Parashah Yitro 2019 (Jethro) Exodus 18 – 20

In today’s Torah reading we come to one of the most earth-shattering and influential statements ever made throughout the history of Mankind: God gives the world his Ten Commandments.

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I am so unworthy of commenting on God’s commandments- where do I start, and even more difficult to determine than that, how do I stop?

Let me cover some basic things without going into a lot of detail.

The first two commandments are generally thought of as one: the first is only that God is our God- I am the Lord, your God, who brought you out of Egypt. That is it. It is the second commandment that tells us not to have any other gods before the one and only true God.

The third commandment not to use the Lord’s name in vain to a Jew means not to use it at all, unless in a court of law. We do not use the Tetragrammaton (Y-H-V-H) at all, substituting Adonai (Lord) or HaShem (the Name) or Elohim instead of pronouncing the Name. This is done as a sign of respect for the holiness of God’s name.

As far as the Sabbath day commandment, I find it interesting that here God says to remember the Sabbath because, after creation, God rested on the 7th day. However, in Deuteronomy 5:14 God says to remember the Sabbath day because he freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. This remembrance of being slaves in Egypt is repeated throughout the Tanakh. I read that this is wrongly accepted as the reason to celebrate the Sabbath is to remember freedom from Egypt, but it really refers to the 7 days a week that they had to work when in Egypt. The Sabbath is (originally and still) a remembrance of God’s rest after creating the world.

The commandments also have a definite order of priority: the first four commandments are about our relationship with and duties to God, the next commandment about our duties towards family, and the last 5 commandments about our duties towards our fellow human beings.  This shows us how we should live our lives: in obedience to God, with respect for our family and with respect for others.

Too many religions teach that these commandments are the only important ones, and if we obey these alone we will be in heaven. Yet, there are a total of 613 commandments in the Old Covenant, and the New Covenant is based entirely on the Old one. There is nothing “new” in the New Covenant: Yeshua taught from and about the Torah (he was, after all, the Torah in the Flesh) and the Disciples and Apostles also taught from and about the Torah. The only thing that is new, if anything, in the New Covenant, is the fact that Yeshua taught us the spiritual meaning of these commandments. The Pharisees taught the literal meaning (P’shat) and Yeshua went beyond that to the spiritual (Remes) through the use of Parables (Drashim) so that we could grow stronger in spirit.

Yeshua told us that the two most important commandments are to love the Lord your God with all your strength, heart and mind, and to love each other, right? Did you realize these are not in the Ten Commandments? Yes, the first commandment tells us that the Lord is our God, but Yeshua quoted the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4), which is not in the Big Ten. The commandment to love God with all our heart, soul and strength is from the V’ahavta prayer, which is in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Numbers 15:40. The other commandment he quotes is in Leviticus 19:18, to love your neighbor as yourself. So does that mean Yeshua has done away with the Ten?

Of course not!

The Ten Commandments are absolute and the other 603 (from both the Torah and the Talmud) are the ways in which we obey these ten. What Yeshua gave us was (again) the spiritual understanding of what these Ten Commandments spell out in physical terms. We see this when he gives the Sermon on the Mount, saying, “You have heard it said…., but I tell you….”; he was confirming the Ten Commandments and expanding on their meaning.

I suppose this message is nothing more than just a simple reminder of what we are reading in the Torah. I don’t feel any particularly deep spiritual or revelatory statements coming from me. Perhaps something in here will spark an idea or God will use what I am saying to show you something you haven’t seen before. I hope so because I am drawing a blank as far as spiritual insight for today, so I will leave you with this last thought…. if you believe in God, accept Yeshua as your Messiah, and keep these commandments in your heart and daily activities, I think you will be alright.

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Tonight begins Shabbat, so Shabbat Shalom! May you have a restful and blessed Sabbath.

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