Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ki Tavo: Why Plaster them With Plaster?

A short thought:
In parshat Ki Tavo, in perek 27, we read:
א וַיְצַו מֹשֶׁה וְזִקְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֶת-הָעָם לֵאמֹר: שָׁמֹר, אֶת-כָּל-הַמִּצְוָה, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם, הַיּוֹם. 1 And Moses and the elders of Israel commanded the people, saying: 'Keep all the commandment which I command you this day.
ב וְהָיָה, בַּיּוֹם אֲשֶׁר תַּעַבְרוּ אֶת-הַיַּרְדֵּן, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לָךְ--וַהֲקֵמֹתָ לְךָ אֲבָנִים גְּדֹלוֹת, וְשַׂדְתָּ אֹתָם בַּשִּׂיד. 2 And it shall be on the day when ye shall pass over the Jordan unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, that thou shalt set thee up great stones, and plaster them with plaster.
The idea seems to be that Moshe is commanding them this today, in the desert, but the purpose is that they be long-lasting. Thus, set up the great stones and plaster them with plaster for the long haul. Then,

ג וְכָתַבְתָּ עֲלֵיהֶן, אֶת-כָּל-דִּבְרֵי הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת--בְּעָבְרֶךָ: לְמַעַן אֲשֶׁר תָּבֹא אֶל-הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר-ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לְךָ, אֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבַשׁ, כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר ה אֱלֹהֵי-אֲבֹתֶיךָ, לָךְ. 3 And thou shalt write upon them all the words of this law, when thou art passed over; that thou mayest go in unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, a land flowing with milk and honey, as the LORD, the God of thy fathers, hath promised thee.
This then stands as a testimony to the words of the Torah, traceable back to the days of Moshe.


Anonymous said...

"traceable back to the days of Moshe."
But we don't know where these stones are located now, don't we? So if the point of this testimony is only to remain for generations, the goal failed...

Shlomo said...

Does plaster really last longer than stone? I somehow doubt it. And if the plaster is on top of the writing, wouldn't that just make it harder to read? Perhaps the "Torah" was written on top of the plaster in some kind of paint. That would make it much quicker/easier to write the Torah (even Sefer Devarim by itself is pretty long), and would help explain why no trace of the writing remains today (the plaster got rubbed off).

joshwaxman said...

good question. i don't know. but in terms of lime plaster -- i'm thinking of בור שיד שאינו מאבד טיפה, we see that:
"Some of the earliest known examples of lime use for building purposes are in early Egyptian buildings (primarily monuments). Some of these examples in the chambers of the pyramids, which date back to around 2000 B.C., are still hard and intact."

if so, perhaps this is being used for its waterproof properties, to keep the writing on the rock from wearing away due to erosion...

i wonder if Moshe could have written the Torah with special ink and then set the shamir at it... that would also be pretty quick. :)


joshwaxman said...

see also bechor shor:



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