10 Commandments: Why all the fuss?

You are here:
< Back

Q: Dear Rabbi Simon,

We are told not to say the Aseret Hadibrot out loud since "kofrim (I think it is) will come to say that is all the Torah" yet in the UK for sure we have big shuls where they are prominently portrayed above the Ark which could and I think does cause the same effect, particularly in places where the congregants come 2 or 3 times a year.



A: Dear Binyamin

You make an interesting observation. It is true that the Talmud (Ber. 12a) says that the Aseret ha-Dibrot were at one time included in the daily prayers but were subsequently removed for the reason you state. The Sages decreed that they should not be recited in the prayers at all as a result. (I heard many years ago from the late Rabbi Joseph Freilich the observation that even in the Amidah for Shacharit on Shabbat we have a citation from Exodus 31:16 instead of the 10 Commandments—probably for exactly this reason.) Nevertheless, the significance of the Tablets of the Covenant as a compelling Biblical icon (if I can [excuse the pun] use the term) cannot be denied. Moreover, some do make a point of reciting Ex. 20:1-14 daily after the prayers, due to its importance. Also, Rashi (Ex. 24:12) famously cites Saadia Gaon’s Azharot regarding all 613 mitzvot of the Torah as subsumed under the 10 Commandments. So there is a balance to be struck between recognising the (unique) importance of the Ten without implicitly devaluing any of the other mitzvot.

Ultimately, kofrim (heretics) will always find a basis to spurn the Torah. And this may apply to some of the 2-3 times a year congregants in the UK (and elsewhere) to whom you refer, as well.

rabbi rashi simon

Questions & Answers
this week

Questions and Answers

Ask the Rabbi: Easy as א-ב-ג?
Dear Rabbi Simon,
I hope you fasted well yesterday.
Thank you for the insights into the Kinnot, making them easier to understand.
In the afternoon, I was listening to a shiur on Eichah on Torahanytime.  As an aside, the speaker mentioned that the 1st perek of Eichah is the source for the order of the alef bet as we know it.  Other chapters also follow the alef bet chronology but with ayin en peh interchanged.
He quoted Rabbi Shimon Schwab as his source.
Although he did not elaborate on this, surely Sefer Tehillim predates Megillat Eichah by centuries.  Several psalms are written in the alef bet order (e.g.
psalm 119).
Can you please clarify?
Thank you & best wishes.
PhilippeHi Philippe
TY for your sophisticated Q.
I have also heard that the question of the sequence of samekh and 'ayin is subject to dispute. It seems that there are indications that in Paleo-Hebrew the order is reversed from what we know. It is alleged that chapters 2, 3 and 4 of Eichah (chapter 5 is not alphabetical) reflect the original order. Of course, as you say, ch 1 conforms to the order with which we are family.
You are right that Tehillim predates Eichah, however a critic can claim that the order was redacted to bring it in line with the accepted/preferred sequence. This is particularly true for ch. 119, where each of the 8 vv per letter are their own group, and each set of 8 vv. can easily be repositioned. The question is in Ps. 34 or 145, if the internal logic of the passage sheds light on the correct sequence. In Ps. 34, some claim that the v. starting with the letter peh makes more sense to follow the verse starting with samekh (due to the common appearance of the word ra'). I am not convinced that this argument is compelling.
I will stick with the mesorah, that 'ayin belongs before peh. Best to look before speaking.
Rabbi Rashi Simon
Events / Calendar