May 25, 2024 |


Posted on June 15, 2016

At Shavuot we celebrate Matan Torah, the giving of the Torah at Mt Sinai and we hear the Aseret HaDibrot (Ten Commandments) chanted.  During our class session, we prepared for this event by exploring the Ten Commandments.  Each student received a mixed up set of cards with the 10 Commandments and used a Chumash to order them. 
Some scholars suggest that the first five commandments are mitzvot between People and God and the second five are mitzvot between People.  Students then placed their cards accordingly.
The Ten Commandments  הדיברות עשרת
Laws regulating relationships
between people and God
Laws regulating relationships
between people
I am the Lord Your God Who Brought You Out of Land of Egypt, Out of the House of Bondage.  (Exodus 20:2)
You Shall Not Murder             (Exodus 20:13)
You Shall Have No Other Gods Before Me                              (Exodus 20:3)
You Shall Not Commit Adultery (20:13)
You Shall not Carry the Name of the Lord Your God in Vain                     (Exodus 20:7)
You Shall Not Steal                 (Exodus (20:13)
Remember the Sabbath Day to Make it Holy
(Exodus 20:8)
You Shall Not Bear False Witness Against Your Neighbor                           (Exodus 20:13)
Honor Your Father and Your Mother         
(Exodus 20:12)
You Shall Not Covet Your Neighbor’s House:  You Shall Not Covet Your Neighbor’s Wife, or His Male or Female Slave, or His Ox or His Donkey, or Anything that is Your Neighbor’s     (20:14)
We discussed these vertical lists of laws.  Then we examined them horizontally: How can we understand these in parallel?  A sample of our discussion follows:
·      I am the Lord your God & You shall not murder:  Students suggested that since people are God’s creations and created b’tzelem hashem (in the image of God), killing a person would be killing one of God’s creations and an image of God. 
·      You shall not carry the name of the Lord in vain & You shall not steal:  By misusing the name of God, a person is stealing God’s reputation.
The philosopher Abraham ben Chiyya suggested a different organization:
Relations between:
God and Humans
Human and Family
Human and Human
Students noted that this table has just nine cells however there are ten commandments.  Ben Chiyya believed that the first commandment, “I am the Lord your God,” was a statement not a commandment.  We wondered if it were a statement of ‘I am God, you’re not’ or if it was intended to be the commandment to believe in God.
Students attempted to duplicate ben Chuiyya’s representation with their cards.  All suggestions were accepted as long as the student had a reason for why he/she placed a mitzvah accordingly.
Students thought philosophically about  how the Aseret HaDibrot are explained and related to each other based on these structures.

Prior to joining the Shavuot service in the sanctuary, we celebrated our learning with cheese Danish—Yummy!