Ju­daism

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - CONTENTS - PARASHAT VA’ET’HANAN SH­MUEL RABINOWITZ The writer is the rabbi of the West­ern Wall and Holy Sites.

In this week’s To­rah por­tion, Va’et’hanan, we lis­ten to the speeches de­liv­ered by Moses shortly be­fore he de­parted from the nation he had lib­er­ated from Egypt and led on their jour­ney through the desert. Dur­ing these long speeches, Moses warned the nation again and again not to be tempted into as­sim­i­lat­ing into the cul­tures of the na­tions re­sid­ing in Canaan (as the Land of Is­rael was known). As back­ground to these warn­ings, Moses re­minded the nation of the Rev­e­la­tion at Mount Si­nai, where they ex­pe­ri­enced Divine rev­e­la­tion and heard the Ten Com­mand­ments – the ba­sic tenets of the To­rah. Moses did not spare words as he de­tailed the com­mand­ments.

But here, we read­ers are sur­prised. The Ten Com­mand­ments spo­ken at Mount Si­nai ap­pear in the Book of Ex­o­dus in the ac­count of the Rev­e­la­tion. They ap­pear again in our To­rah por­tion as com­mu­ni­cated by Moses. Sur­pris­ingly, the two ver­sions are not iden­ti­cal. There are dif­fer­ences be­tween the Ten Com­mand­ments in Ex­o­dus and here in Deuteron­omy. Most of the dif­fer­ences are minute, but one of them is sig­nif­i­cant – and that’s the one we will ex­am­ine here.

In the Ten Com­mand­ments in the Book of Ex­o­dus, the com­mand­ment to keep the Sab­bath is writ­ten with a clear ra­tio­nale: “Six days may you work and per­form all your la­bor, but the sev­enth day is a Sab­bath to the Lord your God; you shall per­form no la­bor, nei­ther you, your son, your daugh­ter, your manser­vant, your maid­ser­vant, your beast, nor your stranger who is in your cities. For [in] six days the Lord made the heaven and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and He

Moses re­minded the nation of the rev­e­la­tion at Mount Si­nai, where they ex­pe­ri­enced Divine rev­e­la­tion and heard the Ten Com­mand­ments – the ba­sic tenets of the To­rah

rested on the sev­enth day. There­fore, the Lord blessed the Sab­bath day and sanc­ti­fied it” (Ex­o­dus 20:9-11).

The Ten Com­mand­ments ap­pear again in Deuteron­omy, but with a dif­fer­ent ra­tio­nale: “Six days may you work, and per­form all your la­bor, but the sev­enth day is a Sab­bath to the Lord your God; you shall per­form no la­bor, nei­ther you, your son, your daugh­ter, your manser­vant, your maid­ser­vant, your ox, your don­key, any of your live­stock, nor the stranger who is within your cities, in or­der that your manser­vant and your maid­ser­vant may rest like you. And you shall re­mem­ber that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord your God took you out from there with a strong hand and with an out­stretched arm; there­fore, the Lord your God com­manded you to ob­serve the Sab­bath day” (Deut. 5:13-15).

The two rea­sons seem to be dif­fer­ent. In the first, we must keep the Sab­bath in or­der to re­mem­ber that God cre­ated the world; in the sec­ond ver­sion, it is so that slaves should rest on the Sab­bath, just as God lib­er­ated us from slav­ery in Egypt.

How to ex­plain this dis­tinc­tion? Did not Moses know that we could turn back to Ex­o­dus to see the “orig­i­nal” phras­ing of the Ten Com­mand­ments? Bi­b­li­cal com­men­ta­tors dealt with this ques­tion ex­ten­sively, to ascertain the con­nec­tion be­tween the two ra­tio­nales.

The ra­tio­nale that ap­pears in Ex­o­dus is faith-based: we must re­mem­ber that God alone cre­ated the en­tire world, and there­fore we are com­manded to rest on the Sab­bath and in­ter­nal­ize the be­lief that the re­al­ity in which we ex­ist is not co­in­ci­den­tal. There is Divine su­per­vi­sion. Cre­ation of the world is not merely a his­tor­i­cal fact but an aware­ness that we live with that teaches us that our ex­is­tence is not an in­signif­i­cant ac­ci­dent. Man – and the en­tire world – ex­ist due to in­tent and for a pur­pose. Faith in Cre­ation changes life into a lofty mis­sion.

But what is this mis­sion? What kind of life are we di­rected to live by faith in Cre­ation? We read about this in Deuteron­omy – espe­cially in the speech made a mo­ment be­fore en­ter­ing the land and es­tab­lish­ing the Jewish state in the Land of Is­rael. Man’s mis­sion is to in­ter­nal­ize that all his power is given to him by the grace of God, and there­fore he is ob­li­gated to act in ac­cor­dance with these rules and al­low the weaker lev­els of so­ci­ety to live with dig­nity.

In a world where slav­ery was com­mon­place, slaves were at the bot­tom of so­ci­ety’s strata, lack­ing even ba­sic rights and worth­less in the eyes of free men. In ac­tu­al­ity, slaves were seen as tools whose pur­pose was to sat­isfy the needs of their master. Faith op­poses this view and de­mands re­spect and dig­nity for all peo­ple. There is no per­son who lacks rights, no one who does not de­serve rest. Faith in Cre­ation – as is writ­ten in Ex­o­dus – di­rects man and de­mands of him to al­low for the dig­nity of all other men and even an­i­mals, as ex­pressed in Deuteron­omy.

Jewish faith is not some­thing left to be­liefs of the heart alone. It de­mands that man live a life of tran­scen­dence, of val­ues, of ben­e­fit­ing oth­ers, of act­ing with re­spect to­ward all oth­ers, no mat­ter what their sta­tus. ■

(Reuters)

MEM­BERS OF the No­gradi fam­ily light can­dles for Shab­bat in their home in Bu­dapest.

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