Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah -Yitro

I struggle with the idea of calling the “10 Commandments”…commandments. The word command has strong connotations. Usually, it refers to “an authoritative order.” A command is something that must be done, and, as such, needs to be unambiguous.

First, the “10” represent many sets of “10” in the Torah (actually 613 “commands in total”). The first set of “10” is Genesis Chapter One “Creation.” Second, one has to wonder why, if these are commands, what are the ramifications for not honoring them, and how can one honor them when one conflicts with another?

Perhaps, we use the term command in the wrong way? There is a difference between demand and command, and it is not a subtle difference. In Hebrew, the word for demand is “lidrosh.” The world for commandment is “Mitzvah.” Demand connotes an authoritative/subservient relationship. Command, in a more formal parlance connotes the way in which one behaves that warrants attention. Commanding respect is different than demanding respect.

Maybe the normative definition of command (above) better applies to demand. Perhaps we should think of the “10 Commandments (613)” in terms of not what they call on us to do, but on how they admonish us to behave?

One can argue that an act is and is not stealing, and there is a fine line between healthy desire and coveting. Honoring one’s parents may mean disobeying them sometimes. Honoring the Sabbath (depending on who interprets the idea) may keep one away from his/her Jewish community, the antithesis of all that is right with being part of a community.

As such, perhaps these are 10 (613) different examples of decision making rooted in integrity and communal integration?  They command our attention to a higher good, rather than demand and judge us on any one interaction.

Thought for the week (year): would our decisions help everyone better integrate into a better society or do they help only a few, leaving others behind? Are we adding to each other’s dignity or stealing from it? Are we giving life to each other’s dreams or killing /diminishing one’s life value? Are we honoring our ancestors and their dream of an America that welcomes people as per the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Or, are we diminishing the value of our ancestors’ dream by segregating our society by labels, politics and economic values?

Torah commands us to be better. I would have to believe that being faithful would demand us to get beyond the labels and distractions and get back to seeing every human as … human. I don’t see how one can pray to God and do any less. Shabbat Shalom.