Torah Thoughts for Today
Thursday, February 12, 2004
#17: Changing Eras: The Power of Ten
Changing Eras: The Power of Ten

(Related to the weekly Torah portion of Yitro read in synagogue. Exodus, Chapter 18, verse 1 – Chapter 20, verse 23. English text and commentary at http://bible.ort.org/books/pentd2.asp?ACTION=displaypage&BOOK=2&CHAPTER=18
Dedicated to my parents)

The central event in this week’s Torah portion is the depiction and presentation of the granting of the Ten Commandments in the Hebrew year 2448 from Creation (1312 B.C.E.) over 3,300 years ago! The granting of these ten moral laws and the additional ones that followed as laid out in the Torah, have continued to revolutionize and change the world. It was the dawn and beginning of a completely new era for humankind.

What previous era was it that was being changed by the arrival of the Ten Commandments? Why did the world need to change; was there something wrong with it? What era arrived on the scene of human history with the Ten Commandments? Why are they so controversial, and even rejected and misunderstood to this day by so many people?

Without thinking, millions of people are convinced that the major way of understanding the rise of civilization is to accept prior ages and stages of life’s growth over billions of years, and that’s it! However, they are making a serious error, because the various ages are actually considered to be “pre-historic”, as human “history” requires first-hand human written records. History only actually begins “officially” with the “invention” of CUN(E)IFORM , a type of writing with a stylus onto wet clay that preserves an intelligent human record of events at the time:

“The earliest attested documents in cuneiform were written in Sumerian, the language of the inhabitants of southern Mesopotamia and Chaldea from the 4th until the 2nd millennium B.C.(E). Discovered at the site of the ancient city of Uruk (biblical Erech), they were in a pictographic type of cuneiform in which objects were represented by pictures, numbers were represented by the repetitional use of strokes or circles, and proper names were indicated by combinations of pictures used according to the rebus principle; i.e., the pictures were to be interpreted according to their usual pronunciations rather than according to the objects they depicted.” [1]

“In ancient times writing was done on papyrus, parchment, potsherds, and clay tablets. The latter were made of clean-washed, smooth clay. While still wet, the clay had wedge-shaped letters (now called ‘cuneiform’ from Latin ‘cuneus’, ‘wedge’) imprinted on it with a stylus, and then was kiln fired or sun dried. Tablets were made of various shapes - cone-shaped, drum-shaped, and flat. They were often placed in a clay envelope. Vast quantities of these have been excavated in the Near East, of which about a half million are yet to be read. It is estimated that 99 percent of the Babylonian tablets have yet to be dug. The oldest ones go back to 3000 B.C.(E). They are practically imperishable; fire only hardens them more. Personal and business letters, legal documents, books, and communications between rulers are represented. One of the most famous is the Code of Hammurabi, a Babylonian king who lived long before the time of Moses. The tablets reveal intimate details of everyday life in the Near East and shed light on many obscure customs mentioned in ‘Old Testament (times)’. Some tell the story of the Creation, the Fall, and the Flood.” [2] Thus this is actually an example where ARCHEOLOGY PROVES THE TRUTH AND VALIDITY OF THE BOOK OF GENESIS. Some have speculated that Abraham and Hammurabi lived in the same era and that they may either be one and the same or arch rivals, but the general accounts of ancient Sumeria and the Torah’s story do mesh perfectly!

Fascinatingly the previous article also states that: “ Cuneiform was the language of politics until the fifth century B.C.(E). It died out and was replaced by the 22 Letter Aramaic in about 900 B.C.(E).” In fact ancient Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic are twin languages and so therefore it is a momentous example of how the tide of Hebraic influences swept away the old world orders. When observing this era in history, one gets the feeling that there is always something vastly different and threatening, yet eerily familiar that “lurks” beneath the surface of real history and what Judaism tries to teach all along. Modern perspectives have created a whole new range of intellectual and emotional, academic, media, literary, and cultural “filters” or lenses from which to view the past and make sense of humanity’s origins and direction. The current hot-button apt phrase “POLITICAL CORRECTNESS” works “backwards” and shapes perceptions of the past as well as pointing to some kind of vaguely defined punitive invisible global censor ready to pounce, even within the recesses of people’s private minds, upon any doubts that may enter about redefining the world in alternative, and in our case, truly Judaic terms.

From the purely secular perspective, as the ages get closer to our times, they go through a “Stone Age” (from “two million” years ago up to 4,000 – 2,500B.C.E.), a “Copper Age” (4,500 – 2,000 B.C.E.), a “Bronze Age” (2,400 – 450 B.C.E.), the “Iron Age” (500 – 1 B.C.E.). Over 2,000 years ago, the Romans even began to use tough steel for their weapons, an early start for the “Steel Age”, which culminated in 1855 when Henry Bessemer in England designed and built the first massive industrial converter (furnace) for processing steel, marking the start of the “Industrial Age”. In the West we have now actually entered into the “Information Age” with its concomitant “Leisure Age”. [3]

One may wonder why it is that the “stages” are pegged and known primarily by inanimate MINERALS in people’s minds? Yes of course, you may say, it’s because it was like the “technology” of that time. But that would be an unconscious projection of modern day intellectual pursuits of the highest order, whereas the nomenclature “stone, bronze, and iron” implies a primitive BARBARIC level of existence of the
“CAVEMAN”. And that is precisely the point, that the underlying assumptions of those who created the notions of pre-historical ages of ape-like ‘cavemen’ homo-sapiens who then evolve into more ‘advanced’ yet brutal Romans is that life in its origins is PRIMITIVE, and therefore early civilizations are ‘primitive’ too. But we, who have TVs, jets and Jacuzzis, are somehow creatures of modern perfection and gentility.

Classical Judaism teaches that the world was created and is constantly re-created through the power of TEN GODLY “COMMANDS”: WITH TEN UTTERANCES THE WORLD WAS CREATED -“BA’ASARAH MA’AMAROT NIVRA HA’OLAM”, (Ethics of the Fathers – Pirkei Avot, Chapter 5, 1) through which God originally created the world and universe OUT OF NOTHING / E X N I H I L O – “YESH ME’AYIN” in the first place at the time of Creation something which few mortal minds have ever been capable of grasping.

The TEN UTTERANCES include the nine times “And God SAID” as mentioned in Genesis, Chapter 1, vs. 1 – 29 http://bible.ort.org/books/pentd2.asp?ACTION=displaypage&BOOK=1&CHAPTER=1 plus the word/s “BEREISHIT (BARA ELOKIM)” – “IN THE BEGINNING (GOD CREATED)” (rabbinic commentators differ on this, as mentioned in the Talmud, Tractate Rosh Hashanah, 32a) as this too is probably considered THE most important “UTTERANCE” as it says in the book of Psalms, Chapter 33, verse 6: “By the WORD of God were the Heavens made.” [4] It must be noted that: “In later times, the Jewish Mystics spoke of creation as a series of TEN EMANATIONS - “SEFIROT”, from (GOD) THE INFINITE – “EN SOF” (Literally in Hebrew: “Without End”). The “EN SOF” and the EMANATIONS, however, were conceived as an ABSOLUTE UNITY, even as the colors of the flame and the flame itself are latent in the coal.” [5]

The MAHARAL (Rabbi Judah Loew, Prague, 1525 – 1609) teaches that: “These utterances are God’s statements for creation…There are, in fact only NINE such utterances by which the different parts of Creation were brought into being. The TENTH UTTERANCE is ‘THE LORD CREATED THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH’ (1st verse in Genesis). IT IS NOT INTRODUCED WITH THE WORDS ‘AND THE LORD SAID’ BECAUSE IT IS AN ALL-EMBRACING DECLARATION OF C R E A T I O N. The (FIRST) ‘TENTH STATEMENT’ is the SINGLE DIVINE COMMAND THAT BROUGHT ABOUT THE WORLD THROUGH THE (SUBSEQUENT) NINE DETAILED STATEMENTS. It blended the nine fragments of Creation into a harmonious whole that embraces and reflects God’s HOLINESS…What can be learned from the fact that the world was created with ten utterances? We learn that the world was created with SANCTITY, for the number TEN IS THE SYMBOL OF SANCTITY. Ten resonates with the glory of God’s presence. God truly enhanced the world’s importance by creating it with ten statements and demonstrating that He imbued the world with HOLINESS. A world without sanctity would indeed have been created with only one utterance.” [6]

What emerges at this point is that according to Judaism God is the Creator of both the WORLD OF NATURE and of NATURAL LAW with both directly derived from within God’s own essence. Nature and Natural Law do have a latent connection with Holiness. However, due to the UN-HOLY actions of people, starting from Adam and Eve, then continuing for TEN GENERATIONS (according to Ethics of the Fathers, Chapter 5) till the time of Noah when the world “flooded” itself with “CRIME” - “CHAMAS” which denotes “decadence, perversion, destruction, damage and especially sexual immorality and idolatry” so that: “God
said to Noah, ‘the end of all flesh has come before Me. The world is filled with [man’s] CRIME (‘CHAMAS’). I will destroy them with the earth.’” [7]

According to the SFAS EMES (Rabbi Yehuda Aryeh Leib Alter, Poland, 1847 - 1905, second Gerrer Rebbe), this descent of mankind is described as follows: “The ‘MISHNAH’ (of Ethics of the Fathers), discussing the TEN GENERATIONS from Adam to Noah, is not just the historical sequel to the previous ‘MISHNAH’, but also describes the COMPLETE REVERSAL OF THE PROCESS OF CREATION INITIATED THROUGH THE TEN STATEMENTS (UTTERANCES). Every generation, through its amoral behavior and its complete IGNORANCE OF THE DIVINE WILL, had the effect of ‘reversing’ (i.e. obscuring) one of the DIVINE STATEMENTS (UTTERANCES).” [8]

Then there was a further plunge of ANOTHER TEN GENERATIONS from Noah to Abraham who had to “discover” ETHICAL MONOTHEISM for himself and begin the process of teaching it to the world, primarily through his descendants. But even these changes in the eras BEFORE the giving of the TEN COMMANDMENTS at Mount Sinai was not enough to really and truly alter the course of destiny YET! Humanity’s connection to Nature and Natural Law was so strong that it needed a CATALYST to change the world. That catalyst was the TEN PLAGUES that BROKE down Nature and Natural Law and readied it for the new structure of REVEALED MORAL LAW as manifested in the Ten Commandments.

The world of NATURE is not only crass when it becomes the staple for a cult, it is mostly beautiful, sublime, and awesomely magnificent. It’s a supremely masterful work of art by the ultimate supreme master Artist. In all its moods, varieties and phases, Nature has served and serves as a conduit for “messages” from God in almost all human cultures. Pagans unfortunately created many mythological gods, so for them it was “the gods (plural, like a god and his mother in law maybe) are angry”! In time nature itself became “god” to many, so that people worshiped the nature object of their choice, all the way from the sun to the snake, and anything in between. Among animals, the cat, crocodile, cobra and the cow were some favorites that the ancient Egyptians worshiped.

Unfortunately, today there are still some major world religions that incorporate animal worship, covering it with the deceptive veneer of benign vegetarianism. I ask you, according to that, why should the vegetables suffer just because someone has elevated the animal kingdom over and above the vegetable kingdom? And for those who may still worship bushes, shrubs and trees, why not also include the inanimate world of rocks, crystals, and minerals? There is actually no end to this vicious-cycle of false and even destructive beliefs such as polytheism, animism, animalism, and such like. Is that what drives people to become spiritualists, atheists, agnostics? What about Satanists, why would they want to sell themselves into the bondage of Hell? Who knows? These are all the FALSE GODS that the TEN COMMANDMENTS come to assault and remove, no wonder people don’t like the demands of the Torah’s Monotheism.

Nature’s good weather and pleasant climates, needed rains, abundant crops, fattened fowl, herds of animals roaming grassy plains and abundant fish filling the oceans are all Blessings for humans and animals that God is feeding them well. Clear skies, calm oceans, and moderate climates allow for the Blessings of daily life, travel, transport, communication and commerce so that humanity can grow economically and materially. Deep ocean currents, vast atmospheric trade winds and cosmic magnetic and radiation belts ensure balance and equilibrium on God’s Earth and the other planets. The wonderful cycles of day and night as the Earth spins reliably and predictably on its own axis from west to east, the rotation of the moon around the Earth and the fact that the fiery sun does not destroy us with its periodic solar eruptions is a Blessing all its own.

Frighteningly, when Nature gets distorted or disrupted, through violent death and diseases or tornados, hurricanes, tidal waves, icebergs, earthquakes, eruptions, droughts, poisons, plagues, storms and floods, even the animals seem to know that it is God’s wrath as they stare Heavenwards with heavy teary darkly-glowering eyes beseeching God “Up There” to stop the madness and return things to “normal”.

Judaism teaches that it is this very Nature that is yet rooted in Holiness because it was created by God whose essence is HOLINESS: “ God spoke to Moses, telling him to speak to the entire Israelite community and say to them: YOU MUST BE HOLY, SINCE I AM GOD YOUR LORD [AND] I AM HOLY.” (Leviticus, Chapter 19, vs. 1 - 2). I AM HOLY – “KADOSH ANI”.

Then there is NATURAL LAW, which has been defined, on “The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy”, as: “The term ‘natural law’ is ambiguous. It refers to a type of moral theory, as well as to a type of legal theory, despite the fact that the core claims of the two kinds of theory are logically independent. According to natural law ethical theory, the moral standards that govern human behavior are, in some sense, OBJECTIVELY DERIVED FROM THE NATURE OF HUMAN BEINGS. According to natural law legal theory, the authority of at least some legal standards necessarily derives, at least in part, from considerations having to do with the moral merit of those standards. There are a number of different kinds of natural law theories of law, differing from each other with respect to the role that morality plays in determining the authority of legal norms.” [9]


Now ask yourself these questions:

If human beings according to modern understanding are nothing but a highly developed species of evolved Neanderthal-like apish “homo sapiens”, then does that mean that Natural Law is in fact a glorified version of “The Law of the ‘Apes’”, and that we may well be living on a “Planet of the ‘Apes’” (like in those classical movies, which was governed by its own “natural laws” not unlike our own here)?

How could Natural Law be “OBJECTIVELY DERIVED” from the NATURE of human beings who are notoriously prone to violent and selfish mass SUBJECTIVITY? After all, human beings are the ones who wage war, enslave, exploit, torture, manipulate, and victimize each other to the degree that the means of the day allows them to. In ancient times they knew how to make chains to enslave and swords to fight, in modern times humanity has invented technology to track and exploit people and Weapons of Mass Destruction that can annihilate the planet, so how can there be any claim that human nature is “OBJECTIVE” when it is clearly not?

When it says above that: “There are a number of different kinds of natural law theories of law, differing from each other with respect to the role that morality plays in determining the authority of legal norms” we must wonder why they cannot agree on the “ROLE” that MORALITY “PLAYS” “in determining the authority of legal norms”? After all we are talking about “LEGAL STANDARDS” and if we can’t agree on what “role” morality has in legal standards then we are in fact setting the stage for the “relativity” of law, as each culture has its own definitions of what is and is not moral for its members. For the women of ancient mythological Lesbos it was “moral” that women should use men only to become pregnant and if either a baby boy was born or a male dared set foot on their island it was only “moral” that they be put to death as Lesbos was only for women which is obviously not a standard of a society where men and women are allowed to live side by side. Were the Nuremberg Laws valid “legal norms” of the Third Reich and its cohorts in Europe, which classed Jews as deadly parasites deserving extermination as it became a German “moral” standard to live and fight for?

One can go on and on to show that “NATURAL LAW” is like a “well structured” sifter, with apparent shape, form and coherence, and even usefulness in some instances, yet fatally FILLED WITH HOLES through which passes everything within it back to where it came from, depending on the size of the holes it contains. A vast “natural law” theory is unfortunately so big that the entire world just goes right through it without much having really happened.

The TEN PLAGUES that hit the Egyptians must be understood in the context of God perfecting His world. It was as if God took hold of a crooked, rounded, natural world and began to bend it straight so that it would become a built up structure guided by a Director’s ram-rod straight baton and accurate measuring stick, with the Torah finally providing the measurements and guidelines, rather than people just relying on instincts and “what comes naturally” as a natural outgrowth of nature and its seasonal changeable patterns.

A very learned rabbi once told me, in the name of another un-named learned rabbi, that THE MARK OF NATURE IS THE CIRCLE. In nature things grow, move and function in CYCLES. Trees have rings in them. Ocean currents move in mammoth cycles, the planets are round, the galaxies are spirals, and water flows down a drain in a circle. There is also a profound lesson within this CYCLICAL world in that everything is always ultimately connected with its source. When you have a circle it has neither a beginning nor an end it is just an ongoing CONTINUUM. The Jewish custom of dancing in circles is part of this concept whereby Jews rejoice by re-connecting with their source. However, according to this same rabbi, CIVILIZATION, meaning the way MAN projects and builds things around him is the STRAIGHT LINE. Whether it be the square, the triangle, the rectangle or the cube, and many other possible STRAIGHT lines, protrusions and LOCI. Thus your current house and room, the computer in front of you, the ancient pyramids, the modern skyscraper, the Roman aqueduct, or Pythagoras’ geometry, are all built on straight lines. The notions of East-West, North-South and Up-Down, which are embodied in the way LINES of LONGITUDE and LATITUDE run, place planet Earth’s round globe into a straightjacket of artificial linear quadrants covering the surface, without which no vehicle on the surface or in space would know ACCURATELY where anything is on the face of the planet.

Yet both the world of NATURE’S CYCLES and CURVES, and the world of CIVILIZATION’S COLUMNS and LINES are actually TWO SIDES OF ONE COIN! This is actually probably one of the great unknown, yet very obvious, “secrets” of the Jewish “STAR OF DAVID” also called the “SHIELD OF DAVID” – “MAGEN DAVID” (supposedly it was King David’s chosen emblem) which consists of TWO TRIANGLES wedded “up-side-down’ to each other. Now, the sum of the three inside ANGLES of ANY triangle is 180 degrees. The sum of two triangles is 360 degrees. And so in actual fact the two triangles actually equal the 360 degrees of any CIRCLE. So the CIRCLE which is the symbol of God’s Natural World is also reflected in the two triangles of the Jewish “Star of David”, who very interestingly was meant to be the BUILDER of the ULTIMATE HUMAN BUILDING, the Jewish TEMPLE in Jerusalem which was built by King David’s son, King Solomon.

Let us look at how the TEN PLAGUES served as the literally explosive catalyst for change from the Natural World of the Ten Utterances to the Torah World of the Ten Commandments. The SFAS EMES (Rabbi Yehuda Aryeh Leib Alter, Poland, 1847 – 1905. Second Rebbe of the Ger Chasidim) quotes his grandfather, the CHIDUSHEI HARIM (Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter, Poland, 1799 - 1866, the first Rebbe of Ger): “ ‘The TEN DIVINE STATEMENTS (UTTERANCES) – ‘ASARAH MA-MAMAROT’ were transmuted into the TEN COMMANDMENTS – ‘ASERET HADIBROT’, THROUGH the TEN PLAGUES – ‘ESER MAKOT’.’ It was only the TEN PLAGUES, which demonstrated Hashem’s (God’s) might in full public view, that convinced a skeptical mankind that indeed He had created the universe through the TEN STATEMENTS (UTTERANCES). Fortified by its newly found faith in Hashem (God), the UNIVERSE was now ready for Hashem (God) Himself commanding them ‘I AM HASHEM, YOUR GOD’ - ‘ANOCHI HASHEM ELOKECHA’, the first of the TEN COMMANDMENTS, one of the most glorious manifestations of His DIVINE PRESENCE – ‘SHECHINAH’.” [10]

Classical Judaism teaches in some of its profoundest sources that the Torah is actually the “BLUEPRINT” for the world. There are teachings that the original ABSTRACT Torah, was written by the hand of God with mysterious “BLACK FIRE” Letters upon “WHITE FIRE” Parchment “two thousand” abstract years before the world was created itself. When God undertook Creation, the teachings say that GOD LOOKED INTO THE TORAH AND CREATED THE WORLD – “HISTAKEL BE-ORAITA UBARA ALMA”. Thus all of Creation from first to last is contained within the Torah itself. The first Man who God Created was called ADAM, the name comes from the Hebrew for EARTH or GROUND or SOIL – “ADAMAH”. Man was created from the material physical finite earth and then God BREATHED into him the spiritual spark of Godliness the SPIRIT or SOUL – “NESHAMAH” of LIFE: “God formed man out of dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils a BREATH (SOUL OF - “NISHMAT”) OF LIFE. Man thus became a living creature.” (Genesis, Chapter 2, verse 7). The mission of Man was to be a partner with God and teach the superiority of Godliness and hence harmonize
physical and material with the spiritual and Holy.

It became the mission of the Hebrews Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and then Jacob’s Twelve Sons – The Twelve Tribes-The Children of Israel-The Jewish Nation to ACTUALIZE the mission of ADAM. Ancient Egypt is called the FURNACE OF IRON – “KUR HABARZEL” because it forms and purifies the rough product that comes out of it. The Exodus is compared to BIRTH PAINS – “CHEVLEI LEIDAH” as the moment draws near for the BIRTH OF ONE NATION (ISRAEL) FROM WITHIN ANOTHER (EGYPT) – “GOY MIKEREV GOY”. The TEN PLAGUES are NOT a “personal vendetta” that God is running against some ancient folks, it’s a process of MELTING DOWN AND PURIFYING and bringing NATURE, with Israel as its “apotheosis”, back to a PURER HIGHER LEVEL WITHOUT DROSS.

The SPLITTING OF THE SEA is like an actual NATIONAL BIRTH, with the “breaking of the ‘mother`s’ (nature`s) water” with the Egyptians and Nature working willy–nilly in unison together with the SEA and WIND (“huffing and puffing”) and “PUSHING” the “BABY – ISRAEL” OUT INTO FREEDOM !!! And so once they cross over into the wilderness of Sinai, they are cared for with “baby food”, the “MANNA” from Heaven, the special water well (of Miriam), a protective PILLAR OF LIGHT (FIRE) – “AMUD HA-ESH” for lighting at night and a PILLAR OF CLOUD – “AMUD HE-ANAN” as covered protection during the day, and even fresh delivery of meat from the quails. So the physical material nature of the TEN UTTERANCES of Creation have now been NEUTRALIZED AND REFINED by the TEN PLAGUES and now the way is open for the INSERTION OF THE TORAH, THE SOUL OF ISRAEL INTO ITS BODY POLITIC WHEN THEY ACCEPT THE TEN COMMANDMENTS BY SAYING “WE WILL DO AND WE WILL LEARN (HEAR)” - “NA-ASEH VENISHMAH”.

With the appearance of God at Mount Sinai, known as the REVELATION, God’s ORIGINAL plan for the world’s destiny comes into full force as the details of the Torah are taught by God to Moses and the Children of Israel over the next FORTY YEARS, before they will be expected to be ready and enter, conquer and claim the HOLY LAND that God had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the Children of Israel in several covenants.

The TEN COMMANDMENTS commence a new unambiguous very tough road of a DIVINELY GRANTED GOD-GIVEN MORAL LAW not subject to SUBJECTIVITY, or any form of human manipulation, corruption, or trickery. IT IS A HIGHLY DEMANDING UNAMBIGUOUS MORAL CODE THAT CANNOT BE ABROGATED BY THE WHIMS OF MAN. (Through the religions of Christianity and Islam over half of humanity’s six billion people know of BIBLE teaching and of the centrality of the DECALOGUE – THE TEN COMMANDMENTS!) For Jews to live up to its teachings has proven to be a complex and uneven process. No wonder! Just see what’s required as we look at just two of the TEN COMMANDMENTS from the perspective of classical Judaism:

Judaism teaches that God’s “opening statement and introduction” of Himself: “I am God your Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, from the place of slavery” (Exodus, Chapter 20, verse 2), is in actual fact the FIRST OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS that commands every Jew to BELIEVE and have absolute FAITH in God.

The famous Rabbi Dr. Samson Raphael Hirsch (Germany, 1808 – 1888) notes that the Hebrew word for “I”, which normally should be “ANI”, is here said as “ANOCHI”. Why is that? He says that “ANI”, the simple “I” emphasizes the speaker rather than the listener. But, the complex “I” of “ANOCHI” proclaims the Speaker as the one who is INTIMATELY near the listener and who has great responsibility for protecting and preserving the listener and from whom the listener derives his existence and standing… “Nothing is more overwhelming than the thought of how, in the midst of all the commotion, and out of the turmoil of the universe quaking in its very foundations, God proclaims Himself the ‘ANOCHI” - THE COMPLEX ‘I’ of the universe, through Whom alone all other existence receives the possibility and the actuality of existing, and then immediately turns to each individual Jew and says: ‘I am your ‘ANOCHI’: ‘I AM GOD YOUR LORD’ – ‘ANOCHI HASHEM ELOKECHA’. As this verse is NOT to be taken as a declaration, but as a COMMANDMENT – ‘MITZVAH’, as ONE OF THE COMMANDMENTS, it does NOT mean ‘I, Hashem (God) am your God’ BUT ‘I, Hashem (God) AM TO BE your God’. This makes the foundation of our whole relation to God to be that demand which our sages express in the term ‘KABALAT OL MALCHUT SHAMAYIM’ – TAKING ON ONESELF THE DUTIES WHICH ARE INVOLVED BY CONSIDERING GOD AS ONE’S KING…The so-called ‘belief in the existence of God’…is miles away from what this verse demands…NOT the fact that there is a God, also NOT there is only One God, but that THIS ONE, UNIQUE, TRUE GOD, IS TO BE MY GOD, that He created and formed me, placed me where I am, and goes on creating and forming me, keeps me, watches over me, leads and guides me; NOT THAT MY CONNECTION WITH HIM SHOULD BE THROUGH TEN THOUSAND INTERMEDIARIES AS A CHANCE PRODUCT OF A UNIVERSE WHICH HE BROUGHT INTO BEING AEONS AGO…in a word, NOT the knowledge of the existence of God, but the ACKNOWLEDGMENT of God, as MY God, as the exclusive One in Whose hands is my fate…it is only with the acceptance of this TRUTH that I can lay the foundation of a Jewish Life. To the DEMAND of ‘I am God” - ‘ANOCHI’ there is but one corresponding reply YOU ARE MY GOD – ‘ATAH ELOKAI’.” [11]

Finally, as another example of the depth of the application and scope of any of the commandments let’s take a look at the SEVENTH COMMANDMENT: “DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY” which in Hebrew is just TWO WORDS: “LO TINAF” (Exodus, Chapter 20, verse 13.) In strict Legal-Halachik Torah Law, the act of “adultery” is defined as taking place when a man, either married or single, willingly has completed (penile vaginal penetration) sexual intercourse with a MARRIED woman and was potentially a capital offence in the times of the Sanhedrin Court over 2,000 years ago:
“If a man commits adultery with a married woman, [and] she is the wife of a fellow [Israelite], both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death” (Leviticus, Chapter 20, verse 10), this requires that two adult “kosher” – Sabbath-observant Jewish male witnesses warned them beforehand and actually witnessed the actual sex act take place, which in any case would be a practical rarity, so that it’s nearly impossible to “convict” an offending couple, yet the risks are frightening indeed. Sex between a man and an UNMARRIED woman is also a severe moral sin in the Torah, which may also be included in the Torah’s broader prohibitions of adultery and immorality, and carries its own penalties for both parties, short of capital punishment.

The Oral Law Midrashic Commentaries bring an example of how one commandment can actually comprehensively encompass far more than first meets the eye or hits the mind: “Our Sages taught in the name of Rebbi Chanina (a sage from about 2,000 years ago), ‘An adulterous person transgresses all TEN COMMANDMENTS.’ Some people (sages) were troubled by this statement and approached Rebbi Chanina for clarification. They said, ‘We agree that an adulterer and adulteress are guilty of having violated the following NINE COMMANDMENTS:

‘I AM YOUR GOD,’ because an adulterer or adulteress denies and negates God (since it was God Who forbade adultery in the first place, or by given into one’s physical lusts, one is denying that God demands that one desist. Or, they simply ignore God as if He did not exist altogether as in atheism which claims that there is no God at all of any kind);
‘YOU SHALL HAVE NO OTHER GODS’, Her act is likened to idol-worship. Just as she forsook her husband for the sake of another man, or the man forsakes his wife for another married woman, so they are liable to forsake the Almighty and serve idols, (or by indulging in physical attractions they are worshiping the human body over God);
‘YOU SHALL NOT SWEAR IN VAIN IN GOD’S NAME’, for the adulterers will surely swear that they are innocent, (or they may come to mock God’s Name during their escapades together);
‘HONOR YOUR FATHER’, since the adulterer will impregnate, and the adulteress will bear a child who will not know his real father and therefore will be unable to honor him, (they also dishonor their Father in Heaven);
‘YOU SHALL NOT MURDER’, an adulterer is determined to kill or be killed, should he be caught in his act;
‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’, (also understood as the prohibition of IMMORALITY of any kind in the widest sense, as noted in the Talmud, Tractate Nidda 13b, see Rabbi Hirsch, Exodus, p. 277);
‘YOU SHALL NOT STEAL’, he steals another man’s wife. She steals another woman’s husband, (both are stealing “forbidden fruits” and tasting the stolen fruits of their moral laxness);
‘YOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS’, since the adulteress will testify to her husband, ‘I am pregnant by you’. And the adulterer will swear that he did not do it;
‘YOU SHALL NOT COVET’, because he covets what belongs to the woman’s husband. (Adulterers covet the spouses and loved ones of others).”

“ ‘We thus see how an adulterous person transgresses NINE COMMANDMENTS. We do not understand, though, in what way he disregards the COMMANDMENT,

“Rebbi Chanina replied, ‘Take the case of a NON -‘KOHEN’ (NON PRIEST) who commits adultery with the wife of a ‘KOHEN’ (PRIEST). The child will then be unwittingly claimed as a ‘KOHEN’ (PRIEST). (The status of ‘KOHEN’ is determined by the FATHER, unlike the ‘religion’ that is determined by the mother. The child will therefore be a NON -‘KOHEN’ to whom the holy Temple Service is forbidden by the Torah). He will then perform the special service in the TEMPLE – ‘BEIT HAMIKDASH’ even on the SABBATH – ‘SHABBAT’. For example he will arrange the wood on the altar and kindle its fire, which is only permissible to the PRIEST – ‘KOHEN’. SINCE HE IS AN OUTSIDER, HOWEVER, HE THEREBY DESECRATES THE SABBATH (as it is forbidden for anyone else to light any fires on the Sabbath, one of the 39 categories of forbidden work for an Israelite).” [12]

In societies with sky high divorce rates, and where infidelity is put on center stage on TV, movies and books, can there be any wonder that there exists hostility to the basic tenets of the Ten Commandments? In an age when “sexual freedoms” are taken for granted there should be no amazement that the Torah’s very clear-cut guidelines should be scorned. So then it is a great miracle of huge proportions that in spite of the prevailing anti-religious trends in the world, there are still millions of Jews, and many more good moral non-Jews, who strive to learn and live by the oldest moral code of them all, the Ten Commandments, that seeks to undo the glamorization of trends that connect directly with “world’s oldest profession” of disrepute with its very real diseases, failings, and moral bankruptcy. Let us hope that humanity will learn the lessons that will help it improve for the better.

Have a wonderful and great Shabbat and let me know what you think!

[1] http://www.crystalinks.com/cuneiformtablets.html
[2] Ibid.
*“Stone Age”: http://www.bergen.org/technology/stone.html ;
*“Copper Age”: http://www.comp-archaeology.org/Central_European_Neolithic_Chronology.htm ;
*“Bronze Age”: http://odur.let.rug.nl/arge/Work/chrono.htm ;
*“Iron Age”: http://www.beloit.edu/~museum/logan/paleoexhibit/ironage.htm ;
*“Roman Steel”: http://www.mri.on.ca/steel.html ;
*“Steel History”: http://www.fantasysteel.com/steelhistory.html ;
*“Information Age”: http://photo2.si.edu/infoage/infoage.html ;
*“Leisure Class (Age)”: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1899veblen.html
[4] Pirkei Avos, The Wisdom of the Fathers, English translation, Rabbi Avraham Davis, p.149.
[5] Pirkei Avot, Sayings of the Fathers, English translation, Rabbi Joseph H. Hertz, p. 84.
[6] Maharal of Prague Pirkei Avos, English commentary and translation, Rabbi Tuvia Basser, pp. 292 – 294.
[7] The Living Torah, English translation, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, p. 27.
[8] Pirkei Avos, Ideas and Insights of the Sfas Emes, English translation and commentary, Rabbi Yosef Stern, p. 313.
[9] Natural Law, (Dr. Kenneth Einar Himma Ph.D.), The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, http://www.iep.utm.edu/n/natlaw.htm
[10] Sfas Emes, Ibid., p. 311.
[11] The Pentateuch, Exodus, Commentary of Rabbi S.R. Hirsch, English translation, Isaac Levy, pp. 257 – 258.
[12] The Midrash Says, The Book of Shmos – Exodus, English commentary, pp. 194 – 195.

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