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Rabbi's Erev Shabbat Message

02/14/2020 12:54:15 PM



Shabbat Yitro

Shabbat Shalom
Shir Tikvah Learning Community

2nd Friday
With Rabbi Brian and the rest of the Shir Tikvah Community
6:30 pm

Shabbat morning Torah Study at 9:00 am
Shabbat Storytime at 9:45 am

Due to an error, we also sent out this commentary last week. 
Apologies for any confusion

Rabbi Ariel Stone is on sabbatical until March. In her absence, Rabbi Brian Zachary Mayer offers his take on this week's parashah. 

How we interpret the Bible
can lead to wonderful learning
about the self.



Sea split. Rejoicing.



The sections

Yitro brings his daughter Zipporah and her two sons, Gershom and Eliezer, to his son-in-law Moses. (18:1-12)

Moses follows Yitro's advice and appoints judges to help him lead the people. (18:13-27)

The Children of Israel camp in front of Mount Sinai. Upon hearing the covenant, the Israelites respond, "All that God has spoken we will do." (19:1-8)

After three days of preparation, the Israelites encounter God at Mount Sinai. (19:9-25)


God gives the Ten Commandments aloud directly to the people. (20:1-14)


Frightened, the Children of Israel ask Moses to serve as an intermediary between God and them. Moses tells the people not to be afraid. (20:15-18)



rB’s Reflections on this portion
of The Book of Exodus



The Ten Commandments Game!

Here is Exodus 20:1-18. (KJV). 



I did the KJV (King James Version) because it feels authoritative. And it has verse numbers. 

The Hebrew doesn’t have verse numbers, vowels, or punctuation. Which, yes, leads to a lot of different interpretations.


1 And God spoke all these words, saying.


So far, so good.


Verse one was just to let us from that Moses is about to take down some divine dictation.


From here to the end of verse 18 is a what God said. While we review what Moses transcribed, let’s play demarcate the ten commandments.


Please number and circle the next sentences into a set of ten.


  • 2 I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

  • 3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

  • 4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

  • 5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

  • 6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

  • 7 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

  • 8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

  • 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:

  • 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:

  • 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

  • 12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

  • 13 Thou shalt not kill.

  • 14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.

  • 15 Thou shalt not steal.

  • 16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

  • 17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.

  • 18 Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off.

No matter how you got to 10, good job!


And, no matter how you got Ten Commandments from the above, you are probably in some good company.


There are different groupings according to:

  • The Talmud
  • Luther's Large Catechism
  • John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion
  • The Catholic Church, Orthodox Christians 
  • the Samaritan Pentateuch. 

Also, it seems that Augustine and Origen had a spat about their different ordering – I don’t quite get their beef.


There is no list of ten commandments.

There are lists.


Nothing is that simple.



What’s missing


The phrase in English, Hebrew, or Greek (decalogue) doesn’t show up in the Bible at all. 


Exactly zero times does anyone in the Bible refer to this collection of ten laws as the ten commandments.


Moreover, you know the image of five commandments on each of two tablets? 


The image of theography – God etching words onto the two tablets in Moses’s hands – happens ten plus chapters after the inconclusive listing above in Exodus 31:18. 


And, the best I can figure it from context is God etched “with the finger of God” laws about the sabbath. 


And even less clarity


The “ten commandments” are listed twice in the Bible. Once in the above passage from Exodus and then again, repeated, in the fifth book of the Bible, Deuteronomy.


Translate the word Deuteronomy from Greek, and you get “a second testimony.”  


And, historically, we know that this is what it was. 


The origins of the book are beautifully parallel to Joseph Smith recording “another testament of Jesus Christ.”


According to a seventh-century historical record, a scroll was found in the days of King Josiah, during a routine cleaning of the Temple in Jerusalem. The scroll, although written in a clearly different style than the previous four books of Moses, was authenticated as real by the prophetess Hulda. 


In “the other testament by God” – Deuteronomy –  this same list appears. Again without being called the ten commandments.


However, the list has a few slight differences.



But, differences, nonetheless.



For example, with regard to the sabbath day, Exodus commands us to KEEP IT where Deuteronomy extols that we should HONOR IT. 


Non-biblical literalists might see that this could be a problem.


Biblical literalists do not. Jewish tradition has maintained that God, because God has capabilities that we do not have, could have said ”keep” and “honor” at once and caused a miracle so that we heard both words at once. To hell with Occam’s razor.


Ten commandments, not so simple.




Tue, February 18 2020 23 Shevat 5780