It is written: And the tablets were the work of
G-d, and the writing was G-d's writing, engraved on the tablets. Read not engraved but freedomfor
there is no free individual, except for he who occupies himself
Ethics of the Fathers 6:2
The Holy Tongue is written without vowels, so that the word
chrt (chet, reish, tav) can be read both as
charut, engraved and as chairut,
freedom. Thus, the words engraved on the
tablets (the two tablets which Moses brought down from
Mount Sinai engraved with the Ten Commandments) can also be
understood as freedom on the tablets, expressing
the idea that true freedom can be gained only in a life that
is faithful to Torah.
Indeed, the two readings complement each other: the fact
that the tablets were engraved explains why they are
the ultimate vehicle of freedom.
The difference between written and engraved words lies in
their relationship with the medium that bears them. Written
words are added to parchment or paper. The ink might
adhere firmly to the paper, but they remain two distinct
entitiesentities that might even conceivably be separated.
On the other hand, words engraved in stone are formed out
of the stone itself; they are one with their medium, the words
being the stone and the stone being the words.
By nature and inclination, the human being is not free. He
is subject to the dictates of natural law, the norms of his
society, and his own physical and psychological compulsions.
But the Torah frees him from these enslavements. By showing
him how to make his life an exercise in the fulfillment of
the divine will, it liberates him from his animal self, from
the mundanities of material life, and from the very finiteness
and temporality of the physical. It establishes him as the
prime actor in the divine purpose in creation, raising him
from the creature to partnership with the Creator.
But doesnt Torah represent a slavery of another, albeit
loftier, sort? Better a slave of G-d than a slave to ones
corporeal self, but why speak of the Torah as an agent of
freedom? Can one refer to a person who is subject to an authority
that instructs every area of his life as free?
Indeed, if the Torah were something outside of and above
the person, fidelity to its laws would hardly constitute freedom.
But Torah is not written lawlaw that is imposed upon
its observerit is engraved law, law that is of a piece
with its bearer. The Torah and the Torah-observer are not
two distinct entities; they are one, as engraved words are
one with their medium. G-d formed the human soul in His own
image, molding it in the shape and substance of His wisdom
and will. Comprehending and implementing Torah, man comprehends
and realizes his truest, deepest self. And there is no greater
freedom than the freedom to be oneself.
Based on an address by the Rebbe, Tammuz 17, 5745 (July
. Exodus 32:16.