Contact Us

"How Was I to Know?"

"How Was I to Know?"


G‑d said to Moses: "Carve for yourself two tablets of stone like the first; and I will write upon these tablets the words..."

"Carve for yourself" - G‑d revealed to Moses a quarry of sapphire beneath his tent and said to him: the waste from the carving shall belong to you. From this Moses became exceedingly rich. (34:1)

- Rashi's commentary

The sapphire blocks upon which the Ten Commandments were inscribed were also a source of material wealth for Moses; but the Torah emphasizes that this was but a side benefit derived from their 'waste' - something utterly peripheral to the true function of the tablets.

The function of Torah is to inspire and teach. The material benefits which result are a consequence of its all-pervading truth and perfection, but their relative significance is equivalent to the cast-off trimmings of the carver's work.

- Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch

A deserted wife once came to Lubavitch seeking the help of Rabbi Menachem Mendel. With her was her child, who was a mute. The unfortunate woman asked to be received by the Rebbe, but was refused. She even had the Rebbe's wife petition him on her behalf (as did many of the women who wished to see him) but to no avail.

Finally, the chassidim advised her to smuggle the child into Rabbi Menachem Mendel's study and have him hand the Rebbe a note asking for his help. She wrote a note describing her situation as a deserted wife, hid the child under the table, and told him to give it to the Rebbe when he entered the room.

When the child handed the note to Rabbi Menachem Mendel, he said: "Go tell your mother that your father is to be found in this and this place."

The child left the room, returned to his mother, and clearly articulated the message. The woman gained a divorce and financial compensation from her husband, and a healthy, speaking child.

When the miraculous results were excitedly reported to the Rebbe, he simply said: "How was I to know that the child was a mute?" The Rebbetzin, too, was unimpressed by the double miracle. She reminded the chassidim of what her grandfather, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, told about the days when he was a disciple of the Maggid of Mezeritch, Rabbi DovBer. "In Mezeritch" Rabbi Schneur Zalman used to say, "miracles were rolling about under the table and no one even bothered to bend down and lift one up…"

Yanki Tauber served as editor of
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
1 Comment
1000 characters remaining
Anonymous March 23, 2017

At first I wondered why Moses was given Sapphire instead of Diamond to carve on, was it so that it did not make the task near impossible?
The story of the deserted wife and the mute child was touching, as the most unlikely (and would be labeled so by society) one became the bridge and the messenger. Sometimes just an acknowledgement, understanding and a message from a person such as the Rebbe will have a positive ripple effect even on the forgotten ones and enable them to help themselves rebuild their lives and see possibilities within themselves. The concept that 'waste' from our efforts isn't really what is seems to be, is also uplifting. Reply

About the Publisher
Kehot Publication Society
Kehot Publication Society and Merkos Publications, the publishing divisions of the Lubavitch movement have brought Torah education to nearly every Jewish community in the world. More than 100,000,000 volumes have been disseminated to date in over 12 languages, both for newcomer as well as for those well versed in Torah knowledge.
Related Topics