Ten Commandments of Judaism

The Ten Commandments of Judaism (Aseres Hadibros,) are category headings that incorporate all six hundred and thirteen mitzvos (commandments) according to the great commentator, Even Ezra (Shmos 20:2,)

The Even Ezra goes on to explain that the Aseres Hadibros follow a set order based on the three major faculties of a human being; leiv (heart/ thought,) lashon (speech,) maaser (action.)

Analysing the Ten Commandments of Judaism

On closer study, one sees that the Even Ezra equates heart with thought and emotions. With this in mind, the breakdown of the Ten Commandments of Judaism is as follows:

First Set (In Hebrew rhs)

Anoichi H’… (I am God…) - machshava (thought)

Lo yiheye lecha … (have no other gods …) - machshava

Lo tisa … (Do not use God’s name in vain) - dibur (speech)

Zachor… Shabbat (Remember the Sabbath) - maaseh (action)

Kibbud av vaem (Honour father and Mother) - maaseh

Second Set (In Hebrew lhs)

Lo Tirtzach (Do not murder) - maaseh

Lo tinaf (Do not commit adultery) - maaseh

Lo tignov (Do not steal/ kidnap) - maaseh

Lo taane … (Do not bare false witness) - dibur

Lo tachmod (Do not covet) - machshava

Let’s see what the relevance of this order is.

If we look closer we can see that the order of the Ten Commandments corresponds to the order of development of specific relationships, between a person and Hashem (God,) (see Definition of Ritual,) interpersonal (see Jewish Ethics) and intrapersonal (see Moral Matters.)

The relationship with Hashem starts with thought; one develops recognition of Hashem through His acts in the world and this inspires love and fear of Hashem and a drive to know Him.

This in turn inspires one to become emotionally connected to Hashem by talking to and about Hashem in (prayer and praise.) Finally, this leads to one wishing to align one’s actions with Hashem’s ratzon (Will).  

Rav Chaim Velozhen ztk”l’. (zecher tzaddik vekadosh livracha – remember the righteous and holy for blessing,) (Nefesh Hachaim, Shaar 1: Perek 14 - 17) explains that Hashem created man with 3 vessels: Moach (mind) which houses the neshama (soul) is the vessel of thought, leiv (heart) is the vessel of ruach (spirit) which drives dibur (speech) and koved (liver) is the vessel of nefesh (life-force) which drives the physical actions.

The higher vessel reaches up to Hashem and at the same time influences the one below.

So the set of dibros (Ten Commandments) which deal with relating to Hashem go machshava, dibur, maaseh. the highest faculty, moach reaches for understanding of Hashem’s ratzon and influences the leiv to drive speech. The heart drives the spirit to perform all one’s deeds lesheim shamayim.

Relationships between human beings work in reverse. The first step in developing a human relationship is action-based, doing, seeing touching etc, the next step is to talk to and about the other and at the highest level one’s thoughts are one with the other. This is exemplified by the famous statement of Rav Aryeh Levin ztk”l’ to the doctor saying: my wife’s foot is hurting us.

Thus the set of dibros dealing with human relationships go maaseh, dibur, machshava.

 

The order of the Ten Commandments of Judaism is a reflecting continuum through which one continually grows.

So the more one develops the rhs, the more one’s actions are shamayim (heaven) - based and the greater sensitivity one has to one’s fellow creations, which leads to growth in the lhs set to the point where one’s thoughts are one with one’s fellows and directed by the ratzon Hashem and one can better fulfil Anoichi etc.

The last of the dibros, lo tachmod is actually only transgressed when some action is taken to attain the other's possessions, but it is written as an intrapersonal mitzvah ie not to desire within one's heart – which is the highest level of interpersonal relationship where one’s thoughts and desires match one’s actions.

Thus eg. one gives tzeddaka with a joyous countenance and heart.

This order reflects the depth of understanding that Torah reveals about the human psyche. Regarding the relationship with Hashem it is easier in thought and harder in action and conversely with people it is easier in action and harder in thought.

The uniqueness of the Torah and the Jew, as realised in the Ten Commandments of Judaism, is the requirement of the rounded individual where one must work on perfecting all 3 levels.


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