The Ten Commandments were engraved on the two tablets of the covenant. Each tablet was 6 by 6 by 3, made of stone, and the tablets were given to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai, 49 days after we left Egypt. (This is why we have been counting the “omer” up to the 49th day following Pesach). Actually the tablets were given to us twice, so in reality there were four tablets. Moses was given the first set after 40 days wandering in the Sinai desert, but when he descended the mount and saw the sin of the Golden Calf being committed, he smashed them. Moses received the second set at Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, after G-d forgave the Jewish people for the sin of the Golden Calf. The two tablets were placed in the Ark of the Covenant, although the Torah states that the tablets were made of stone, the Gemara tells us that the tablets were 6 x 6 x 3 so that if the two tablets were placed together they create a perfect cube! Today most drawings show the tablets as rounded at the top, apparently this results from Christian artwork, since the Jewish Gemara states that they were square! Additional names for the tablets of the ten commandments: The Tablets of Witness because they “Witness” the creation of the ten commandments, or the “Stone Commandments” since they are created of stone. Today it is common practice that five of the commandments are engraved on each tablet.
Our forefathers said that the tablets were created of sapphire, and they weighed half a ton, but, due to the lightness and spirituality of the ten commandments, the tablets seemed weightless and were easy to lift and carry.
There are some miracle myths associated with the ten commandments. The letters were engraved on one side, but the commandments could be read from both sides.
After several generations the Ark of the Covenant was brought up to Jerusalem and during the period of King David placed in the Tent of Worship. Later it was moved to Solomon’s Temple. In the wake of the Destruction of the First Temple by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE the Ark disappeared and with it the original tablets.
At the Holiday of Shavuot we celebrate the giving of the Ten Commandments and the Five Books of Moses!