Commandments Express: Beginning with the Basics

Commandments Express: Beginning with the Basics

The Jewish people have been released from the servitude of Egypt. They have begun, with God’s direction to gain independence and form an identity. Now God prepares to meet them in a pyrotechnic sound and light extravaganza, the likes of which have never been experienced before or after. At Mt. Sinai, God presents the famous Ten Commandments, which besides their global notoriety, can be considered a founding or basic set of commandments.

Beyond impressing upon the Jews His awesomeness, God commands it. “I am God, your God that took you out of Egypt”, demands believing there is a God [Commandment #25]. The flip side of belief in God is non-belief in any other divinity, hence a continuation of commandments that demonstrate ones non-belief:

To entertain no thought that there is any other god [Commandment #26].

To make no idol to worship [Commandment #27].

Not to bow down and prostrate oneself to an idol [Commandment #28].

Not to worship an idol in the accepted manner [Commandment #29].

Once we have the belief system in place, both on the positive side of believing in God and on the negative side of not believing or even remotely demonstrating acceptance or respect of false gods, we move on to the realm of action.

Perhaps the most primary aspect of action is actually speech. Here we continue demonstrating both our respect and allegiance to God, by not taking his name in vain [Commandment #30].

Next and still in the realm of speech, is consecrating what is probably the most fundamental and demonstrative exhibition of Judaism: the Sabbath and declaring it holy with words [Commandment #31].

Now that God has broached the subject of the Sabbath, the actual prohibition to work on the Sabbath follows [Commandment #32].

Once the primacy and exclusivity of God has been transmitted and the primacy of the Sabbath is in place, another fundamental commandment is pronounced – honoring ones father and mother [Commandment #33]. This completes the first “half” of the Ten Commandments (which aren’t really ten commandments but rather ten statements that incorporate more than one commandment each in some cases).

The first half of the Ten Commandments are traditionally considered those between Man and God (even honoring ones parents, as they are considered in a sense partners with God in creating their child). The second half deals with very basic concrete issues between Man and his fellow Man.

In terms of relationships between men, things don’t get more direct or basic than “Don’t kill” [Commandment #34].

Right after the commandment that deals with breaking the bonds of life, is the commandment that deals with breaking the bonds of family life: “Do not commit adultery” [Commandment #35]. This is perhaps the first commandment that introduces an obvious higher ethic in interpersonal relationships.

Another primal crime that leads to the breakdown of society is the heinous “Do not kidnap” [Commandment #36]. Society is broken down, not only by violent actions, but also by a violation of speech. “To give no false testimony” [Commandment #37] reflects such an issue.

The last of the Ten Commandments gets to perhaps the root of many societal ills. “Do not covet anything belonging to one’s fellow man” [Commandment #38].

Once the pivotal Ten Commandments have been imparted, God continues with commandments that are still somewhat related, but are now perhaps more nuanced and sophisticated.

Drawing on the commandment against idol worship, God commands “To make no image of a human being, even for ornamentation” [Commandment #39].

The main religious conduit of the day was the use of the altar for sacrificial offerings. As metal was used for sculpting stone, there is an aversion to using metal on altar stones to add any images. Simple unadulterated stones needed to be used. The command is fairly strict and prohibits building an altar out of stones that have even been touched by a metal instrument [Commandment #40].

While discussing the topic of the altar, the command of not ascending the Altar by steps is introduced [Commandment #41]. A ramp had to be built. Once God has revealed Himself to the Children of Israel in all His glory a resulting humility is a consequence. Ascending via smaller footsteps on a ramp rather than by striding on stairs, which might show more of ones legs (they wore flowing robes back then), would be a more appropriate sign of modesty and humility when approaching and encountering God.

God has now laid the foundation with this set of commandments. In the following section He gets in gear with a broad, long and detailed list of a range of commandments.

chartinstructions

Beginning with the Basics -- Commandments

Beginning with the Basics -- Commandments

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s