The Commandments are for All of Us

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “The Commandments are for All of Us.”

While some Jews certainly thrive in Yeshiva delving into the Talmudic understanding of the laws for long hours every day, and they serve an important role in understanding and transmitting the laws from generation to generation, others may be more interested in the fundamental philosophy of Judaism and in “doing what’s right” by applying the core teachings of the Torah at their own levels every day. Maybe this is one reason that the Ten Commandments are presented separately from the “mishpatim” that follow. Not that they aren’t both important and necessary, but that the Torah is for all of us in the ways that each of us can appreciate, learn, and apply them within the overall framework of the Torah.


Of course, all the commandments are important between G-d and man and between man and man, as well as the conceptual framework of the Ten Commandments and the details embedded in the rest of the 613 commandments. Yet certainly, all of us in one way or another struggle with some commandments more than others or with losing sight of either the high-level essence of the Torah or important details of implementation. Nevertheless, we must strive to not only appreciate that all the Torah comes from Hashem, but also that we each must work as best as we can, in our own capacities, to learn and fulfill G-d’s laws and to be a good example and “light unto the nations,” which is what being “the chosen people” is really all about.

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal of Chagall Tapestry in Knesset, Israel)

Ten Commandments – Good News, Bad News

Ten Commandments - Good News, Bad News

This was a funny joke told over in the Wall Street Journal today:

When Moses was coming down from Har Sinai, he said to the people of Israel, “I have good news and bad news.”

“The good news is I kept him down to ten.”

“The bad news is adultery stays!”

Aside from the joke, the editorial posited why there are so many Jewish comedians–from Jackie Mason to Joan Rivers, and from Jack Benny to Jerry Seinfeld?

But maybe it should’ve asked, why do all the Jewish Comedians names seem to start with a J.

Thinking this through a little more, I realized so many other Jewish comedians out there–Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Billy Crystal, Chelsea Handler, Gene Wilder, George Burns, Jack Black, Larry Fine (from the Three Stooges), Mel Brooks, Rodney Dangerfield, Seth Rogen, The Marx Brothers, Woody Allen, and so many more.

So what is it that makes the Jewish people so funny?

Ms. Wisse, the author postulates that maybe it has to do with the dichotomy of the Jewish people being historically chosen to receive the Torah and hopefully serve as good examples of G-d’s law and morality while at the same time “being targeted by some of the world’s most determined aggressors”–Oy vey! and this list is even longer than that of the comedians!

So as Ms. Wisse points out, the Jewish people are on one hand “exalted” by G-d, but attacked by the wicked among nations.

I guess that would give just about anybody a severe complex–where do I find this one in the DSM?

Up, down, rewarded, punished, chosen, reviled–can make anyone’s head spin–maybe that is why we wear Kippot (head coverings)–I was always taught it was to remember that G-d is above us and always watching and guiding us, but maybe it’s also to help us keep our heads on straight with all the mixed messages we get in the world.

People mistake what “chosen” means–they think maybe Jews think they’re better than others, but this is a mischaracterization.

I learned in Yeshiva–that chosen means we have a great burden to bear in fulfilling G-d commandments–when we do it well, things are good, but when we fail, we learn the hard way.

It’s good to be Jewish–and it would be even better, if Jews accepted themselves and each other.

None of us are perfect–some of us are more imperfect than others.

But we are still brothers and sisters.

There is a Torah, but even the most righteous among us, don’t do everything right–is anyone free from sin?

I always believed that religion is our guidepost, but as we are taught “every person is a world unto themselves” and that there is room for all of us to serve Hashem.

We each have to find the spark within and fulfill Hashem’s destiny that he has for each of us–we all have what we can give and we should do it with a pure heart. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Home Videos)