav was so great that the entire corpus of the Torah was engraved and understandable through the Luchos. The front represented the Torah Sh’Bichtav and the letters that went all the way through represented the Torah Sh’Baal Peh. They were one complete unit, that could be grasped through the Luchos themselves. After the sin of the Eigel, this direct connection was lost. Torah Sh’Bal Peh is not visible directly through Torah Sh’Bichtav.

By the first Luchos we were able to see the miraculous core of the world. But after the sin, we lost that, and the world seems to revert to a world where there is not spiritual core. It is our responsibility to find it.

There is a Midrash in Esther, that when Mordechai appears at the gate of Achashverosh’s court in sackcloth and ashes, Esther questions him. Why is this happening? The words are similar to the words that describe the letters of the Luchos which went all the way through. The Midrash explains that the sub- text of Esther’s question was, “Have the Jews abandoned the Luchos which are written all the way through?” But those were the first Luchos, why are they mentioned here?

My dear friend Rabbi Nissel wrote:

Mori V’Rebbi Rav Moshe Shapira zt”l used to always quote Rashi on the phrase “kimu v’kiblu” in Shabbos 88a. They accepted the Torah “m’ahavas haness”, from the love of the miracle. Rav Moshe asks, you don’t love the miracle itself, you love the outcome of the miracle, the redemption and salvation. But Purim was different. We loved the miracle itself. We saw how Hashem runs the world on our behalf, even when he seems to be doing the opposite.

Purim was a new Kabalas HaTorah, there needed to be a miracle where we saw from the miracle itself the way HaShem runs the world. That is Esther’s question: “IS there nothing left of the miracle of the Luchos where we see all the way through!”

May we be Zoche to see that in our lives.


One thought on “Parshas Ki Tisa – The Miraculous Mem and Samach

  1. Thanks for emailing this file. We have now switched over to a new format. Please visit and upload this file on your own which will then be added to the site. You will need to register to do this and will then submit each week the same way. By registering you will be able to track how many people downloaded the item you contributed. You will notice that you can select categories/topics for the file you will upload. Please select as many categories as you’d like which will make it easier for those using the search function in the future. If you cannot at least add the name of the parsha i.e., Ki Sisa or Topic sich as Purim.

    If you have any questions about this process feel free to email me at

    On Fri, Mar 2, 2018 at 1:31 AM, Torah Thoughts from Rabbi Zave Rudman wrote:

    > rzave posted: “Download as Word Due to the proximity of Purim to Shabbos > (especially in Yerushalyim) there are no sources. But so as to not break up > the continuity of this Dvar Torah, we sent it anyway. This week’s Parsha is > in between the two sets of Parshiyos of the” >

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