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Wednesday
Feb042015

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF THE FUTURE

In his classic work Tanya, the Alter Rebbe expounds on the revelation at Mount Sinai. What happened there was more than just the giving of a set of Ten Commandments, most of which were already known. Far more significantly, it was an unprecedented revelation of G-d’s presence in our physical world. No longer were the physical and the spiritual realms disparate entities.

FULFILLING THE PURPOSE OF CREATION

 

The Alter Rebbe cites the famous words of the Midrash as to the raison d’être of Creation: “G-d desired a dwelling place in the lowest of realms.” G-d’s reason for creating a physical existence for the world was to have the People make it a receptive place for His presence by fulfilling His commandments. With the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, one who performs a Mitzvah with his physical body, or with a physical object, introduces Divine energy into the physical world and helps make it a dwelling place for G-d.

 

 

 

 

However, the Alter Rebbe adds, the revelation at Mount Sinai was a one-time event. What happened at Sinai was the beginning of a process that will come full circle with the Messianic Age. At that time, G-d’s presence in our world will become a permanent reality.

 

It may be suggested that if the revelation at Sinai was the beginning of the road to Redemption it should be reflected in the initial communication, the so-called Ten Commandments. And, in fact, it is.

 

THE PROMISE

 

The First Commandment is: “I am the L-rd your G-d, Who took you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of Bondage.”

 

The scholarly medieval work known as the Semak states that the commandment contains a fundamental promise: just as G-d liberated us from the Egyptian bondage, so too will He liberate us from the present exile.

 

IN G-D’S PRESENCE

 

The Second Commandment is: “You shall not have the gods of others in My presence.”

 

The words “My presence” imply that idolatry and G-d’s presence are mutually exclusive. For idolatry to exist, in any form, the idolaters cannot be aware of G-d’s presence; otherwise, they would worship Him instead of their idols. In the Messianic Age, when the veil that obscures the truth of G-d’s presence is finally removed, no vestige of idolatry, even in its most subtle form, will be able to survive.

 

We can now rephrase the Second Commandment to read as a declaration rather than a mandate:

 

“You will not have the gods of others, because you will all be in My presence…” This construction reflects the many Biblical prophecies that all foreign deities will be eliminated. The Aleinu prayer, recited thrice daily at the end of our services, demonstrates our yearning for fulfillment of this prophecy.

 

RESTORING STABILITY

 

The Third Commandment is: “You shall not take the name of the L-rd your G-d in vain, for the L-rd will not hold blameless anyone who takes His name in vain.”

 

This commandment is unique. It is the only one which G-d says He will not forgive. The Talmud states that the entire world shook when G-d uttered this commandment. Why is this transgression singled out from among all the others?

 

The answer is that all the other transgressions are committed in spite of G-d. Either one forgets G-d’s presence or, heaven forbid, even rebels against Him. This specific transgression can only be committed by making G-d’s name an “accomplice” to the crime. We can see in this transgression the ultimate state of exile, where not only is G-d’s presence veiled, it is actually transformed into an agent of evil, G-d forbid.

 

Hence the Third Commandment warns us how low one can go as a result of Galus conditions. The first level of degradation, represented by the Second Commandment, is the concealment of G-d’s presence. From there, it degrades even further into the perversion of using G-d for evil.

 

These two characteristics of Galus have come to the fore in recent times. The world today, including its academics and journalists, is plagued with a secular tyranny that denies G-d and repudiates the very notion of absolute standards of morality and righteousness. Simultaneously, we are witness to the appalling evil of terrorism “in the name of G-d,” as was tragically evidenced in the terrible massacres in Paris a few weeks ago.

 

The final Redemption will end these distortions of reality. The Third Commandment thus declares that “You will not take the name of the L-rd your G-d in vain…” This phenomenon can only occur in a Galus-oriented world that is inherently unstable.

 

This present instability, which enables G-d’s power to be so sullied, echoes the instability of the world before Sinai. It was only when the world’s purpose for existence was validated by the giving of the Torah that the world stopped trembling, according to the Talmud. Thus, with G-d’s declaration that “I am the L-rd your G-d…” G-d’s presence and a concomitant stability were introduced to the world. However, whenever a person swears falsely and diverts G-d’s energy into his falsehood, it returns the world to its pre-Sinai instability and reverses the very mechanism for Redemption.

 

THE SABBATH OF EXISTENCE

 

The Fourth Commandment is: “Remember the Sabbath and sanctify it.”

 

This commandment alludes literally to the seventh day. But its deeper reference is to the seventh millennium, the ultimate Sabbath of creation. By telling us to remember it, the Torah is also hinting that when we observe Shabbos today we should remember that it is an allusion to the Messianic Era which we know is the Shabbos of creation. It is the time when we will enjoy true stability and tranquility.

 

THE LENGTH OF DAYS OF THE FUTURE

 

The Fifth Commandment is: “Honor your father and mother, in order that your days be lengthened on the land that the L-rd, your G-d, is giving you.” Our Sages state that “long life” here refers to long life in the future Messianic Age, particularly in the period after T’chiyas HaMeisim, when the dead are restored to life.

 

In summation, the first five commandments tell the following story:

 

G-d will redeem us. We will bask in His presence. The world will become a stable and tranquil dwelling place as the prelude to the time when we live forever.

 

 

THE DIVINITY OF THE BODY

 

The Sixth Commandment is “You shall not commit murder.” Many have asked why the Torah had to command us to avoid such a heinous crime? Isn’t its evil nature self-evident?

 

One answer is that the focus here is not on the moral degradation of the murderer; that needs no special mention. Rather, the seriousness of this crime derives from its denial of the belief that every individual body is created in G-d’s image. This is a repudiation of the G-dly value of the physical body. Many non-Torah spiritual ideologies regard the body as lacking intrinsic holiness. At best, the body is seen as a temporary “Temple of the soul.” In Judaism, however, the body is rooted in G-d’s essence and it was the body that G-d chose at Mount Sinai.

 

Chassidic philosophy reveals that this unique status of the body will be fully revealed in the Messianic Age, especially after the Resurrection of the Dead. At that time, the full extent of the body’s intrinsic G-dly nature will not only be revealed but the body will be viewed even as superior to the soul! The root of this notion is the commandment against murder. The Torah is in effect declaring: “Do not underestimate the G-dly nature of the body.”

 

THE ULTIMATE MARRIAGE

 

The Seventh Commandment is “You shall not commit adultery.”

 

Here too, the Torah wishes to go beyond the conventional wisdom that adultery is a crime against morality. While certainly true, there was no need for the fanfare of Sinai to teach such an elementary law. Many other cultures honor this command without having been made aware of the Ten Commandments. Rather, this law is about appreciating and respecting the awesome G-dly nature of the physical relationship between husband and wife. In some other religious ideologies, marriage and intimacy are seen as a necessary evil to control and curb our animalistic desires. In Judaism, it is the source for introducing the most sublime Divine energies into our world.

 

Indeed, marriage of a man and a woman is a micro version of the ultimate marriage between G-d and the Jewish people. Fidelity in marriage as the holiest institution in existence is a precursor to that future marriage that occurred at Sinai and will be consummated in the Messianic Age. This commandment alludes to the exclusivity of our relationship with G-d.

 

THE G-DLINESS WITHIN THE PHYSICAL

 

The Eighth Commandment is “You shall not steal.”

 

Although our Sages teach us that the principle meaning of this commandment is not to kidnap, it also alludes to the general law against theft of property. This too reflects the sophisticated way Judaism views physical objects and property. If it were merely a command against stealing another’s property it would not have necessitated the imposing accompaniment of thunder and lightning. Rather, it is a testament to the way we ought to view the physical world. G-d’s purpose in creation—which will be fully realized in the Messianic Age—is not for the spiritual realms, but for our physical world. By respecting the integrity of property we demonstrate that we respect the integrity of the physical world and the role that each person is given to cultivate and elevate his or her personal property by revealing its true G-dly essence.

 

WE ARE G-D’S WITNESSES

 

The Ninth Commandment is: “You shall not bear false witness against your fellow.”

 

We are created as witnesses to G-d’s existence and presence in our world. When we are in exile we are unable to serve G-d adequately; many of His commandments cannot presently be fulfilled. Furthermore, we no longer have the Holy Temple, where G-d’s presence was revealed. We are thus incapable of testifying fully to G-d’s presence. That lack will be remedied in the Messianic Age.

 

NO MORE JEALOUSY

 

The Tenth and final Commandment is: “You shall not covet…”

 

The very last redemptive change to humanity that will occur is spelled out in Maimonides’ conclusion to his Mishneh Torah: “In that age there will be no more jealousy and rivalry…” The deeply embedded human failing of envy, cause of the very first crime against another human when Cain killed Abel, will finally be rectified in the Messianic Age.

 

To summarize the last five commandments:

 

In the Messianic Age we will appreciate the Divine character of the physical body, experience the ultimate marriage, value the physical world, be empowered to be complete witnesses of G-d and to overcome the last of our human frailties.

 

Today our challenge is to anticipate these changes and attempt to implement them in our daily lives. This will prepare us for the imminent coming of Moshiach and the unfolding of the Final Redemption!

 

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