This week’s Parasha is one of the two parshiyot that contains the Aseret Hadibrot—what has been improperly translated as the 10 Commandments. It is set forth here in Yitro at Exodus 20: 2-14.
There is an interesting debate among the rabbis over whether the first of the 10 Commandments (Aseret Hadibrot) is a command (mitzvah) or not. “I am HaShem, your God, Who has taken you out of the land of Egypt….” Exodus 20:2.
Clearly, the words set forth a mere statement of fact, not an instruction to do something. Yet most commentators include it as one of the 613 mitzvoth and incumbent on every Jew to accept God as the Sovereign. After all, can there be a command without a commander?
Others say that the Torah does not command beliefs or feelings, only behaviors. Their argument is that the statement is a mere introduction or preamble to the commandments.
Others respond that it is not a commandment of mere belief or feeling. Rather, to perform any of the mitzvoth correctly, the belief in God must be so firm that it is not a matter of mere faith, but it becomes actual knowledge.
Still others argue that it is not merely an obligation to accept that there is a God, but we must accept that God is actively engaged and involved in our world. To them, the point of including reference to God as the one who brought us out of Egypt is to show that active involvement. The First Commandment could just as easily referenced “creation” instead of the Exodus, but the Exodus was something very personal to each person then at Sinai, so it was a statement of God’s active involvement in their lives.
When we say the Shema, we articulate a statement of our belief in God and God’s oneness. Is that your thought and focus when you say the Shema?
Everyone agrees that belief in God is the foundation of Judaism. The question is whether it is an independent mitzvah or an inherent and essential part of every mitzvah.
This week’s Parasha begs us to consider our relationship with God.
This Shabbat our Torah Study will be led by Rabbi Joseph Krakoff reviewing the famous Father-in-law/Son-in-law relationship of Moshe and Yitro as well as the preparations for receiving the Torah. 9:45 a.m. Come as you are. Stay as long as you like.