TEN PLAGUES FOR TEN STATEMENTS
The lessons and ramifications of the Sinai event, in which Israel received the Ten Statements from Heaven (erroneously called “the Ten Commandments), are staggering for today’s world . First and foremost is the very concept of man being answerable to Divine commands. Then there is the concept of a covenant between the Creator and the created in which both sides are limited by the conditions of the pact. But few thinkers look at the wider context of what is arguably the most important event in history: that it occurred in the aftermath of the Ten Plagues, which brought the most powerful and advanced nation on earth, the world’s only superpower at the time, to its knees.
When one compares the bad political decisions that preceded Egypt’s demise and those that threaten today’s global society, it becomes clear that, however technology, population explosion, and globalism have transformed our world, the fundamental aspects of human behavior have changed little. If the Ten Statements are somehow connected to the Ten Plagues, it behooves us to explore that context to the fullest. The lessons to be gleaned about how HaShem relates to man are as priceless as they are relevant.
On the surface, the Ten seem to have little in common: A few of the 13 Principles of Faith (HaShem‘s Existence. The obligation to worship Him exclusively, the prophecy of Moshe). Selected, fundamental social laws prohibiting jealousy and legislating parental honor. Even one ritual, the commandment to keep Shabboth (the Sabbath Day). What do these select Statements all have in common? What is their purpose? Clearly they have a symbolic importance that transcends halakhah. (1)
I suggest that they can only be fully understood from the perspective of those who actually heard them and “saw the sounds” in person: the context of the entire Redemption experience. For them, the Statements at Sinai were the climactic aftermath of the Ten “Statements” that had just laid waste to Egypt, changing their lives forever.
Remember that, except for the tribe of Levi, who had preserved the traditions of the patriarchs, the newly-freed Hebrews (and how much more so the mixed multitude of Egyptians who had joined them) were ignorant of the most basic Torah concepts. So HaShem condensed His vast Torah (which would then continue to be written and taught throughout the sojourn in the desert) into a few statements that not only represented the entire Law, but served to underscore certain foundational principles. Accordingly, accepting the Ten was an acceptance of all 613.
Each Statement at Sinai came to replace corrupt, godless tenets of Egyptian culture; to give them a new world outlook – the foundation of a Torah lifestyle with Torah values. Such a revolution of thought could only succeed after an initial, preparatory step. For no matter how awesome the Sinai experience would be, replacing the old worldview of a nation, first required the uprooting the old, idolatrous worldview, so that new values could be planted. The Plagues that devastated Egypt had this educational function: to neutralize the pagan beliefs and values of Egyptian society that could block the way for Hebrews and gentiles to fully accept HaShem’s Law.
To understand how, consider that every individual who stood at Sinai had not only witnessed the Ten Plagues in terror and awe, but likely suffered through at least two of them personally. One out of every three or four of the new nation were non-Hebrews who had survived them all, losing family members, friends, and property. We can assume that the precise order and details of these events were well ingrained in everyone’s memory. Accordingly, so long as the connections between them are clear enough, the Ten Plagues, plague by plague, could effectively serve to prepare the nation and the world for the Ten Statements, statement by statement.
Let us now consider their respective orders, listing them side by side:
|The Ten Plagues||The Ten Statements|
|1||BLOOD||I am HaShem your God, who brought you out of Egypt, from the place of slavery.|
|2||FROGS||Do not have any other gods before Me….|
|3||LICE||Do not take the Name of HaShem your God in vain.|
|4||WILD CREATURES||Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy. You can work during the six weekdays… But Saturday is the Shabboth to HaShem your God.|
|5||EPIDEMIC||Honor your father and mother. You will then live long on the land that HaShem your God is giving you.|
|6||BOILS||Do not commit murder.|
|7||HAIL||Do not commit adultery.|
|8||LOCUSTS||Do not steal.|
|9||DARKNESS||Do not testify as a false witness against your neighbor.|
|10||DEATH OF THE FIRST-BORN||Do not be envious of your neighbor’s house. Do not be envious your neighbor’s wife… or anything else that is your neighbor’s.|
There may seem to be little or no connection between them at first glance, but let’s look deeper.
Plague One, Statement One
BLOOD – I am HaShem your God, who brought you out of Egypt, from the place of slavery.
When HaShem smote the Egyptians with the first plague, it had to be a plague that would introduce, in the RaMBaM’s words, “the foundation of foundations”: the knowledge of HaShem’s existence. That was impossible as long as the river Nile, Egypt’s object of worship and source of all sustenance, remained fresh and life-giving. Living in a hot, desert land with little rainfall, the ancient Egyptians depended on the regular, annual flooding of the Nile. The river was therefore perceived as a power in and of itself and revered as the very source of life. When HaShem turned the River into blood, killing all the fish, it sent a powerful message to the pagan mind: some previously unknown Master Deity had just rendered their Nile god impotent and irrelevant.
With full respect for the the Midrash as to the contrary, Exodus 8:19 infers that only from the third Plague did HaShem set Israel apart from the Egyptians. Accordingly, Israel suffered from the Plague of Blood with the Egyptians. And fittingly so, being that the Israelites had regressed to idol worship in Egypt.
Plague Two, Statement Two
FROGS – Do not have any other gods before Me….
The first Plague carried the message of HaShem’s existence and sovereignty. However, it did not suggest that worshipping other created beings was ruled out. The second Plague came to drive home a further concept: You may not fear any other powers (literally “have any other gods”) before the Master Deity. Since HaShem brought all existence into being, everything exists before Him, in His Presence. Worshipping anything besides Him means serving that which HaShem created to exist before Him. It is the equivalent of standing before the mightiest human emperor sitting on his high throne, and then, outside of protocol, turning 45 degrees to piously kneel and lie prostrate flat on the floor before one of a series of small figurines on the decorative railing… Not a wise idea.
The worst aspect of idolatry is not that HaShem‘s honor is slighted. Even worse, since idols have no divine power except that imparted to it by the believer in his mind, it is the worship of a false fantasy; worship of the irrational self. On this nearly irreversible track away from logic and reason, people worship an extension of their imagination, however demonic it may someday become.
The next plague came to allude to how despicable this is to the Almighty. He would cause something ugly and repulsive to be “created” from the defeated Nile god, to emerge from the river, and invade all Egypt. In another context, this “Nile creation,” the frog, might have been honored by Egypt as a power to reckon with in and of itself–like the Nile god… But now it must have been clear to all that this creature “before the Nile” was merely an agent of punishment by an largely unrecognized Master Deity.
Again, notwithstanding the legend of rabbis as to the contrary, verse 8:19 infers that Israel suffered from the Plague of Frogs together with all Egypt. Again, this was only fair, as the Israelites were idol worshippers in the land of their slavery.
Plague Three, Statement Three
LICE – Do not take the Name of HaShem your God in vain.
In Moshe’s initial encounter with the Creator, he asked to know God’s Name. This seems strange, since the Midrash teaches that Moshe knew the Divine Name, using it to kill the Egyptian taskmaster. Even according to the simple understanding of the text, Moshe was a Levite, whose tribe faithfully preserved the holy traditions of the nation. He was not only aware of his Israelite identity in Egypt, but likely to have been a bearer of Levitical tradition. (2) Moshe surely knew the Name of the God of His people.
Notice that at Moshe’s first encounter with HaShem at the Burning Bush, the Torah does not (according to the simple understanding of text), describe HaShem revealing the essence of His most sacred Name. This is only described much later in verses 6:2-3. Rather, HaShem replies to Moshe’s question, “I Shall Be What I Shall Be.” He then continues, bidding Moshe to speak to his people in the Name of “YHWH [expressing HaShem‘s eternity] the God of your forefathers, the God of Avraham, the God of Yiṣḥaq, and the God of Ya`aqov.”
Indeed, according to halakhah, “Ehiyeh” (I Shall Be) is one of seven sacred names of HaShem that may not be erased. However, HaShem’s response may well have been a mild form of rebuke. Ancient magic and sorcery involved the use of various “holy names” in incantations to cast spells and manipulate supernatural powers. This practice is alive and well in India, as well as in pseudo-Kabbalah (3) Considering Moshe’ upbringing, his request for a sacred name could hint to that magical perspective of the pagan world, in which Moshe was raised and educated. (4) It is not inconceivable that at this initial encounter with the Almighty, Moshe expected that he was to perform HaShem‘s wonders by means of such a magical name.
HaShem‘s answer carries a simple, powerful message:
“I am what I forever will be. I am unique and totally sovereign. You cannot control or manipulate Me with any Name or magical formula. My Name(s) convey deep and holy wisdom, and are never meant to be misused as tools of magic.”
This was the next message that the Almighty wanted to give anyone with the heart to consider the deeper meaning of the unfolding events. The Master Deity who demands exclusive worship is not like any other deity Egypt had been worshipping; He is totally unique. His Name can only be uttered in the context that He dictates. It can only be pronounced according to His rules. Fittingly, the Third Statement –not to take the Lord’s Name in vain– was foreshadowed by the first Plague that the necromancers couldn’t replicate with their silly ‘divine’ names – lice. Even they, for the first time, were forced to say, “It is the finger of God!” (Ex. 8:15) They discovered that HaShem is utterly unique; His ability to create puts even our greatest minds and technology to shame.
Lice are the tiniest creatures able to be seen by the naked eye. Similarly, taking HaShem’s Name in vain –such as reciting an improper blessing– is considered to be the tiniest, most insignificant error. Yet it was regarded by the two Tannaic giants, Ribbi Yoḥanan and Resh Laqish, as equivalent to taking God’s Holy Name in vain (if it is a conscious, careless mistake). Taking His Name in vain, particularly when swearing a vain oath, is one of the gravest sins, of which the Torah warns in the Third Statment, “HaShem will not allow the one who takes His name in vain to go unpunished.” (Ex. 20:6) (It should be noted that today, ignorance of the Laws of Blessings is ubiquitous.)
Plague Four, Statement Four
WILD CREATURES – Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy. You can work during the six weekdays… But Saturday is the Shabboth to HaShem your God.
In his Guide for the Perplexed, the RaMBaM explains the reasoning for the 4th Statement, the commandment to remember and guard the Shabboth:
“…no opinions retain their vitality except those which are confirmed, publicized, and by certain actions constantly revived among the people. Therefore we are told in the Law to honor this day, in order to confirm the principle of Creation which will spread in the world, when all peoples keep Shabboth on the same day.” (5)
In other words, the weekly day of rest was instituted in order to spread the fundamental principles of HaShem‘s existence, exclusivity, and uniqueness throughout the world.
Egyptian culture was rooted in a slave mentality (it isn’t for nothing that Egypt was literally called Beth `Avadim – the Home or Bastion of Slavery) that is not dissimilar to the one that characterizes the modern work world. One can imagine the following response from a non-Jewish manager of a sweatshop in a foreign country being asked to consider closing the factory on Shabboth:
“Are you nuts? How can you ask me to voluntarily do something to limit our productivity?! Why send our employees home for an entire day every seven days, losing 1/7 of our weekly profits, all for the religious concerns of a small minority? Our employees have vacation time, sick leave, and are not paid below minimum wage. Moreover, consistently setting aside an entire day each week from work, telephone, laundry, etc, besides being impractical, makes no rational sense. Next!”
What few secular people realize is that this attitude is no different, in principle, from that of ants, flies, beavers, birds – any industrious wild animal that cannot be tamed, and cannot voluntarily elect to cease its labors. Ribbi Neḥemiah understood the 4th plague, ‘arov, to be a swarm of flies. Ribbi Yehudah states that it denotes a mixture of wild animals. Another source states that it was a mixture of insects and snakes. All of these are wild, untamable creatures that cannot control their instinct to work. Moreover, they rely on nothing but their own strength and instinct. Godless human beings are no different. They claim, “my strength and the might of my arm made me this wealth.” No wonder that the “foundation of all foundations,” the awareness of HaShem‘s existence and a sense of obligation to serve Him, doesn’t easily take root in their hearts.
HaShem needed to prepare those who left Egypt for the Shabboth day, the day when the Jewish People demonstrate to the rest of the world man’s ability to transcend his animal instincts to labor, to produce, to horde; to rely totally on rash, instinctive judgment, rather than obey God’s higher call. He therefore sent wild creatures to invade Egypt, to punish them for their wild-animal approach to life.
The first three plagues corresponded to three laws that obligate gentiles as much as Jews. The fourth plague paved the way for Shabboth, which would obligate the Jewish people only. Accordingly and fittingly, it is the first plague in which HaShem distinguished the Hebrews, sparing their land from His wrath. Furthermore, although he changed his mind after the plague was over, it is the first plague that moved Pharaoh to recognize the Hebrews’ right and obligation to serve our God (Ex. 8:24):
And Pharaoh said: ‘I will let you go, that you may sacrifice to HaShem your God in the wilderness; only you shall not go very far away; entreat [HaShem] for me.’
Indeed, although it would later be mimicked by Christianity and Islam, the Shabboth –on its original day from Adam’s creation– would become and remain the exclusive mode of Divine service of the Jewish People.
Plague Five, Statement Five
EPIDEMIC – Honor your father and mother. You will then live long on the land that HaShem your God is giving you.
The Fifth Statement given to the Hebrews was, “Honor your father and mother.” A consequence is given: “You will then live long on the land that HaShem your God is giving you.” Being that Torah wisdom and observance is ideally passed down from parents to children (not merely institutions to children!), honor of parents would be essential for the Hebrews to keep the Torah throughout the ages, preserving the national identity and national will required to maintain Israelite sovereignty on to the Land through thick and through thin.
To prepare the nation for the Fifth Statement, the Fifth Plague was an epidemic among Egypt’s livestock. In those days, livestock was the principle inheritance passed down from father to son. If HaShem was giving a message that parents should be honored, regardless of what is in their will, it is fitting that He would target their livestock, their wealth. It would have forced children to relate to fathers with no promise of an inheritance.
It is reasonable to believe that, in the crucible of Egyptian bondage, the Hebrews did honor their parents, given their strong sense of tribal identity. Fittingly, their land was spared again, while Egypt was punished again for Pharaoh’s stubbornness (suggesting that nations deserve their leaders) – this time with a plague that threatened to remove the Egyptians from their land.
Plague Six, Statement Six
BOILS – Do not commit murder.
The 6th Plague, the boils that appeared on the Egyptians’ skin, was, like all the Plagues, a direct punishment for Pharaoh’s obstinacy. However, it also sent a powerful message to anyone willing to consider the implications of what was happening:
- As the nation was guilty of a sin involving the dead bodies of human beings, so were their own bodies smitten, pock-marked with dead skin.
- As people imagine that such a sin can be covered up, so would HaShem advertise the message of their guilt all over the surface of their skin.
- Befitting a crime involving total destruction and loss, so was the punishing Plague carried out through ash, furnace soot scattered in the wind.
- Befitting a national crime in which Egypt had innocents were buried in the dust of the earth, so would the soot “settle like dust on all Egypt… when it falls on man or beast…”
The nation was being taken to task for the sin of murder.
The Midrash relates that Pharaoh had the blood of the firstborn Hebrew babies collected and publicly bathed his body in it during their springtime festival. Now his body would be “bathed” in painful boils. The ash Moshe threw into the air brings to mind a later holocaust of the Israelites over 3,000 years after the first systematic slaughter of the Hebrews in Egypt. Still within living memory, millions of our people were murdered, enslaved, and burned in furnaces; their bodies reduced to ash. “You shall not murder!” HaShem thundered at Mt. Sinai. It was a restatement of one of the Seven Laws given to Noaḥ, obligating all mankind. In regards to this crime, the Hebrews were innocent; their bodies were spared.
One might ask, why were the Egyptians not punished in kind, by being massacred (the Tenth Plague only targeted the firstborn)? The answer, to my understanding, is profound: HaShem‘s compassion is beyond our comprehension. Accordingly, it is a basic principle that the Torah was given to teach and lift mankind up; not to destroy us. This is well stated in RaMBaM’s Mishneh Torah:
“Here you learn that the laws of the Torah are not a force of vengeance in the world, but rather a source of compassion, kindness, and peace in the world.”(Laws of Shabboth 2:3)
Plague Seven, Statement Seven
HAIL – Do not commit adultery.
Many otherwise decent people today commit sexual crimes in the eyes of the Torah, whitewashing their actions as being a private affair – not anyone else’s business; certainly not an insult to God, who they believe “understands” them and couldn’t be terribly bothered. They still consider themselves “good people.” The Vilna Gaon understands sexual immorality to be a crime between man and himself. The RaMBaM clearly views sexual immorality as a direct crime against HaShem, and I believe that both views are profoundly important.
Sodom and `Amorah (Gomorrah) are the arch-example of sexual immorality until this day (hence the word “sodomy”). Yet many people are ignorant of the widespread promiscuity of ancient Egypt, attested to by the Midrash, and corroborated by the shameless pornographic artwork the Egyptians left behind on the walls of their tombs. One tradition that stands out among the rest, is that the Egyptian taskmaster killed by Moshe for beating a Hebrew slave was a shameless adulterer. It is when Moshe heard how he had entered the Hebrew man’s home at night, tied him up, and raped his wife before his eyes, that he struck him down, executing Noahide justice. (Sefer HaYashar, portion Shemoth)
Sodom and ‘Amorah were destroyed by fire (or lightning bolts) and brimstone (a reaction by God that seems to indicate He was a bit bothered). (6) This cataclysm only occurred a few hundred years before the Exodus; the memory of the event would have been strong and widespread.
It is therefore not surprising that the Egyptian plague that would pave the way for the Statement “Do not commit adultery” was a frightening storm of fiery hailstones; hail with thunder and lightening striking the ground, or perhaps a heavy shower of flaming meteorites. According the Midrash, it as a miraculous joining of fire and ice together – which ordinarily do not get along well together. This would represent the forbidden unions so rampant in Egypt. Once again, the innocent Hebrews were spared. The message must have given a jolt to anyone with the heart to ponder the meaning behind this catastrophe.
Plague Eight, Statement Eight
LOCUSTS – Do not steal.
There is a popular notion that being a “good person” is far more important than being “religious”. The truth is, however, that neither one perfectly represents that to which we are bidden to aspire: Arguably there is no Divinely-endorsed religion on this earth; only HaShem’s objective Will as He gave it to Moshe, as the prophets and sages of Israel received and passed it down. Accordingly, even religious Jews can be following customs that are commonly associated with Judaism, and be transgressing halakhah.
Likewise, “good” or “bad” are purely subjective terms. Use of such hazy terms outside of a Torah context is often an attempt to impose invented ideals and morals on others. There simply cannot be an absolute, universal standard of ethics that we could trust, but one known to be from HaShem Himself. Even if all mankind could somehow agree on an artificial standard, however “scientific”, it would quickly change over time (as popular concepts of right and wrong continually evolve and devolve), eventually falling into suspicion and contempt.
For example, without a belief in HaShem and a tradition on His definition of theft, an action considered at one time to be theft, would eventually be considered “lawful borrowing”, or “taking what is rightfully his”.
Even though it is not mentioned in the Bible, it is not a leap to conclude that a nation whose leader asked “Who is HaShem that I should obey Him” was not only idolatrous, but thieving as well. This may also be implied by HaShem’s command to the Hebrews that they drain Egypt of its wealth upon leaving. Perhaps the Egyptians’ forwardness in giving the Hebrews all they asked for was an admission of their guilt.
Accordingly, Egypt was punished by an Eighth Plague of locusts, one of the most vicious thieves of the natural world. Months of grueling field labor can be obliterated by a single swarm. The crop on which an entire community depends for sustenance can be devoured in a number of hours. It is no surprise that this was the agent of punishment by HaShem, who had already commanded Noaḥ and his descendants not to steal. It is fitting that HaShem sent them this Eighth Plague, as it prepared the way for the Eighth Statement, “Do not steal.” Once more, the Israelites were innocent of this crime and were spared; they would continue on to hear HaShem’s Voice at Sinai.
Plague Nine, Statement Nine
DARKNESS – Do not testify as a false witness against your neighbor.
False testimony impairs the ability of a community to carry out civil justice, which is one of the universal Seven Noahide Laws. False testimony about one’s fellow is a conscious desire to cover up the truth. If truth brings light to the world, nothing darkens it like false testimony. And like theft, even though the Torah doesn’t mention it, a nation that didn’t know HaShem couldn’t have been careful in this regard – especially given its track record with the most basic human crimes: idolatry, murder, and sexual deviance.
Perhaps Pharoah’s unwillingness to admit the significance of the miracles he personally experienced –his denial of HaShem’s sovereignty in the face of awesome proof– was tantamount to false testimony. Measure for measure, Egypt was smitten with a plague of thick darkness. Israel, on the contrary, accepted Moshe’ prophecy merely on the basis of two small miracles that could be imitated by Pharaoh’s necromancers! Accordingly, we were spared, Barukh HaShem.
In popular, Israeli culture, secular politicians and media personalities take pride in their disillusioned, down-to-earth outlook; an earthy, ultra-realism. Yet for all their self-styled maturity, too many are blind to a higher reality that requires slightly more thinking and maturity than badmouthing others, vacationing on Shabboth, cheating on their spouses, or jeapordizing public security in the name of political correctness in order to remain in power. Their obstinate refusal to question their shallow paradigms in the face of the stark suffering of the people in this country is comparable to Pharaoh’s. Like the king of Egypt, we have such dramatic evidence of HaShem‘s protecting Hand over us – particularly the undeniable miracles we continue to experience in the never ending war against us by the Arab enemy… miracles that are arguably much more convincing than Moshe’ staff and hand miracles.
Barukh HaShem, Israel’s Torah-observant Jews, regardless of their faults, are so praiseworthy for their steadfast faith, like the Hebrews who left Egypt. May we all –the Torah-observant, the non-observant, and everyone in between– be roused from our slumber and stumbling, return to HaShem in full repentance, and be redeemed as our ancestors in Egypt.
Plague Ten, Statement Ten
DEATH OF THE FIRST-BORN – Do not be envious of your neighbor’s house. Do not be envious of your neighbor’s wife… or anything else that is your neighbor’s.
The Torah records the terrifying climax of the Ten Plagues as follows: “HaShem killed every first-born in Egypt, from the first-born of Pharaoh, sitting on his throne, to the first-born of the prisoner in the dungeon…” The Gemara asks an oft-overlooked question: Pharaoh we can understand. But the poor, miserable prisoners in the dungeon – what had they done wrong?! The answer is simple: Like most Egyptians, they had no direct hand in the persecution. But when they heard about the drowning of the Hebrew infants, they stamped their feet with pleasure and glee.
What could elicit such an evil reaction? Prison inmates generally feel a deep, raging hatred for the establishment that imprisoned them; they often feel a kinship with any other underdog the establishment has oppressed. Here we see just the opposite. The truth is, like many of the gentile locals in the foreign lands of Israel’s wanderings, the Egyptians had become intensely jealous of the Hebrews. Their envy was given a voice in the bitter remark from the Pharaoh of the Oppression: “The Israelites are becoming too numerous and strong for us…” This feeling must have been widespread, down to the grassroots of society, like anti-Semitism throughout history.
HaShem had a special punishment in store for such wicked jealousy that resulted in the massacre of innocent baby boys. It was the Tenth Plague that corresponded to the Tenth Statement He would give to His People: that we never be jealous of our neighbor, nor covet anything he has. Just as they were envious of our beautiful children to the point of murder, HaShem took away their own dear firstborn sons.
In doing so he gave them the opportunity to overcome any envy they had among themselves. Envy is rooted in a feeling of inequality. One feels envy when his neighbor has something that he lacks. Therefore HaShem was careful to bereave every single Egyptian father, from the Pharaoh down to the lowliest prisoner in the dungeon. The Egyptians could learn to empathize with the plight of others, from the Hebrews who had been abused and their children murdered, to their own suffering brethren.
Envy is further rooted in a feeling of injustice. One feels jealous when he believes that he has less than he deserves, while his neighbor has more than is rightfully his. This is tied to a lack of belief or trust in HaShem. Fittingly, just as He brought the Egyptians down to the pit of anguish, he openly spared and protected those who had opted to trust HaShem that night, observing the first Passover. In one awesome, terrifying miracle, he did both.
One simple, great lesson to be learned from all of this is as follows:
HaShem expects human beings to open their eyes and hearts to what is happening around them and actually think. I not only wrote this essay as a Jew to fellow Jews. The Giving of the Ten Statements at Sinai was ultimately for the entire world. Our Sages taught:
The entire universe, trembled with the piercing sound of the ram’s horn. Thunder and lightning filled the skies. Then – silence. Not a bird chirped. No creature spoke. The seas did not stir. Even the angels ceased to fly, as the voice was heard: “I am HaShem your God …” (Yalqut Shim`oni)
Without giving into ungrounded imagination and paranoia, may all of us, Jews and non-Jews, be inspired to pay attention to the messages HaShem sends us even through the events in our lives that seem perfectly natural.
May we be moved to learn both Torah and the natural sciences honestly and seriously with humble and pure hearts, that we might understand those messages in the correct light.
And may our inspiration be translated into action: to take HaShem‘s Law seriously (all of it – according to our respective Covenants at Mt. Sinai and Ararat), to make His Will our own, thereby becoming a bright light to those who remain in darkness. And in this, may we merit to be spared from all plague and terror.
- As far as halakhah is concerned, the Ten Statements do not stand out in importance above any other part of the Law. At one time they were recited in the Temple with the daily recital of the Shema’, but the Sages removed it from the daily liturgy in response to apostates who fell into the grievous error that there are just 10 miṣwoth (Commandments) – not 613, HaShem forbid. In fact, according to RaMBaM, the custom of standing up while hearing the Ten Statements being publicly read from the Torah scroll in synagogue is one rooted in apostasy.
^ go back
- We can surmise as such when we consider Moshe’s warm reunion with Aharon his brother at Mt. Sinai many years later (4:27-31), suggesting they had a warm and strong relationship back in Egypt. Note how, in Moshe’s initial encounter with HaShem, God mentions Avraham, Yiṣḥaq, and Ya`aqov with no further introduction, as historical individuals known to Moshe.
^ go back
- Psuedo-Kabbalah, as opposed to genuine Qabbalah (as our revealed tradition is plainly referred to in the Mishnah and Mishneh Torah) and certain aspects of Torath HaSod.
^ go back
- Like all of the great, righteous people of the TaNaKh, Moshe is not a static, flat character, but one who grows and develops, which could warrant a special essay in itself.
^ go back
- Moses Maimonides. Guide For The Perplexed, translated from Arabic by M. Friedlander PhD. New York: Dover Publications, 1956. 414 pp.
^ go back
- This is most likely to have been fiery, hot lava raining down on them from that which had been shot high up into the air from an opened fissure in the Syria-African rift, which the Dead Sea sits upon.
^ go back