The Ten Principles for America
The First Commandment
TThe Ten Commandments have caused a headache for many in the United States ever since the Supreme Court arrived at its spilt decision prohibiting the display of the commandments in public places. Rather strange that in a country where over 90% of its inhabitants are believers in God Almighty, a headache rather than a call for defense was endured. Perhaps the answer I that of these millions believers in God, the vast majority does not know the essence of the Ten Commandments, and many of them cannot even quote them.
Of those who know the Ten Commandments many do not understand their contribution to society. Truth of the matter is that if one would take the time to really understand the Ten Commandments then the obvious conclusion would emerge; that civilization cannot survive without them. First and foremost I would suggest that many have a hard time with the Ten Commandments simply because of the word itself: Commandments. This word is a mistranslation and does not appear to be the Hebrew word for the Ten Commandments. The word in Hebrew is “The Ten Sayings”. When using the original language and calling the commandments the “The Ten Sayings”, this then equates to Principles. Perhaps if we stop calling the Ten Commandments, commandments, and use the ancient Hebrew, calling them the ten principles, then possibly many would be more tolerant to the Ten Commandments and read and understand them with less apprehension.
When God presented the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, Jewish literature states as follows, “…not a bird chirped, not a fowl flew, not an ox lowed, not an angel ascended, not a seraph proclaimed holy”. The sea did not roll, and not a creature made a sound. The entire universe was silent and still. It was then that the voice went forth and proclaimed “I am your God”. And God revealed himself in Israel, the world fell silent, at this moment it was pivotal not only to Israel but to all of creation; had Israel not accepted the commandments, the universe would have come to an end.
“God spoke all of these statements; I am Adonai, your God who has taken you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery”. This first commandment speaks of having faith in God’s existence, and that He is eternal and has complete and unmatched power.
Although stated as simple fact rather then an instruction, virtually all of the Sages and commentators understood that this is a positive commandment (principle), to believe in the existence of the Lord, and that He is the only God. Some of the Sages explain that when given a commandment by the Almighty, it is a necessary prerequisite that we are to be informed that the Almighty is our God.
Laws cannot be prescribed until the authority of the author is acknowledged. This equates itself to a conquering King entering his new domain and asking to pronounce decrees. It is obvious that the populace first has to accept the sovereignty of the new King and only then can this King set forth his decrees. And so it is true for the first commandment to mankind; accept my sovereignty; then you can accept my laws. “Who has taken you out of the land of Egypt”. The Sages explain why it was necessary for God to identify Himself as the one who performed the miracles at the time of the departure from Egypt. They explain that since God has no physical body and no humans can have a true perception of his essence, He must manifest Himself only within specific situations. Therefore it was in Egypt and the splitting of the sea and the other ten plagues that God inflicted on the Egyptians, that then Israelites “saw” Him as a strong fighter destroying their enemies. Also, the Israelites “saw” Him as a compassionate Father. They saw him as a compassionate Father because He stated His grieving over the suffering in Egypt. These dichotomies have led the Israelites as in the cases of other nations to assume that there were many different gods, for instance the god of mercy, god of justice, god of fertility, god of war, god of peace and so on. This is why, when God revealed Himself at the revelation at Mount Sinai He made it clear that there was only one God.
It would’ve been very logical for God to actually identify Himself as the Creator of the Universe, that would have been more befitting and certainly it would have attributed to Him much more glory then just taking the Israelites out of Egypt. But God chose to identify Himself as the deliverer from Egypt, and the reason for this is that it was an occurrence that all of Israel witnessed. The fact that He created the Universe was already known to them, but nobody was there to witness that and it could have led many towards reasons for doubt, as do many in the modern world today. But no one at the time of the giving of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai could have questioned the magnitude of the One Who liberated THEM from Egypt..