Blog Yitro Shevat 20 5779 בלוג יִתְרוֹ,כ’ שבט תשע”ט

This parashah Yitro contains the essence of the entire Scriptures, the Ten Commandments. The Creator’s revelation was given to the people of Israel together with the “erev rav” in our midst, the mixed multitude. Where did He give it to the people? In Jerusalem, Israel? NO, it was on Mount Sinai (in Saudi Arabia) in order to demonstrate the universality of His message. Yitro, the father-in law of Moshe was not part of Israel, yet he is a very important part of our history, another point to demonstrate that this is a universal message. Today however, my people have kept it for themselves, proud that it was only for us, the Jews while the others could have a rabbinic invention –the Noahide laws. Sadly, the other religions have also accepted this lie. As a matter of fact, they say that if you keep this Torah, God’s Word, you are under a curse! They say that their later writings improved His Word.

Just before giving us the Ten Commandments, The Creator called Israel to be a kingdom of priests, separated for Him and asked if they would accept them; we needed to choose to obey, and they said… “all that you say, we will do!” Contrary to all the great religions, the Creator doesn’t impose Himself upon us.

Rabbi Yeshua summed up the Ten Commandments with “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, your soul and your resources and love your neighbor as yourself.” The two center commandments, four and five represent us; we are the hinge between God and our neighbors. Love means to be loyal, it is not a mushy emotion. If we are to love our neighbor, we first need to love ourselves.

We tend to take the words of the Ten Commandments literally but each one contains a much deeper message for us. Remember that God is teaching us principles not laws, by which we can live a full and rich life.

First, He begins in Ex. 20 with The LORD said, “I am the LORD your God who took you out of the land of Egypt from the house of slavery.” He is pointing to a historical moment in history with many witnesses…FACT! The following generations could therefore trust that He would always be with them.

Second, “Do not make other gods before me.” We were not to make any images, statues, anything or anyone to which we would bow down and worship. Some religions have eliminated these two commandments because they do not serve their purpose, thus usurping God’s authority.

Third, this brings us to (Ex.20:7) “Do not take My Name in vain”. He is the God of history who shares His Divinity with no one and here He is not saying that we cannot pronounce His Name ( יהוה – Yud Heh Vav Heh) rather He is saying “do not put words in my mouth”! Do not say that something comes from Him when it really comes from us, for example when we say, “God is my witness.” Rabbi Yeshua told us, “do not swear, but let your yes be yes and your no be no”. These first three commandments are called Mitzvoth and are directly related to us and our relationship with the Creator.

The fourth, to guard the Shabbat and the fifth, “honor your father and your mother that your days may be long upon this land” are both for us. The Shabbat is for our well-being since the Creator doesn’t need to rest. It has however become a heavy burden replete with a multiplicity of rules and regulations instead of being a time of joy during which we take the time to develop a deeper relationship with our Creator. The fifth means that our life will be extended as we have reverence for those who gave us life. Our parents no matter how bad they were, are a representation of the Creator, the Giver of life.

The last five are all based upon our relationship with our neighbor. Think of each of them in relation first to ourselves. When we see ourselves as the central character in what God is trying to show us, we can see these in a different light. The sixth is “do not commit murder.” In other words, do not destroy anyone’s life. Do not murder yourself or do not destroy yourself. When we say that we hate ourselves, feel that we are good for nothing or when we despise our lives, we destroy ourselves.

Seventh, (verse 13) is “do not commit adultery”. We always take this in the sexual sense or as cheating on your spouse. It has a deeper meaning as when we exchange something real for ‘the genuine imitation’. When you come here on Shabbat to worship God, but you are here only to show off, not with the desire to render homage to the Creator; if it is only a façade, you are committing adultery. You are not who you say you are. How many of us play that game! Imitations are not the real thing, they are an “adulterated” version. It is so important to be yourself. If you don’t like something about yourself do something to improve.

Eighth,” do not steal”. Again, with the perspective of self, “what are you robbing yourself of?” When you think that you are good for nothing, ashamed of who you are or you compare yourself with others, you are robbing yourself of the unique identity given to you by the Creator and lose your intrinsic value as a person!

Ninth, “do not bear false witness”. This is “lashon harah” – the evil tongue, do not gossip. It is similar to committing murder – character assassination. When you speak against others, you are destroying their character. Remember that we are all made in the image of God. Don’t blame others for your own faults but take responsibility and repair the damage.

Tenth, “do not covet”. Do not envy others. Rejoice for what others have and be content with what you have. Improve, help others. When you get out of your own self-centeredness, you become free to be the person you were made to be. What is the obstacle for your development? Are you hard-headed, obstinate, judgmental, holier than thou, or have you learned to accept who you are, to do teshuva and to try to do better? When you think about the needs of others more than you think about what you need, you will be free. That is the value of living your life through the lens of the Ten Commandments. This is the covenant of the Creator with His people Israel, in order for Israel will share it with the rest of the world as Ohr L’Goyim – Light to the World!

Ranebi  רנב”י

Edited by Peggy Pardo