The Ten Commandments for Relating to Others

Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart. Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight.

-Psalm 119:33-35

Sunrise at Mount Sinai in Egypt

When God gave Moses the ten commandments why did He give them by way of two tablets instead one? Rabbi Daniel Lapin suggests the ten commandments were given on two tablets instead one because the two tablets relate to one other.  He suggests the ten commandments are actually five principles, each principle with two applications to make ten. The first tablet, commandments one through five relate to our creator, which includes our parents. The second tablet, commandments six through ten speak to how we are to relate to our peers.  For example, commandments one and six speak to the first principle, where commandment one applies the first principle to our creator and commandment six applies to our peers.  Interesting.

 

The first principle, Rabbi Daniel Lapin suggests is:  Others have the right to exist.

First Tablet: Second Tablet:
1. I am the Lord your God 6. Thou shalt not murder

I am not the center of the universe.  There are others who exist.  Their right to exist is real as mine.  I am the LORD your God, is where their right to exist comes from.  Rabbi Daniel Lapin teaches that the source of power of the second tablets strength lies in the truth of the first tablet.

 

The second principle: Certain relationships are sacred.

First Tablet: Second Tablet:
2. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Throughout the old testament, when God’s chosen people worshiped false idols it was referred to, by Him, as prostitution.  God wants us to have special relationships that are different from others and we are to uphold these relationships.  It is not good for man to be alone.

 

The third principle: Others, not you, have a right to their possessions.

First Tablet: Second Tablet:
3. Thou shalt not take my name in vain 8. Thou shalt not steal

Property is a good thing.  People own things that are theirs and you can not take them. God’s name is his just as your neighbors news paper is theirs.

 

The fourth principle: Others property includes their reputation.

First Tablet: Second Tablet:
4. Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy 9. Thou shalt not bear false witness

Just as we are called to uphold our peers reputation by not lying about them we are called to uphold God’s reputation as the Creator by keeping the Sabbath day holy.  It does not say ‘remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.’ It says ‘to keep it holy.’ The act of keeping the Sabbath is how we uphold God’s reputation. This is what keeps the Sabbath holy. This is a signal to the world that we belong to God and that God is the Creator.  God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh.

 

The fifth principle: Our rights have limits

First Tablet: Second Tablet:
5. Honor your father and mother 10.  Thou shalt not covet

Covet is like envy.  I do not want you to have it.  I do not want you to be better than me.  I do not want you to be above me.  Coveting is stepping out of our boundaries with our peers and not honoring our parents is stepping out of our boundaries with those placed above us by God.  Others will be above us in our life and we need to respect that, more we need to see its beauty, and flourish in their protection and love for us.

 

In summary, Rabbi Daniel Lapin teaches that the ten commandments are actually five principles with two examples each. One for how we relate to those above us and one for how we relate to those beside us:

  1. I am not the center of the universe, others exist and have a right to,
  2. among those others there is one other that has a unique and special relationship with me,
  3. all other people have a right to their property, and I am not to violate it,
  4. these other people also have reputations which are a most important form of their property not to be overlooked, and
  5. we are to accept and have joy in the place God has us.

 

 

-A takeaway from The Ten Commandments by Rabbi Daniel Lapin

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.