Parashat Yitro: We can create a beautiful world

Friends,

Some people think that the real meaning of Judaism is to pay attention to God through ritual. Other people think that the real meaning of Judaism is to pay attention to other people through acting ethically. Guess what? They are one and the same. When God gave Moses the Decalogue, the first five commandments—the “God commandments”—were on the first tablet. The second five commandments—the “people commandments”—were on the second tablet.

But it turns out that you can read the commandments across the two tablets, linking the first and the sixth, the second and the seventh, and so forth. And when you do that, something interesting happens. Check it out: “I the Lord am your God…” links to “You shall not murder”. Because everyone is made in God’s image, anyone who murders another person has destroyed the divine image in that person. “You shall not make for yourself a sculptured image …” links to “You shall not commit adultery”. Constantly looking for new partners is like worshiping other gods. To violate one sacred relationship is tantamount to violating the other sacred relationship.

You shall not swear falsely by the name of the Lord your God … ” links to “You shall not steal”. Why? Because those who steal will always swear that they didn’t do so! “Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy …” links with “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour”, because if you violate the Sabbath, it is as if you are bearing false witness against God, saying that God did not rest on Shabbat.

And then the best for last. “Honour your father and mother …” links to “You shall not covet your neighbour’s house …” Really? What’s the connection there? Because if you covet things, you are saying that you wish you were richer—which is another way of saying that you wish you had been born into a different family.

To quote the writer Dennis Prager: “Properly understood and applied, the Ten Commandments are really all humanity needs to make a beautiful world. . . . If people and countries lived by the Ten Commandments, all the great moral problems would disappear.”

What an amazing thought — Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Adrian M Schell (Source Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin)

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