For the week of February 14, 1998
18 Shevat 5758
And God spoke all these words (Exodus/Shemot 20:1)
Torah means teaching or direction. It is God's instructions on how to live this life. If we follow his ways we will live, and live well!. To depart from his path is death.
Some find this negative and constraining. They do not want a God who tells them what to do. And yet we are happy to receive the countless TV and radio shows, books and magazines, songs and movies that proclaim a great assortment of conflicting philosophies, each one insisting that their way is best. Why then do we get defensive when presented with God's way?
Some think that God is more interested in getting in the way of our desires than in providing us with an abundant fulfilling life. But we will see how in this week's portion, what God wants is really the best for us.
In the Ten Commandments we discover the high quality of life God provides us for us. We will briefly look at each commandment.
I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me (2,3).
The first commandment reminds the people of Israel of what they had just gone through and establishes loyalty to God alone. We all need to acknowledge what God has already done for us in the past. The people of Israel, helplessly enslaved in Egypt, were saved by God. Today all of us can look back and acknowledge what God through the Messiah has done, dying for our sins, so that we might have eternal life. How can we have any other gods?
You shall not make for yourself an idol (4-6).
It is human nature to make for ourselves tangible objects of intangible things. God here shows us that we need to keep ourselves from living in the fantasy that we can derive life from what we ourselves have made. We are the products of Someone greater than ourselves, to forget that is to lower ourselves and to become like the very things we have made.
Remember the Sabbath day (8-11)
God invented rest. Without this commandment we would think that life totally depends on us. We would be unable to let go of our responsibilities for even a moment. By entering God's Sabbath rest we acknowledge him as the giver of life and the provider of all our needs. By stopping our work for a day we regain proper perspective and realize that our success does not lie in ourselves but in God.
Honor your father and mother (12).
We did not pick our parents. To honor them is to honor God. To hate our parents is to run away from ourselves, for in them lies our heritage. If we disdain them, we will find that we can't even learn from their mistakes and will often repeat them.
You shall not commit murder (13)
No life is cheap to God. Even in times of great anger and desperation we need to preserve life.
You shall not commit adultery (14).
God knows that at times we have a tendency to put pleasure ahead of our most important relationships. This temptation is often greater when those relationships go through time of great difficulty. We need to be reminded that we all would benefit by preserving these relationships. Our whole society suffers when we take the easy way out.
You shall not steal (15).
God wants to protect what we have worked hard to earn. He knows how our desire to take what is not rightfully ours easily overtakes us. This commandment allows us to live in peace with each other by providing boundaries and trust.
You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor (16)
Over and over again we see in the commandments God's desire to provide us with a society that allows people to live in peace. Through the avoidance of slander and the upholding of honesty we help each other to live life to its fullest.
You shall not covet (17).
We need to get our eyes off of what others have and accept what God has provided. Otherwise we will never become the unique person God has made each of us to be, but rather copies of those around us. Through contentment we can be free to be what God wants us to be.