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Parshat  Yitro - The Ten Commandments… Plus 613?

02/01/2021 09:17:59 AM



                                                           ten commendments

The Rabbis are clear: Moses hung out on Sinai NOT just to receive the Ten Commandments.  Rather, he received the entire Torah; that is said in the Torah itself.  But the impression that only the Ten Commandments, which represents the Covenant but isn’t the same thing as the Covenant, were the only thing given during that fateful revelation, is the source of many mistakes in understanding the Torah and its meaning for us.  

Back in the time when the Temple still stood, before it was destroyed by the Roman occupiers who exiled us from our homeland, reading the Ten Commandments was part of the ritual starting every day: when the Sanhedrin, the Jewish legislature and supreme court, convened, the daily work of guiding the nation would begin with the declaration of justice, respect and civility contained in the Ten Commandments.

The Talmud tells us that the challenges of factionalists claiming that the only law given at Sinai was the Ten Commandments (despite what the Torah itself says), caused the Jewish community to abolish reading them as part of the daily ritual.  

So are we to forego this remembrance of the words that all of Israel heard at Sinai?  

The Rabbis in the Talmud tell us that we can hear the echo of the Ten Commandments in a daily declaration that is part of our morning and evening prayers: The Shema/V’ahavta.  I offer the interpretation of the Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Elijah ben Solomon, greatest Rabbi and leader of the 18th century,who, according to family lore, is a relative of us Rudins.  I’ve put a picture in for comparison!  What do you think?

1st Commandment: “I am HaShem Your G-d, who took you out of Egypt to be your G-d.”

Shema/V’ahavta: שמע ישראל! Shema Yisrael, HaShem Elokeinu- hear O Israel, HaShem is our G-d, the One and Only!

2nd Commandment “Have no other gods before Me to make images to worship them.” 

Shema/V’ahavta: The ONE and ONLY!  ואהבת את ה׳ אלוקיך: Love HaShem Your G-d… 

3rd Commandment: “Do not take HaShem’s name in vain.”

Shema/V’ahavta: “You shall love HaShem your G-d. ואהבת את ה׳ אלוקיך”- loving comes with the obligation of respect and reverence. 

4th Commandment: “Remember the Shabbat and keep it holy.”

Shema/V’ahavta: “Speak and live these words (of Torah and reverence) בשבתך B’shivtecha- when you sit in your house.”  The word “When you sit” in Hebrew with different vowels is “On Your Shabbat.”  Shabbat is the day of resting at home and in community.  So Shabbat is right there in the Shema! 

5th Commandment: “Honor your father and your mother.” 

Shema/V’ahavta: ושננתם לבניך- Teach them to your children.  The arc of generations obligates each generation to venerate those who came before us and those who come after us.

6th Commandment: “Don’t murder.”

Shema/Va’ahavta: בכל נפשך with all YOUR soul/life.  You are obligated to G-d to care for your unique life and to respect your life’s integrity and by direct implication, the life of every other person.  Your Nephesh is under your direct responsibility: but the other’s Nephesh is NOT yours to harm or endanger. 

7th Commandment: ‘Don’t commit adultery.”

Shema/V’ahavta: בשכבך ובקומך- In your intimate life (lit: when you lie down and when you rise up).  Again, the emphasis on YOUR intimate life means that just as your neighbor’s life may not be interfered with or harmed, neither may your neighbor’s intimate family life be harmed.

8th Commandment: “Don’t steal.”

Shema/V’ahavta: בכל מאדך- love G-d with all your wealth/material self.  As above, YOUR wealth means to preserve the integrity and respect of others’ wealth and possessions.

9th Commandment: “Don’t bear false witness against your neighbor.”

Shema/V’ahavta: לאות על ידיך היו לטטפות בין ענייך- these words shall be a sign upon your hand and frontlets between your eyes.  What you attest to (your hand raised as a vow), must be exactly what you actually saw “between your eyes.”


10th Commandment: Do not covet what is your neighbor’s.

Shema/V’ahavta: על מזוזות ביתך ובשערך- On the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Each of us has our domain, our boundaries.  The repetition of boundaries is clear: the things that are in your purview and domain are to be respected- as are the boundaries of your neighbor. 

Reading carefully, the familiar words contain unseen meanings and treasures.  So… say Shema when you rise and when you go to bed- you never know what inspiration is waiting to be discovered!  Shabbat Shalom

                                                      Does Rabbi Rudin look like the famous Vilna Gaon?

                     The Vilna Gaon in 1780 and the Parsippany Schmendrick in 2021: Family Resemblance?

Wed, July 28 2021 19 Av 5781