Telephone Torah Study: Divine Revelation and The Ten Commandments
This week’s Torah portion (Thursday, 1/16 4-5pm) is a real dandy, Yitro (Ex. 18:1-20:23). God and Israel make the Covenant, the Israelites witness Divine Revelation and receive the Ten Commandments. To join in on the conference call, please dial 702-851-4044, when prompted punch in 2, then our pass code 22252#.
Jonathan Neril, the project manager of the Jewish Environmental Parsha Initiative, discusses how materialism can consume the Divine in one’s life. ‘God of Love and Material Desire: There is a Lot to Learn from the Commandment Not to Covet’
The Ten Commandments given in Parashat Yitro culminate with the command not to covet: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, his manservant, his maidservant, his ox, his donkey, or whatever belongs to your neighbor (Exodus 20:14).” Rabbi Yaakov Tzvi Mecklenburg, a 19th century Torah commentator, explores this commandment, offering a Jewish approach to spiritual living and material consumption.
Rabbi Mecklenberg relates this verse to another commandment: “you shall love the Eternal One your God with all your heart (Deuteronomy 6:5).” Why, Rabbi Mecklenberg asks, would it not have been sufficient to write “You shall love God… with your heart”? What is the significance of “all your heart”?
This week’s Torah portion, Yitro, has the show stopping Cecil B. DeMille scene of God’s revelation to the Israelites. In Ex. 19:16 it says, “On the third day, as morning dawned, there was thunder, and lightening, and a dense cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud blast of the shofar; and all the people who were in the camp trembled.” The Torah says that even Mt. Sinai trembled. Moses brought the people to the bottom of the mountain and God descended upon it in fire. The mountain was smoking while God revealed the Ten Commandments.
Some of the commandments seem obvious, such as commandment six: “You shall not (murder) kill.” Of course, you shouldn’t kill another person. I don’t need a commandment to tell me that. But, I came to realize with a slight tweak it has a lot to say to me. How many times have you heard someone say, “Oh, I’m just killing time…” I’ve been guilty of that. Judaism though teaches us to treasure time. Psalm 90 says “Teach us to treasure each day so that we may get a heart of wisdom.” In other words, it reminds us to count our days or better yet to make each day count. Traditionally, upon waking and while still in bed, one says, I thank You, living and eternal Sovereign, for You have mercifully returned my soul, abundant is Your faithfulness. The gift of a new day is not taken for granted.
1. “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Me.” (Ex. 19:4)
2. On the third day, as morning dawned, there was thunder, and lightening, and a dense cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud blast of the horn; and all the people who were in the camp trembled. (Ex. 19:16)
3. All the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the blare of the horn and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they fell back and stood at a distance. (Ex. 20:15)