February 1, 2024 / 22 Shevat, 5784 • Parshat Yitro
Issue 806
Dedicated in loving memory of Mrs. Miriam Friedman

On 6 Sivan, G-d gave the Jewish people the 613 commandments contained in the Torah. Of these, He gave 10 explicitly: (1) to believe in G-d, (2) not to serve idols, (3) to respect G-d’s Name, (4) to observe the Sabbath, (5) to honor parents, (6) not to murder, (7) not to commit adultery, (8) not to kidnap, (9) not to lie when testifying, and (10) not to desire other people’s homes, spouses, or possessions.

G-d inscribed these ten commandments on two tablets and these ten commandments were inscribed on the two tablets remaining commandments were implicit within these ten.

The Basis of Ethical Behavior 

You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not kidnap. You must not bear false witness against your fellow man. You shall not desire...

Ex. 20:13-14

The five commandments inscribed on the first of the two tablets deal with our relationship with G-d, whereas the five inscribed on the second tablet deal with our relationship with our fellows.

This juxtaposition teaches us two things:

On the one hand, we must learn to treat G-d with the same consideration that we show human beings. We instinctively sense that we must repay the kindness shown us by other people, but we often neglect our responsibilities toward G-d; He is easy to forget.

On the other hand, our relationships toward our fellows must be based upon our belief in G-d. If our commitment to social decency is based on anything else, there is no guarantee that our actions will not be swayed by self-love or worse.

When G-d is removed from the picture, even the most “cultured” society can commit mass murder. But when the first half of the Ten Commandments, our duties toward G-d, governs our lives, we are sure to overcome any obstacle that stands in the way of goodness and truth.

--Daily Wisdom Volume 3