Isn’t it a little late for that?!
After spending 40 days together atop Har Sinai, Hashem hands Moshe the Luchos, which are simply described as “written by G-d” (Sh’mos 31:18). Just as Moshe finishes packing up and begins to head down, Hashem breaks the terrible news to him: Your people have committed the ultimate betrayal by creating a golden calf! Faithful Moshe stays and davens persistently on behalf of the nation, until Hashem finally relents and agrees to not destroy B’nei Yisrael. Moshe then picks up the Luchos and comes “down to Earth,” where he proceeds to smash them in plain view of the people.
In the midst of this dramatic display, the Torah interrupts the nail-biting narrative to tell us more about the Luchos that it mentioned earlier. Immediately before Moshe destroys them, the p’sukim describe the beauty of the Tablets in great detail: They were the careful handiwork of Hashem, contained a G-dly inscription, and miraculously showcased the same engraving on both sides (32:15-16).
Isn’t it a little late for that?! Why didn’t the Torah tell us these descriptions when Hashem first gave the Luchos to Moshe, instead of waiting until they were about to be destroyed?
Rav Bernard Weinberger zt”l (d. 2018) shared a very thought-provoking answer in his Shemen HaTov. The Torah’s descriptions of the Luchos reflect the typical human perspective: We tend to only notice the true worth of something when we have to deal with losing it. When Moshe was first given the Luchos, they just seemed fine and, accordingly, the pasuk describes them quite simply. However, as Moshe prepared to shatter them, it suddenly became apparent just how precious these Tablets really were: They were miraculous displays of the craftsmanship of G-d Himself! It was only at this point that their full value could be appreciated – when it was already too late.
There are many practical applications of this profound insight into human nature. Those blessed with children often fail to cherish the presence of their young – until they are faced with an empty nest. Children, in turn, tend not to appreciate all that their parents provided for them – until they have to start paying their own bills. And, of course, we all are prone to take our health for granted – until there is a pandemic. With its last-minute high praises of the Luchos, the Torah is teaching us to not wait until “it’s a little late for that.” Instead, we should take stock of all the good that we have, before it quickly becomes what we had!