Parasha Inspiration – Yitro

וַיְדַבֵּ֣ר אֱלֹהִ֔ים אֵ֛ת כָּל־הַדְּבָרִ֥ים הָאֵ֖לֶּה לֵאמֹֽר: אָֽנֹכִ֨י יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ אֲשֶׁ֣ר הֽוֹצֵאתִ֩יךָ֩ מֵאֶ֨רֶץ מִצְרַ֜יִם מִבֵּ֣ית עֲבָדִ֗ים:

God spoke all these words, to respond: “I am the Lord, your God, Who took you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”

– Exodus 20:1-2

This week’s Torah portion contains the Dibraya, known in English as the Ten Commandments. Dibraya literally means word of Hashem. In Judaism, the Dibraya are not commonly called the Ten Commandments because there are actually 613 commandments. So, what makes the Dibraya different from all of the other commandments? Why are these Ten written on the Sapphire tablets and not other commandments?

When the Pharisees asked Yeshua what the most important commandment was, he responded, “you shall love Hashem your God with all your heart, with all your Nefesh and with all your strength.” Then Yeshua said, “and almost as important, love your neighbor as yourself.” Neither of these commandments are in the Dibraya. Yet these are the most important of all the commandments.

Yeshua points to two commandments specifically, but they are very broad commandments. “You shall love Hashem your God,” does not explain was how to love Hashem our God. Yeshua simply states that this is the most important of the commandments. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” does not explain how we should love our neighbor as ourselves. Yeshua simply states that this commandment is almost as important as the prior commandment. Upon further inspection, we see that these two commandments are, in reality, categories of commandments rather than specific commandments in and of themselves.

Understanding that the two great commandments are actually categories of other commandments gives us direction in understanding the Dibraya. Of the ten words of the Dibraya, the first five are also categories, categories of how to love Hashem your God. The second five words are categories of how to love your neighbor as yourself. So, the two great commandments are major headings for the Dibraya itself. Five commandments are how to love God and five commandments are how to love your neighbor. What about the rest of the commandments? The 613 commandments, each individually, falls into one of the categories of the Dibraya. Each of the Dibraya falls into a category of the two great commandments noted by Yeshua.

For instance, the commandment of “for seven days you shall eat matzah,” falls under the category of the Dibraya of Shabbat. The commandment regarding sanctuary cities falls into the category of “thou shalt not murder.” The commandment of “thou shalt not hold a worker’s wages overnight,” falls into the category “thou shalt not steal.” Every one of the 613 commandments can be categorized in this manner.

So the two commandments are the Dibraya are the 613 commandments. The Dibraya is important because it categorizes each one of the 613 commandments so they may be more generally understood. We have the two great commandments, and we need the Dibraya to understand the two commandments. We had the Dibraya, and we need the 613 commandments to understand the Dibraya. We have the 613 commandments, and we need the oral tradition of Israel to understand the 613 commandments. Shabbat shalom.

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Rabbi Steven Bernstein

Steve was born on Lag B’Omer in Ann Arbor, MI but was raised in Gainesville, FL. The son of two University of Florida professors, he excelled in the sciences in school. In addition to his normal academic studies, he pursued his Jewish education studying with many Rabbis and professors of Judaic Studies from the University including visiting Rabbis such as Abraham Joshua Heschel and Shlomo Carlebach.