In this week's Torah portion, we read about the Ten Commandments being given to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai. When one stops to think about it, this monumental event has truly impacted the entire civilized world.
In this week's Torah portion, we read about the Ten Commandments being given to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai. When one stops to think about it, this monumental event has truly impacted the entire civilized world. These ten principles from Hashem to the Jewish people have become accepted as fundamental rights for every human being.
But what is Hashem's message to us through these Ten Commandments? Our sages have expressed the idea that these Ten Commandments embody the entire Torah, but there are so many other laws and details in the Torah. What is meant by this statement? Including this point in the Torah, we find the number ten mentioned in reference to three extremely significant occurrences in history. We must understand what the parallels are between them in order to gain a better understanding of the message within the Ten Commandments.
The first time we find the number ten is in the story of the world's creation. Our sages teach us that Hashem, as it were, created the world with "ten utterances" of His will, as the Hebrew word vayomer, meaning "and He said," is written ten times throughout the story of creation.
Next, the Torah tells us of the events which caused the descendants of Abraham (the twelve tribes) to go down to Egypt. There the Jewish people were enslaved, and understandably they lost their recognition of Hashem in the world. When Hashem decided to take the Jewish people out of slavery, He did it by implementing the ten plagues. This is the second time that we find the number ten in the Torah.
When the Jews saw the wondrous miracles, they regained their lost recognition, believing in Hashem as they fled into the desert. Afterwards, the Jews were brought to Mt. Sinai to receive the Torah. This is where we find the third "ten" in the Torah -- the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments tells us that Hashem exists -- within our spiritual relationship with Him, within our family relationships, within our relationships between man and his fellow man, and within ourselves. Hashem is present on all levels of our behavior, in our actions, our speech, and in our thoughts.
Hashem taught man of His existence in the positive act of creation, and then once again imbued this idea in man via the negative act of the plagues. Finally, Hashem brought his chosen nation to Mt. Sinai to receive this lesson once more in the positive form of the Ten Commandments. We, the Jewish people, are responsible to carry on this message, to be a light unto the nations, until the entire world recognizes Hashem's existence.
Danny Gimpel, a native Atlantan, is currently studying at Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Baltimore.
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