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Parshas Yisro

We Have to Do More!

By Rabbi Label Lam

I am HASHEM your G-d Who took you out of the Land of Egypt from the house of bondage! (Shemos 20:2)

Don’t kill! (Shemos 20;13)

What do these two statements of the Ten Commandments share in common? Conceptually they appear quite distant. One is an affirmative requirement of the mind, while the other is a refraining from action. One is on the side with the first five, with all the mandates between man and G-d and the other is on the interpersonal side between man and man. That may already be enough of a hint to reveal part of the answer.

First of all our sages tell us that the Jewish People were initially able to perceive all 613 Mitzvos in the Ten Commandments with all their myriad details. The Ten Commandments therefore are something like the table of contents for the totality of the Torah. The outline for the entire book is on display on the first page before the book begins. Every Mitzvah finds its roots there in those original statements. Secondly, the Maharal from Prague instructs us that the Ten Commandments are not only to be learned in a linear fashion following the flow chart from one to ten but rather also in a side by side comparison style. Therefore one lines up with six and two with seven and three with eight and four with nine and five with ten.

Now we can ask again, “What does ‘I am HASHEM…’ and ‘Don’t Kill!’ have in common? They both share the top of the chart in each category of both sides of the tablets. Numbers one and six somehow work together. How so?

1-The acceptance of G-d’s existence as the Author or Creation can powerfully inhibit a person from slipping into the depravity of murder? The murderer says to himself, “What’s this person doing in ‘my way’?” The murderer feels the world is his own. He declares with his action that he is the arbiter of life and death. When the reality of The Creator dawns on him life shrinks back into proportion and he realizes he is a creation himself with no higher ranking than anyone else. HASHEM put that person there just as much he was placed here and now.

2-Only when a person comes to terms with the notion of a Creator can he fully appreciate that he himself and the other he strives with are both created in the “Image of G-d”. The side by side comparison serves to elevate the enormity of the crime, while highlighting some other new and important values at the same time!

Yesterday I received a “thank you” letter in the mail from Rebbetzin Marsha London of Nefesh Academy, thanking me for trekking out to Brooklyn in the snow to speak at her husband Rabbi Yechiel London’s (zl.) first Yurtzeit a few weeks ago. Rabbi London was a huge Talmud Scholar and he had dedicated all his life’s energies to the very end reaching and teaching Jews of all types n’ stripes. My last contact with him was at a Shabbaton for NYU students that he and his wife were leading. At the end of her letter Rebbetzin London writes the following:

“I’ll share with you a story: When Rabbi London was in the hospital there were many “close calls”. On one particular Sunday he had been learning with some grandchildren and a great nephew, teenage boys, when his blood pressure plummeted and his heart stopped. Doctors and nurses came running in; the family left the room to say Tehillim and pierce the heavens while many members of the hospital worked feverishly.

After a long time he came back to this world and he was transferred to the ICU. Later that evening when my daughter returned to the hospital to see him the Rabbi removed the oxygen mask from his face and said, “You see how much you need to do to save one Neshama?!”” The Rebbetzin concludes, “Everything was mussar to him- we’ve got to do more!!”


DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.


 


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