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  • Aliza Davidovit

Can You Count to TEN?©


Most of us admit that it is nearly impossible to keep all the 613 commandments in the Bible. But most of us pride ourselves on the fact that we at least keep the Ten Commandments. Nonetheless, as the Decalogue is read on the upcoming holiday of Shavuot in synagogues around the world, perhaps it is a good time for us to have a closer look at these laws and see if in their bright light we pass inspection.

The first commandment in the Old Testament is the belief that G-d is the origin of all things: “I am the L-rd your G-d.” It is from this starting point that any of the commandments have infinite relevance. So with that in mind, let’s proceed.

II “You shall have no other G-ds….” Though we may not have golden calves in our living rooms it does not mean we are guilt free of idol worship. ANYTHING that comes between us and our service to G-d is an idol, including our money, our jobs, our egos, and even our habits, addictions and fears. And if perchance, we find ourselves on the golf course instead of temple on the Sabbath, then those iron clubs are rendered idols because we worship them and our desires more than G-d’s will.

III “Thou shalt not take the name of the L-rd in vain.” Although most decent people won’t swear to G-d if something is not true, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say most of us have made a promise or two to G-d and not kept it. Once our plane lands safely, or the medical result comes back A-OK, all the deals we make with G-d vanish in quick time. That, too, is calling upon G-d’s name in vain.

IV “Remember the seventh day and keep it holy.” Whether people keep the Sabbath or not is pretty clear cut. But, the justifications and excuses as to why they don’t are always creative. People will say that they serve G-d in their own way, when they have the time, and not necessarily on the allotted day. Just try that routine on your girlfriend and tell her you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day on June 3rd or tell your wife you’ll remember your anniversary when you get a chance. The Sabbath is not just a concept that can be applied when it suits us. It’s a divinely determined appointment with energies unique to its time and place in the universe.

V “Honor they mother and father.” Most people think this decree means not to be rude to your parents while they are alive. It doesn’t stop there. This commandment doesn’t have a statute of limitations and does not expire when our parents pass on. Even after they die our behavior in this world reflects on them. If we behave immorally, are corrupt, or, conversely, are decent to others, our behavior honors or dishonors them. Remember it doesn't say to love our parents, just honor the fact that they gave us life. Don't make efforts to diminish them, embarrass them or criticize them, even if they are already lowly characters or not everything you wanted them to be. The Kabbalists say that th