Monday, March 27, 2006


The Real 10 Commandments

I am surprised that, in the course of all the debate about 10 commandments posting, while people have mentioned that those of us who actually make some attempt to follow Biblical law refer to 613 commandments for Jews (and 7 Noachide laws) rather than just the "10 sayings" obligatory to Jews but not all obligatory to non-Jews, few people seem to mention that the Talmud (e.g. Mishna Peah 1:1, Shabbat 127a) has its own lists of special commandments -- most prayerbooks compile them into the magic number, 10 -- though they (those commandments whose fruits are to be enjoyed in this world and whose principal remains for us to enjoy in the world to come) are typically given in a paragraph form:

(1) Honor your father and mother
(2) Perform acts of love and kindness
(3) Attend the House of Study every morning and evening
(4) Welcome the stranger
(5) Visit the sick
(6) Rejoice with bride and groom
(7) Console the bereaved (*).
(8) Make peace where there is strife
(9) Pray with sincerity
(10) Study Torah

Interestingly, excepting "pray with sincerity", none of these commandments imply any sort of theological commitment (even studying Torah is something you might do purely for the sake of intellectual curiosity, but as long as -- and only as long as -- Torah study leads to spiritual and moral growth, you have satisfied this commandment whether or not you actually believe what you read) and most involve being an active participant in the life-cycle events of others.

What does that say about the real path to salvation? Is salvation even an individual thing or is it collective?

(*) typical translation ... literally the translation is "bury the dead" -- although I do remember somewhere in Talmud that you are not supposed to make literal translations ... but that prohibition I think only applies to the Bible which, it seems according to the sages of yore, must be read at some level figuratively (!)

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