Rebbetzin Temmi Hadar
Johannesburg Sephardi Hebrew Congregation
He told you of the Covenant that He commanded you to observe, the Ten Commandments. And He inscribed them on two tablets of stone.
וַיַּגֵּד לָכֶם אֶת בְּרִיתוֹ אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה אֶתְכֶם לַעֲשׂוֹת עֲשֶׂרֶת הַדְּבָרִים וַיִּכְתְּבֵם עַל שְׁנֵי לֻחוֹת אֲבָנִים.
If I had to guess what the ten most fundamental statements in Judaism would be, I’m not sure I would pick the Ten Commandments.1
Belief in G-d as the number one statement. That makes sense. That is the foundation of Judaism.
Shabbat. Statement number four. That also makes sense. Shabbat has been the anchor of Jewish life for millennia.
But don’t murder? That’s the bedrock of every civilisation. Do we need G-d to tell us that?
Honouring our parents? Is that honestly up there with belief in G-d?
And the last one? Don’t covet. Most people I know wouldn’t dream of murdering anyone, but is there anyone out there who hasn’t looked at their friend at some point wishing they could have what their friend has.
Why such a combination of ideas? From the loftiest aspects of a human being - our ability to believe in something greater than ourselves, to the most mundane minutiae of human life - the way we treat our parents.
But if we look deeper, this vast array of statements is what truly encompasses a Jew’s relationship with G-d.
Our relationship with G-d isn’t crafted on the mountaintops in sublime meditation of His greatness.
It’s not even only about the one day a week where we stop and reflect as we pause and celebrate Shabbat.
It’s in our daily interactions with our parents, as well as the way we look at our neighbours’ possessions.
Every moment of life presents us with an opportunity to connect with our Creator.
The Ten commandments remind us of that.
The worst action a human being can do, to end someone else’s life, and incriminating someone falsely, are both behaviours that separate us from G-d.
Reciting Kiddush on a Friday night and believing in G-d are both channels to connect with G-d.
What the Ten Commandments teach us, is that every action, from the smallest to the greatest, are important in G-d’s eyes. Everything we do, can and should be meaningful.
That’s the message of the Ten Commandments.
1. Exodus 20:2-14; Deuteronomy 5:6-18