Judaism: The 10 Commandments - A Pillar Runs Through Them
Torah Mitzion Torani Tzioni MovementThe MiTzion Torani Tzioni Movement sends groups of Israeli post-army yeshiva students to form kollels and affect Jewish identity in Jewish communities all over the world.
Our Ten Commandments (TC) are engraved in stone. What is it that makes them different from the rest of the 613 Mitzvot ?
“The statements (TC) were said in one statement, such as flesh and blood can never do…and later he returned to elaborate each statement (commandment) independently.” (Mechilta, Yitro)
This description befits the 10th letter of the Hebrew alphabet – the Yud. Its numeric value is 10 but its shape is one. It is therefore our task to explain how the TC work together to establish one pillar that establish our belief in Hashem?
Inspired by the Maharal (Tiferet Israel, Chapter 36), we unfold a gradual structure of the TC “building out” from the centre-most imperative commandment of “I am Hashem, your G-d,” to the outer most commandment of “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house…”
Stage 1: "אנכי ה' אלוקיך אשר הוצאתיך מארץ מצרים"
“I am Hashem your G-d, that took you out of Egypt”
First and foremost – Believe there is a G-d. Acknowledge his mere existence.
The Believer: One can believe that Hashem is the G-d that took him out of Egypt - and that there are other gods in charge of other factors of the world.
Stage 2: "לא יהיה לך אלהים אחרים על פני"
”You shall not have any other god but me”
Believe that Hashem is the one and only G-d of the world.
The Believer: OK, there is a G-d, but he doesn’t have any presence in my lowly material world.
Stage 3: "לא תשא שם ה' אלוקיך לשווא"
”You shall not utter Hashem, your G-d’s name in vain”
His name is His honor and presence – your acknowledgment must lead to respect and awe.
The Believer: G-d exists, is One, and should be respected from afar; however, He doesn’t relate to this world directly. What relationship does He have with this creation?
Stage 4: ”Remember the Shabbat day to sanctify it”
Through mankind’s mundane routine there is a signature of this world’s Creator – the Shabbat. In this commandment we expand our definition of G-d to that of the Creator of all.
The Believer: The creation is enormous and I am but a speck in this vastly detailed cosmos. Surely this mighty G-d has no regard of me. He created it and at most – observes the wider happenings of this world.
Stage 5: "כבד את אביך ואת אמך"
”Honor thy father and thy mother”
The Gemara explains that there are three partners in a human birth – a father, mother and Hashem. Honoring your parents is the basic ability to appreciate what another has done for you to the extent of fulfilling his requests and demands. As vast as this creation might be – Hashem is your personal parent; He personally created you and looks after you.
The Believer: That’s great. I am a son of Hashem (in a Jewish way!) and so I love Him and obey His commandments. His, I should emphasise and no one else’s!!! Who in the world could surpass me? I am, after all, son of Hashem – Lord of the universe, the one and only, whose honor and respect penetrates all, Creator of this world and one of it’s most precious jewels – me!
Stage 6: "לא תרצח" - ”You shalt not murder”
Just as Hashem created you personally – so too, he created everyone else personally. Being “son of Hashem”, the one and only, doesn’t mean you are the one and only. Your fellow man has every right of existence, just as you do.
The Believer: Considering that my fellow man’s mere existence is justified, that would mean we are all a bunch of individual’s created by Hashem. No one really has ownership of one another. His female partner today, is my female partner tomorrow.
Stage 7: "לא תנאף" - ”You shalt not commit adultery”
Hashem, the creator of the world, has given you honor. That honor consists of the privilege of privacy. Consider your “fellow-created-man” to have the same. Furthermore, the Torah describes "והיו לבשר אחד" – that man and his wife becomes one body. Just as you cannot take away his body ("לא תרצח"), you cannot take away other “elements” of his body.
The Believer: Hashem is the Creator. He created us all personally and we owe him honor and obedience. Yet, independence and slavery are an outcome of social strength and success. I cannot inflict upon his existence – but his independence is potentially mine. Furthermore, at some point in my life, I leave my parents’ supervision and provisions and make my own living. Survival and achievement are about reaching my potential and getting as much money and honor as I can.
Stage 8: "לא תגנב" - ”You shalt not steal”
Hashem rations us all and there is no competition or need to steal for those who accept G-d’s decision and property control. Stealing is a manifestation of a problem in one’s belief in Hashem as provider of all.
The Believer: Now I understand that my income and property cannot and will not come on account of my fellow being. Yet I am not obligated in any way to keep his wealth intact. Surely when all I’m doing is mumbling a load of rubbish in a court case against him, I am not offending G-d’s providing control. Sticks and stones are understood, but words can never hurt him.
Stage 8: "לא תענה ברעך עד שקר" -
“You shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour”
Hashem reigns over all. Even the slightest mumble of words should be set to the ultimate truth. To be involved in a fraud, against someone, is a more subtle denial of Hashem. In fact, it reflects a severe blemish in his belief in Hashem that he chooses to bear a false witness over his neighbour.
The Believer: Let's sum it up. I've learnt that Hashem is the One G-d, who has honor and awe in this world. He is the creator of the entire universe and my personal creator, a parent. He creates all humans with equal rights of existence, privacy, independence and income, and expects just conduct from those that emulate Him and believe in His personal intervention. So, if I do envy my friend’s red convertible sports car, I should keep it to myself, in my heart - where it makes no visible difference or denial of Hashem.
Stage 10: "לא תחמד" - “You shalt not covet thy neighbour's house…”
Hashem, as we said, is a just provider. Coveting clearly exists in one who lacks whole-hearted belief in Hashem, referring to all his attributes. Subtle and hushed-up as it might be, it is a manifestation of one who has not inhaled to the fullest -
"אנכי ה' אלוקיך" – I am Hashem, your G-d. There is nothing else in your life but me!