The Ten Commandments. In Hebrew, Aseret Hadibrot. The Hebrew does not tell us to think of them as ten commandments —that would be “Aseret Hamitzvot.” Instead, the Hebrew tells us to think of them as dibrot דיברות, things said in the midbar מדבר, the wilderness, that can fertilize our lives and bring us the honey of insight, just as the devorah דבורה, the honeybee, can.
We often describe the Ten Commandments as “the revelation at Mt. Sinai.” So, this year, I am reflecting on each of the ten dibrot as if it were a mini-revelation. So I’ve been remembering aha moments that bring these words to life—and into my life. I’ll share some of them, as an invitation to you to enter a similar reflection. (Knowing, of course, that your life may be quite different from mine.)
(1) I am YHVH your God. When I hear morning birds, or see treetops through the window then I feel I know the Creator. And then I know I have someone I can turn to.
(2) Don’t make idols and worship them. When I am so down on myself for not achieving something, and I realize that I have made up an image of who I should be, and let it control me, then I begin to break free of an idol.
(3) Don’t take God’s name in vain. When I realize that I hold a political view so tightly that I believe my idea is God’s intention for the universe, then I can begin to loosen my grip and listen to others.
(4) Remember Shabbat and keep it holy. When busy-busy me wonders why I am so tired on Saturday afternoon, and can’t accomplish anything, not even hold a book, and then I remember it’s Shabbat, I know: rest is as holy as work.
(5) Honour your father and mother. Every few years, I understand in a deeper way, that my parents were just very young humans with good intentions bumbling their way through the world. And then I have another opportunity to choose to forgive them (or not). In this way, among others, I honour them.
(6) Do not murder. Sometimes I remember my father’s saying that “a government’s first priority is to keep itself in business” and then I remember that governments often neglect people, so I start to learn what I can do to help people live.
(7) Do not commit adultery. Sometimes, when I take out my family memories, I understand more deeply what caused fractures in my family of origin. And then I try to learn new ways of being that strengthen family love.
(8) Do not steal. In my naïve moments, I like to believe that the earth has infinite resources, and my share is infinite too, so if I have a credit card I can get anything I want. And then I realize I don’t even need what I want, and maybe I don’t even need the money I was about to spend, so I donate it to someone who does.
(9) Do not bear false witness. Sometimes I realize how much of what I think I “know” isn’t knowledge at all, but a parroting of what I have read or heard, and then I resolve not to repeat it, but to learn more broadly.
(10) Do not envy what others have. Sometimes I see successes that other people have and instead of feeling happy for them, I decide they only have success because they cheated. And then I see that I have taken my own sadness and disappointment and added anger to it. So I pray to be released from hurtful thoughts that cause hurtful action.
The ten commandments help me remember my spiritual centre. Perhaps they can do that for you, too.