Israeli dating customs

THIS MIDDLE Eastern practice of the dual proceedings in reaching important deals, agreements or covenants may explain why Moses went up to Mount Sinai twice before finally depositing the Decalogue and the two large tablets of the law in the ark, which was prepared with great care for this occasion.

By the time of Josephus Flavius and Philo, this ancient custom of a small and a large tablet may already have been forgotten.

In a similar manner, the expression used by the people referred to “the mouth of the tablet” (pi tuppim).A written agreement was therefore considered to be “a frozen word” – since a tablet had a mouth and was listened to.Josephus explains that Moses went up Mount Sinai for the first time to bring back “a happy method of living for the people, and an order of political government, a short history of the Patriarchs and Egyptian slavery, and a Decalogue.”But, he continues, “on the following day the multitude came to his tent and desired to bring them, besides, other laws from God.”So Moses went up for the second time, and after 40 days, “he showed them the two tablets, with the ten commandments engraved upon them, five upon each tablet, and the writing was by the hand of God.”Josephus mentions that during these 40 days Moses spent on the mountain, “fear seized upon the Hebrews,” but he fails to mention the Golden Calf.Philo Alexandroni wrote that Moses went up for the first time to bring to the Jewish people the “jurisdiction concerning things which are most necessary for human welfare, namely food,” and he ascended the mountain for the second time “for all other urgent needs of his people.” He mentions that those who made the Golden Calf during his absence in imitation of Egyptian worship were subsequently heavily punished.The two kings, as quoted by Charpin, had first to exchange a “small tablet,” which included only the clauses to which each proposed that the other subscribe.

Once they reached an accord, the kings exchanged a “large tablet,” which they would store in their respective arks.It is therefore most likely that he followed the traditional ancient Middle Eastern practice of reaching and verifying an important agreement.The fact that Moses, according to all sources, went up the mountain twice and made the tablets twice suggests that he was acting in accord with the prevailing Mesopotamian legal practice.Such ceremonial arks were kept by the respective families for generations.It was said in Babylon that judges “listened” (semum) to the large tablet, before taking any action or giving a verdict.Josephus, in the first century CE, defined this as a “theocracy,” or “placing all sovereignty in the hands of God.” Centuries later, our sages understood this as “taking on the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven” (Berachot 2, 2).