The Ten Words: Aseret HaDevarim

Shabbat, August 5, 2017

Shema Yisrael! Twice the Lord commands it in two chapters—to introduce the Ten Commandments and then to introduce the Greatest Commandment (V’Ahavta! And you shall love the Lord.).
There must be a connection between the Ten and the Greatest. V’eemru? (And let us say?)

We are familiar with the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4-5, reading from right to left:  “Shema! (Hear, pay attention to do)  Yisrael, Adonai (the Lord, which Jews say when we read the four letter Tetragrammaton, YHVH), Eloheynu (our God), Adonai (the Name of the Lord), echad (one).

We’ll come back to what echad means in context.  Then comes V’Ahavta (and you shall love):
the commandment which Yeshua and Jewish scholars agree is the greatest commandment:

“You shall love Adonai your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

It goes on to say, “These words, which I am commanding you today, are to be on your heart,”
and tells us teach them diligently to our children. So, these words are which words?

Well, the greatest commandment—V’Ahavta—would be a good start. V’eemru?

Indeed, I taught these words to my children during our devotions before bedtime, and I recite this Shema/V’Ahavta when I get up, when I walk by the way and before I go to bed, as often as I can.

Yet, would “these words”— also include the Ten Words repeated in the previous chapter, Deut. 5.

Deuteronomy 4:13 tells us, “He declared to you His covenant, which He commanded you to do—the Ten Words—and He wrote them on two tablets of stone.”

A little more Hebrew (I hope you like learning a little Hebrew—they will be a quiz later!):
Aseret (Ten)  HaDevarim].

Note that the in Hebrew (and Jewish custom) it’s the Ten Words, rather than Ten Commandments.

The first of the Ten Words is “‘I am Adonai your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.” It doesn’t sound like a command, does it? It’s more like an invitation.

The first thing HaShem wants from us is a relationship. He says, “Elehekha,” your God,” singular:
He invites a relationship with each one of you, and you, and you, personally.
This word goes hand in hand with V’Ahavta—the first & greatest Word of God is Love. V’eemru?

It’s an exclusive relationship: “You shall have no other gods before me.”

In the Protestant version, this verse is the first commandment (since it’s a commandment).

But in the Jewish version, this verse is the second commandment, which goes on to forbid idols.

First, let’s meditate on why HaShem is so insistent on having no other gods before Him.

When the children of Israel came out of bondage of Egypt, they left the gods of Egypt behind—after the God of Israel had thoroughly triumphed over them. Soon they would go into the Promised Land, where they were to annihilate the people there, rather than mix with them—and their gods.

The Bibles acknowledge that there weren’t other gods— the nations surely worshiped them.

Unlike the gods of pagan nations, who were cruel and cryptic,  the God of Israel loves His people, bringing them out of bondage and into a good land, full of milk and honey—a foreshadowing in the world to come, in which the love of HaShem and humanity will be restored as it was in Gan Eden.

 HaShem demanded that He is the only God for Israel—and eventually, for all the nations.

When He says, “the Lord your God is One,” the primary meaning is not mathematical (absolute or composite one) but relational—HaShem is the only one for you—“And You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart.” God wants a total relationship with you, without compromise.

The God of the Bible is the only God who loves you totally—loves you so much that He gave His one and only son to die for you, to deliver you from bondage to sin and brings into the Promised Land, the kingdom of light. There is nothing better, nothing sweeter than His total love. V’eemru?

The first two words are given in the first person, “I am the Lord your God” and “You shall have no other gods before me,” while the rest are given in third person. “You must not take the Name of Adonai your God in vain,” “Observe Yom Shabbat to keep it holy, as Adonai your God commanded you.” The Rabbis infer that the children of Israel heard the first two Words from God Himself on the Mount Sinai, then Moses repeated the remaining commandments to them.

Exodus 20:8 says to “remember” Shabbat, whereas Deuteronomy 5:12 says to “observe.” Hmm… Also, Exodus remembers that God rested on the Shabbat after creation, whereas Deut. recalls Israel’s deliverance from bondage. So which is it? Yes, both!  In the Kiddush blessing over wine, we bless God for both. Also L’cha Doedee says “’Observe and remember’ in one divine utterance.”

God ceased from His work of creation, yet He continues His work of redemption. V’eemru?

Therefore Yeshua healed on Shabbat, and we can perform Levitical ministry on Shabbat. It is good!

The Ten Commandments elaborate on the greatest two—love the Lord & love your neighbor.

The first half expresses our love for HaShem, and the second side guides our love for humanity.

The fifth commandment—honor your father and your mother—looks both ways. By honoring parents, we learn to honor God, who is our Father in heaven. Honor is more than obey; it is also to respect and esteem. That’s how we should relate to HaShem. He’s not a tyrant, nor is He a huge teddy bear in the sky. V’eemru? By respecting our parents, we learn to respect others in authority,
for all authority comes from God (Romans 13:1). Also, by honoring God and our parents, we learn to honor other people—for all people have been created in the image of God. V’eemru?

Honoring parents is so important that it’s the first commandment to come with a promise of blessing: “so that your days may be long and it may go well with you in the land.”

The next four are short and sweet: “Do not murder (it’s murder, not kill), do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not commit bear false witness.” Sometimes folks think they are good because they haven’t murdered anyone, or stolen anything—much, lately…. But if you gently challenge people, most will admit they have broken most of these commandments and wouldn’t fare well in the courtroom of God, and really need the atonement that Messiah Yeshua has provided for us all.

Then Yeshua comes along and challenges His disciples with a deeper understanding in His Sermon on the Mount. He announces, “You have heard it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder [that’s the Ten Words], and whoever commits murder shall be subject to judgment/’ [Torah requires punishment of death for intentional murder, a lesser penalty for manslaughter.] But I tell you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca’ shall be subject to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be subject to fiery Gehenna.” Some traditional Jews object to Yeshua’s elaboration of the mitzvah.

However, we should observe Yeshua’s wisdom. What starts out as anger is subject to judgment in a local court (that is, one’s own conscience before God) can burst out as a verbal slur (Raca!) and be require judgment in a higher court (the Sanhedrin of men, who will surely judge your bad words) and if still unresolved will become an attitude of superiority and prejudice—which will be judged in the court of heaven (subject to fiery Gehenna). Therefore repent of your anger, sooner. V’eemru?

The 10th commandment—you shall not covet—cannot only be judged in the court of heaven, which only can judge the heart attitude of coveting. Yet it by coveting your neighbor’s donkey or car that you may wind up stealing, and by coveting your neighbor’s wife that you may wind up committing adultery. Thus, the 10th commandment sets up Yeshua’s sermon about our heart attitudes. V’eemru?

We may associate these 10 words with judgment, since we so easily break them—who hasn’t coveted?

Yet if we keep them, all of them produce great blessings, from first to last. Rather than covet, we can be content with what we have and happy. Rather than live without God, we can be thankful that He offers us an exclusive relationship with Him. V’eemru?

I opened my message by pointing out that there this portion commands, “Shema Yisrael!” twice.

We studied the second one, before the greatest commandment.  The first one appears in Deut. 5:1, before the 10 commandments. They are good & worthy of hearing, and observing. V’eemru?


Questions for Breakout Discussion

What does “Sh’ma’ mean?

What is the Lord commanding us to hear and do?

What does “V’Ahavta” mean?

Why does the Lord command us to love with all your heart, all your soul and all your might?

Why do traditional Jews call them the Ten Words rather than the Ten Commandments?

What is the first of the Ten Words, according to Jewish reckoning?
Why is it more of an invitation than a commandment?

“You shall have no other gods before me.”

How do you feel about God demanding an exclusive, personal relationship with you?

How does this exclusive relationship explain what God means when He says He is jealous?

How does this exclusive relationship explain why God sent His one and only Son into the world?

How do you respond to such love?

Exodus 20 says we should “remember” Shabbat and the Creation.

Deuteronomy 5 says we should “observe” Shabbat and our deliverance from bondage. Which is right?

How do we see both in traditional Jewish prayers?

How do we see both in the work of the Messiah?

How do the Ten Commandments elaborate on the greatest two?

What is the first commandment to come with a promise of a blessing? Why?

How does Yeshua give us a deeper understanding of the “Do not murder?”

What is the 10th commandment? How does it set up Yeshua’s Sermon?

How can we see the 10 commandments as the 10 blessings?

Why does HaShem give the twice “Sh’ma Israel” twice in this portion?

Are you paying attention?











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