The Midrash on the portion of Sisa relates1 that Moshe was distressed that as a result of the sin of the Golden Calf he had to break the Luchos , the Tablets upon which were inscribed the Ten Commandments.

G‑d told him, continues the Midrash , that he need not be overly upset, for the first Luchos contained only the Ten Commandments, while the tablets that were to be given as a result of the shattering of the first Luchos would also possess, “Laws, Midrash and Aggados ” — the Oral Torah.

The Midrash thus reveals that only by breaking the first Luchos could the “Laws, Midrash and Aggados ” be received; if they could have been received without the loss of the first Luchos , Moshe’s anguish would have been justified.

Why, indeed, was it necessary for the first Luchos to be broken in order for G‑d to give the “Laws, Midrash and Aggados ”; could He not have done so without having Moshe shatter the Tablets?

The study of Torah is wholly unlike other intellectual disciplines, whose mastery requires only a keen mind and an inquisitive intellect. To be successful in the study of G‑d’s Torah, humility and self-effacement are necessary.

We find this concept expressed in the prayer Elokai Netzor , at the conclusion of the Amidah :2 “Let my soul be [so humble that it is] as earth to all. Open my heart to Your Torah…”; i.e., only with humility and self-abnegation can one succeed in the study of Torah.

This is because the Torah is G‑d’s wisdom; just as He is infinite and thus completely beyond the intellectual grasp of any created being, so too is His Torah.3 And though G‑d condensed His wisdom in the Torah as given to us so that even mortals can grasp it, Torah remains G‑d’s wisdom.

Thus, for a person to truly comprehend the Torah he must first achieve total self-nullification, thereby assuring that his “being” will not hinder him from becoming attached to G‑d’s being, which in turn enables him to comprehend G‑d’s wisdom.

One of the things that helps us realize that even as Torah exists below it remains G‑d ’s wisdom is its limitlessness — “Its measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea.”4 This infinite quality is specifically revealed in “Laws, Midrash and Aggados ” — the Oral Torah.5

The Written Torah is strictly delineated; it may contain only the number of words that comprise its 24 books. With regard to the Oral Torah, however, we are told to “increase it,”6 i.e., we are charged to come up with new and novel Torah thoughts, etc. It is notably this part of Torah that knows no bounds.

This is why the Oral Torah could be given only after the breaking of the Luchos.

At the time G‑d gave the Torah to the Jewish people, He clearly declared that He had “chosen us from among all nations”7 and “lifted us up from among all tongues.”8 Understandably, when Jews were in such an exalted state it was entirely unnatural for them to experience such utter humility that they felt “like dust to all.”

For while it is true that the Divine revelation at Sinai caused the Jews to be humbled, they had just been “chosen” and “uplifted.” Moreover, the humility they did experience resulted from the tremendous revelation from Above; they did not feel insignificant in and of themselves.

Moshe’s breaking of the Luchos before their eyes, however, made them completely heartbroken and abjectly humble. It was this utter state of self-nullification that enabled them to receive the infinite Oral Torah that accompanied the second Luchos.

Based on Likkutei Sichos , Vol. XXVI, pp. 249-252.