Time to get back to Basics….The Ten Commandments
Yitro is probably the most important parashah in the Torah because it is where the Ten Words or Ten Commandments were given to Moshe by our Creator. They are the Constitution not only for Israel but for the world. Judaism and Christianity present these commandments very differently, but it is crucial for us to be faithful to the Creator’s Revelation which is constant rather than man’s interpretation which changes with the times. Our prophet Jeremiah told us to trust in God rather than in man because the heart of man is deceitful. The only thing that was written in stone, “by the Finger of God” (euphemistically speaking), were these Ten Words while all later writings were written by the hand of man. Our sages are still discussing whether there were 611, 612, 613 or 614 mitzvot but we know for a fact that there were 10 Commandments.
Why would such an important parashah be entitled Yitro, the name of a gentile? And why would the Creator hand these Ten Commandments to Moses at Mount Sinai or Har Elohim, the Mountain of the Creator and not at Mount Moriah which is at Jerusalem? Our sages gave us a wonderful answer. They say that the Creator wanted to make this Torah universal, i.e., for all humanity and not solely for the Hebrews. I wish that they had lived by this understanding.
Was this the first time that the Creator revealed His Words to mankind? Most religions have created their gods but here, from the moment God created man in His image, He breathed His Ruach, His Spirit into him, placing His Torah within us. Slowly people began to migrate toward idolatry, forgetting the God who created them. Why? Because He gave us free will so that we could choose to be loyal to Him or not. The Creator does not demand our loyalty, but when we freely give it, He willingly receives it. The two major religions of this world, Christianity and Islam, have both imposed belief in their god by force and by death. The God of Israel does not do that. If the Almighty does not impose His Will upon His creation, what gives man that right? That’s why Yitro, a gentile not an Israelite, was chosen to be the name of this parashah.
Now we look at Yeshua, our rabbi and messiah, the one chosen by the Creator as Moshe was chosen, with a very special purpose. In Matthew 5:17-21 in his Sermon on the Mount, we read something that is very much from our Torah. Yeshua told us that he didn’t invent a new Torah or destroy it or even change one word of it, rather he wanted his people to return to its basic teachings. Why? Because we had gone away from it. Yeshua was speaking to the cohanim, the aristocracy of Judaism, the Perushim…telling them that they had made their own traditions to be of more value that the words of the Creator given to Moshe at Mt. Sinai. Yeshua wanted his people to return to being Shomer Torah. To whom was he speaking….to the gentiles? They had no idea at that time what the Torah was; however, the Israelites knew exactly what he was speaking about.
Yeshua was very different than the invented Jesus Christ, the god of the gentiles, the god of the so-called New Testament. It is a surprise to many gentiles that Jesus was a Jew. Did you know that lately in Jerusalem, new books are being written about Yeshua, the greatest Jew who ever existed and who literally changed history? Why do you think that we are so confused these days about what to believe? This parashah is calling Israel to be a holy nation, a nation of priests, the supervisors of the Torah, to be ohr l’goyim, light to the nations. Instead, they hide the Torah from the other nations, keeping it only for themselves. Yeshua made the Torah universal. The problem was when it fell into the hands of the gentiles, who practiced syncretism, a Greek notion, in which they placed everything into a pot and made a wonderful new soup! Israel kept quiet about what the Torah was and slowly this new, very anti-Semitic religion persecuted and tried to destroy the Jewish nation and replace it. Look at the fathers of the church who spoke against Judaism calling Jews, children of Satan. Do you know that the Holocaust happened in Christian countries not Islamic ones? Their hands are stained with blood.
Yeshua did what our sages said that messiah would do…to bring us back to Torah. Sadly, however, they preferred the Oral Torah which holds more influence than the written Torah. When we the Jews reinterpret the Torah, we are as guilty as any other religion that has displaced it.
Each of us has a Divine spark within, from Him, which means that we can have a relationship with Him. We need to return to His Divine revelation and to live it! We need to remove the idea that the Torah means “LAW”. It is a book of instruction; it does not impose itself upon us. When Yeshua was asked to summarize the Torah, he replied: “you shall love the LORD your God with all our heart, soul and being, and you shall love our neighbor as yourself”. With this, Yeshua was describing the Ten Commandments. The first three are called Mitzvoth – Commandments and describe our relationship with Him. Number One: “I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt out of slavery, you are to have no other gods.” He was showing us that He is a God of history, of action working amongst His people. Number Two: “Do not make images of your gods to bow down and worship them”. This is idolatry where the truth is exchanged for something false. It is the same as adultery, for example, milk is adulterated when water is added. They both look the same, but they are not. There is only one God, not two or three: not the Father and the Son, not the Father and the Prophet. Number Three: “You shall not take the Name of the LORD your God in vain”. This does not mean that we cannot pronounce His Name; rather we are not to misuse or abuse it, but we are to have reverence for our Creator.
Commandments Four and Five relate to our personal well-being. The fourth, the Shabbat, was given to us for our own good, so that we can release the worries of the week and rest. It is not a day of worship. We are to worship God every day of the week. The fifth commandment is to honor our parents. Even if we have had a very difficult upbringing, and we don’t even want to think about our parents, we need to remember that He used them to give us life. We do not have the right to judge them, that’s the job of the Creator. It carries the idea of continuity up to the 3rd or 4th generations, a limited period during which we still have time to fix past mistakes. When we do, our God of beginning again blesses us unto the 1000th generation, which in Gematria means eternity. These two are called Chukkim – Ordinances.
The last five commandments are called Mishpatim – judgements and have to do with the relationship we have with our neighbor. My rights end where the rights of my neighbor begin. We need to learn to respect one another. Religious fanatics become judges and enforcers, but the Creator did not call us to police the world or to be supervisors of morality. He wants us to be a “living example of morality” and that our lives would bring light to others. He did not call us to be the salesmen of a religion rather that people see the relationship that we have with our Creator.
Yitro, the Gentile priest of Midian acknowledged that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was truly the greatest of all the gods. Did Yitro truly accept that the God of Israel was the only one? We see a similar saying in Psalm 135:5 “For I know that the LORD is great and that our LORD is above all gods.” This means that we cannot replace Him with anything or anyone else. It seems that after the exodus, Yitro did turn to the one God.
If the United Nations would obey just the Ten Commandments, it would be a different world. Yitro here is showing us the universality of the Torah. It is for everyone, but it cannot be imposed. Yeshua’s role was to bring the people back to the Torah so that we could fulfill our role as priests, as a holy nation, to be ohr l’goyim, light to the world. Is Israel doing that today? Sadly, modern Judaism is teaching that the Torah is only for the Jews and not for the gentiles. Other religions teach that if they follow the Torah, they are under a curse. No one knows what to believe anymore. There is a marketplace of ideas and religions, all trying to sell their wares. One of the most popular religions teach that we do not need to worry, because someone else has paid for our sins. The Torah teaches us the opposite…that the Creator made each of us responsible for our own actions. We cannot point our finger and blame someone else. The Torah is not a book of do’s and don’ts but is a way of life. Whenever we walk with Torah, we shine and are light to others, not by our words but by our deeds. It is not about “doing religion” but about acting, doing for others. We don’t need to wait for God; He is telling us to go ahead, move forward; step into the sea. God does the impossible, but we need to do the rest.
Every book written after the Ten Commandments needs to be examined in their light. Please, remember that Moses did not write the Ten Commandments; the Torah is not the Law of Moses; it is not the product of Moses’ wisdom written because of the hardness of our hearts; he received the Ten Commandments and passed it down to his people to bring to all the nations. Who do you believe, man or the Creator?