The Big Ten

No document in world history so changed the world for the better as did the Ten Commandments. Western civilization — the civilization that developed universal human rights, created women’s equality, ended slavery, created parliamentary democracy among other unique achievements — would not have developed without them. As you will see when each of the Ten Commandments is explained, these commandments are as relevant today as when they were given over 3,000 years ago. In fact, they’re` so relevant that the Ten Commandments are all that is necessary to make a good world, a world free of tyranny and cruelty.

Imagine for a moment a world in which there was no murder or theft. In such a world, there would no need for armies, or police, or weapons. Men and women and children could walk anywhere, at any time of day or night, without any fear of being killed or robbed. Imagine further a world in which no one coveted what belonged to their neighbor; a world in which children honored their mother and father and the family unit thrived; a world in which people obeyed the injunction not to lie. The recipe for a good world is all there — in these ten sublime commandments.

But there is a catch. The Ten Commandments are predicated on the belief that they were given by an Authority higher than any man, any king, or any government. That’s why the sentence preceding the Ten Commandments asserts the following: “God spoke all these words.”

You see, if the Ten Commandments, as great as they are, were given by any human authority, then any person could say: “Who is this man Moses, who is this king or queen; who is this government to tell me how I should behave? Okay, so why is God indispensable to the Ten Commandments? Because, to put it as directly as possible, if it isn’t God who declares murder wrong, murder isn’t wrong. Yes, this strikes many people today as incomprehensible, even absurd. Many of you are thinking, “Is this guy saying you can’t be a good person if you don’t believe in God?”

Let me respond as clearly as possible: I am not saying that. Of course there are good people who don’t believe in God, just as there are bad people who do. And many of you are also thinking, “I believe murder is wrong. I don’t need God to tell me.” Now that response is only half true. I have no doubt that if you’re an atheist and you say you believe murder is wrong, you believe murder is wrong. But, forgive me, you do need God to tell you. We all need God to tell us. You see, even if you figured out murder is wrong on your own, without God and the Ten Commandments, how do you know it’s wrong? Not believe it’s wrong, I mean know it’s wrong? The fact is that you can’t. Because without God, right and wrong are just personal beliefs. Personal opinions. I think shoplifting is okay, you don’t. Unless there is a God, all morality is just opinion and belief. And virtually every atheist philosopher has acknowledged this.

Another problem with the view that you don’t need God to believe that murder is wrong, is that a lot of people haven’t shared your view. And you don’t have to go back very far in history to prove this. In the twentieth century millions of people in Communist societies and under Nazism killed about one hundred million people — and that doesn’t count a single soldier killed in war.

So, don’t get too confident about people’s ability to figure out right from wrong without a Higher Authority. It’s all too easy to be swayed by a government or a demagogue or an ideology or to rationalize that the wrong you are doing isn’t really wrong. And even if you do figure out what is right and wrong, God is still necessary. People who know the difference between right and wrong do the wrong thing all the time. You know why? Because they can. They can because they think no one is watching. But if you recognize that God is the source of moral law, you believe that He is always watching.

So, even if you’re an atheist, you would want people to live by the moral laws of the Ten Commandments. And even an atheist has to admit that the more people who believe God gave them — and therefore they are not just opinion — the better the world would be.
In 3,000 years no one has ever come up with a better system than the God-based Ten Commandments for making a better world. And no one ever will.

I’m Dennis Prager

The Cure for Envy

You must not desire your fellow’s house.
(Exodus 20:14)

G-d provides each of us with all the resources–possessions, talents, and strengths–that we require to fulfill our unique mission in life. We each achieve our ultimate fulfillment by dedicating these resources to our Divine mission and utilizing them to heighten the awareness of G-d in the world.

Any resources that G-d has not provided us with at any given moment are thus not necessary for fulfilling our mission, and in fact sidetrack us from the development of our fullest potential.
Reflecting on this truth will cure us of any envy.
Excerpted from: DAILY WISDOM
Inspiring insights on the Torah Portion

The 12 Commandments

The Two Commandments

Matthew 22:34-40

34But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36″Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38This is the first and great commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matt. 22:34-40

This exchange between Jesus and a lawyer took place during the busy and intense last week before the crucifixion. Various groups of enemies arrayed themselves against Jesus, coming to Him with their challenges and trick questions. He perfectly responded to each one. And His purpose remained, to prepare people for the kingdom, by exposing sin, urging repentance and inviting all to obey God.

In this situation the question was, “which is the great commandment in the law?” This reflects the understanding that they (the Jews) were under law to God, specifically the law of Moses. God had given the nation a comprehensive body of law to govern them, not only spiritually but in their civil existence as a preparatory nation in God’s overall plan. In giving that law, God had said: “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” (Ex. 19:5,6). Based on that law God gave to the Israelites, the question posed by the lawyer is, “which is the great commandment?”

Jesus responded, not just by picking out two commandments at random. He cited one commandment that pertains directly to man in relationship with His God: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” He said, “This is the first and great commandment.” This statement by the Lord identifies a priority that deserves our recognition today. First, get right with God. And don’t miss the totality of this: “Love your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the total man loving the total God. God didn’t hold back in giving to us; we shouldn’t hold back in giving to Him. Hendriksen said, “God’s whole-hearted love must not be answered in a half-hearted manner.”

From Pulpit Commentary: “The love of God is the first of all the command-ments. We must not be contented with our spiritual state unless we are sincerely and earnestly striving to obey it. The measure of that love is the measure of the whole heart and soul and mind: the heart, the centre of our being; the soul, the seat of the affections and desires; the mind, the home of thought and reason. The love of God must dwell in all these parts of our complex nature, filling the whole man with its gracious sanctifying influence; we must try to love him with the whole strength of all our highest faculties. Such love, the first duty of the Christian, is also the source of his sweetest, holiest joy. There is no earthly joy like that which flows from the love of those dearest to us; and as the love of God is of all forms of love beyond comparison the highest, so the joy which streams from that love is of all joys unutterably the deepest and the most blessed. It is the foretaste of heaven, for the joy of heaven is to love God perfectly, and to know and feel the great love of God. Peter says that those who love him now ‘rejoice in him with joy unspeakable and full of glory.’ And if that be true of those who now see him not save by faith, what must be the entrancing gladness of those who see him face to face, as he is, in his kingdom?”

But there was another command: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This is “like” the first in that love is enjoined (with all that biblical love expresses in attitude and action). This is to be directed to “your neighbor.” This expression is not narrow (the people across the street), but comprehensive of all your fellow human begins (see Lk. 10:25-37 & Gal. 6:10). This means, once we are right with God, that fellowship with God and acceptance of His authority provides a way for us to serve our fellow man in the highest sense. Loving God is first. Once that is settled and because of that, we are equipped to engage ourselves in the best service to others. God first, then others.

It is futile to attempt to serve mankind absent faithfulness to God. “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” (1 Jno. 4:20-21).

“On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets,” (verse 40). Everything God obligated His people to do, as recorded in the Old Testament, was an extension of either loving God or loving man. There are really two things God requires: (1) to respond proper to Him, and (2) to respond properly to others. Some will ask, where is self in this? Loving God as you should (with all that means) will generate a healthy self-concept. And when that love for God prompts appropriate service to your fellowman, you will be loving your neighbor “as yourself.”

God is God, and man is man, so it behooves us to love God and make this our highest priority; out of this love for God, that must develop this healthy and active love for people — everything else relates to these two basics.

By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 13.2; February 2006

New Revelation

Themes of Shavuot (Pentecost)New Revelation

One theme of Shavuot (Pentecost) is a new revelation of G-d’s will (Leviticus [Vayikra] 23:15-16,21). Two notable historical events happened on this day.

  1. The giving of the Ten Commandments or the Torah.It should be noted here that the Hebrew word Torah, commonly translated as “law” in English, does not mean “law,” but “instruction or teaching” in the Hebrew language. By understanding the meaning of the Hebrew word Torah, we can see that the Torah was neverintended, nor should it ever be understood by non-Jewish people, to mean a code of do’s and don’ts. Rather, it should be seen as G-d’s instruction and teaching to us so we can understand Him better.Israel came to Mount Sinai on the third day of the third month (Exodus [Shemot] 19:1). The L-rd visited the people three days later (Exodus [Shemot] 19:10-17). Therefore, the Torah was given by G-d in the third month of the biblical religious calendar, which is the month of Sivan, on the sixth day of this month. This day is exactly 50 days from the crossing of the Red Sea.Shavuot (Pentecost) is called the season of the giving of the Torah (Z’man Matan Toraseinu) in Hebrew because this is the literal day that G-d revealed Himself to the people of Israel as they stood at the base of Mount Sinai.
  2. The giving of the Holy Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh) by G-d.Yeshua
         was resurrected on the Feast of First Fruits (


        ), as was seen in the previous chapter. Fifty days after the resurrection of


        , the Holy Spirit (

    Ruach HaKodesh

        ) came to dwell in the hearts and lives of all the believers in


        (Acts 1:8; 2:1-18; Luke 24:49; Joel 2:28-29; Exodus [


        ] 19:16; Isaiah [


        ] 44:3; Deuteronomy [


        ] 16:5-6,16; 2 Kings 21:4).

    At this point, let’s make a comparison


    Shavuot in the Tanach (Ex 19) Shavuot in the Brit Hadashah(Jer 31:31-33) 

          – The fiftieth day – The fiftieth day – Commandments of G-d written – Commandments of G-d written on tablets of stone (Exodus 24:12) on our hearts (Jer 31:33; Psalm 40:8; 37:31; Is 51:7; Ezekiel 11:19-20; 36:22-27; 2 Cor 3:3; Hebrews 8:10) – Written by the finger of G-d – Written by the Spirit of (Exodus 31:18) G-d (2 Corinthians 3:3; Hebrews 8:10) – 3,000 slain (Exodus 32:1-8,26-28) – 3,000 live (Acts 2:3841) – The letter of the Torah – The Spirit of the Torah (Romans 2:29; 7:6; 2 Cor 3:6) – Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:11) – Mount Zion (Romans 11:26; Hebrews 12:22; 1 Peter 2:6)

The Festival of Pentecost (Shavuot)

Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments: The Inside Story
By Naftali Silberberg

The Ten Commandments were engraved on two tablets. The five commandments etched on the first tablet deal with man’s relationship with G‑d; the second tablet contains five commandments which concern man’s relationship with his fellow man.

Of the 613 biblical commandments, G‑d selected these ten commandments for special attention. He directly communicated them to the Jews without using Moses as an intermediary, and inscribed them on the tablets which were placed in the Holy Ark within the Holy of Holies. It is evident that although all the mitzvot are vital, the five carved into the first tablet were chosen because they form the basis of our relationship with the Creator, while the latter five serve as the foundation of our relationship with fellow people. The following is an attempt to delve briefly into the deeper meaning of the Ten Commandments.

First Tablet:

1. I am the L‑rd your G‑d, who took you out of the land of Egypt: It isn’t beneath G‑d—the almighty omnipotent G‑d, before whom “all is considered like naught”—to personally interfere in the workings of this world, to liberate a persecuted nation from the hand of their oppressors. We can always trust that He is watching over us attentively and controlling all the events which affect our lives.

It isn’t beneath G‑d to personally interfere in the workings of this world, to liberate a persecuted nation from the hand of their oppressors.
2. You shall not have other gods in My presence: G‑d is the only one who controls all events and occurrences. No other entity—not your government, not your boss, not your spouse—can benefit or harm you, unless G‑d has so decreed. Every one of us shares a special relationship with G‑d, and no power can interfere with or disturb this relationship.

3. You shall not take the name of the L‑rd, your G‑d, in vain: The above-described relationship may indeed be intimate and personal, but you must never lose perspective—He’s your Creator, not your buddy.

4. Remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it: Maintaining this relationship with G‑d requires effort on our part. All too often, we are so immersed in our daily routine that we forget that in actuality it is our connection with G‑d which matters most. Therefore, G‑d commanded us to allocate one day every week for “relationship maintenance.” This is the Sabbath, a day to focus on the real priorities in life, and to draw inspiration for the following week.

5. Honor your father and your mother: Why is this commandment included in the “between man and Creator” tablet? Doesn’t this command belong on the second tablet? Perhaps the lesson is that although we owe everything to G‑d, we must not forget to express gratitude to those people whom G‑d has empowered to help us in our journey through life. As the Talmud says: “The wine belongs to the host, but thanks is [also] said to the waiter.”

Second Tablet:

Although most of the following prohibitions are admonitions against egregious sins which most of us wouldn’t even consider committing, these prohibitions have subtle undertones which are applicable to every person.

1. Do not murder: Murder is a result of one person’s deeming another person totally insignificant. In truth, every human was created by G‑d in His holy image, and therefore has an innate right to exist. The first message we must internalize is the importance of respecting every individual. G‑d thinks this person is important; so should you.

G‑d thinks this person is important—so should you
2. Do not commit adultery: Misguided love. Yes, we must be loving, kind and respectful to everyone, but love isn’t a carte blanche which justifies all. There are guidelines which we must follow. Sometimes, faithful love—to a child, student, member of the opposite gender, etc.—entails being severe and abstaining from exhibiting love.

3. Do not kidnap:1 The essence of kidnapping is utilizing another for personal gain. Focus on being a real friend; don’t be in the relationship only for your own benefit. Be there for your friend even when it is uncomfortable or inconvenient for you.

4. Do not bear false witness against your neighbor: Every person is a judge. We are constantly observing our acquaintances and friends, judging their every word and action. We must be wary of a tendency to “bear false witness” in the process of issuing our personal verdict. We must always give the benefit of the doubt, taking into consideration various factors of which we may be unaware, ensuring that we don’t reach an erroneous judgment.

5. Do not covet your neighbor’s possessions: Be happy for your neighbor’s good fortune! All the abovementioned exercises pale in comparison with this final message imparted by the Ten Commandments. After you’ve trained yourself to intellectually respect your fellows and consistently view them in a positive light, now it’s time to get your heart involved. Love them. Be happy with their accomplishments. Share their sorrow during their difficult moments. Don’t be afraid of getting emotionally involved—that’s what family is all about!

Popularly translated as “Thou shall not steal,” the sages explain that this prohibition is actually against kidnapping—as opposed to the prohibition against stealing, which is mentioned in Leviticus 19:11.