Va'etchanan - in Classical Rabbinic Interpretation - Deuteronomy Chapter 5

Deuteronomy Chapter 5

Rabbi Azariah in the name of Rabbi Judah ben Rabbi Simon taught that the familiarity with which God spoke with the Israelites in Deuteronomy 5:4 befit the infancy of Israel’s nationhood. Rabbi Azariah in the name of Rabbi Judah ben Rabbi Simon explained in a parable. A mortal king had a daughter whom he loved exceedingly. So long as his daughter was small, he would speak with her in public or in the courtyard. When she grew up and reached puberty, the king determined that it no longer befit his daughter's dignity for him to converse with her in public. So he directed that a pavilion be made for her so that he could speak with his daughter inside the pavilion. In the same way, when God saw the Israelites in Egypt, they were in the childhood of their nationhood, as Hosea 11:1 says, “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son.” When God saw the Israelites at Sinai, God spoke with them as Deuteronomy 5:4 says, “The Lord spoke with you face to face.” As soon as they received the Torah, became God’s nation, and said (as reported in Exodus 24:7), “All that the Lord has spoken will we do, and obey,” God observed that it was no longer in keeping with the dignity of God’s children that God should converse with them in the open. So God instructed the Israelites to make a Tabernacle, and when God needed to communicate with the Israelites, God did so from the Tabernacle. And thus Numbers 7:89 bears this out when it says, “And when Moses went into the tent of meeting that He might speak with him.” (Numbers Rabbah 12:4; see also Pesikta de-Rav Kahana 1:2, attributing the parable to Rabbi Judah bar Ilai.)

The Mishnah taught that the priests recited the Ten Commandments daily. (Mishnah Tamid 5:1; Babylonian Talmud Tamid 32b.) The Gemara, however, taught that although the Sages wanted to recite the Ten Commandments along with the Shema in precincts outside of the Temple, they soon abolished their recitation, because the Sages did not want to lend credence to the arguments of the heretics (who might argue that Jews honored only the Ten Commandments). (Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 12a.)

The Gemara taught that the Israelites heard the words of the first two commandments (in Exodus 20:2–5 (20:3–6 in NJPS) and Deuteronomy 5:6–9 (5:7–10 in NJPS)) directly from God. Rabbi Simlai expounded that a total of 613 commandments were communicated to Moses — 365 negative commandments, corresponding to the number of days in the solar year, and 248 positive commandments, corresponding to the number of the parts in the human body. Rav Hamnuna said that one may derive this from Deuteronomy 33:4, “Moses commanded us Torah, an inheritance of the congregation of Jacob.” The letters of the word “Torah” (תּוֹרָה) have a numerical value of 611 (as ת equals 400, ו equals 6, ר equals 200, and ה equals 5). And the Gemara did not count among the commandments that the Israelites heard from Moses the commandments, “I am the Lord your God,” and, “You shall have no other gods before Me,” as the Israelites heard those commandments directly from God. (Babylonian Talmud Makkot 23b–24a.)

Rabbi Levi said that the section beginning at Leviticus 19:1 was spoken in the presence of the whole Israelite people, because it includes each of the Ten Commandments, noting that: (1) Exodus 20:2 says, “I am the Lord your God,” and Leviticus 19:3 says, “I am the Lord your God”; (2) Exodus 20:2–3 says, “You shall have no other gods,” and Leviticus 19:4 says, “Nor make to yourselves molten gods”; (3) Exodus 20:6 (20:7 in NJPS) says, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain,” and Leviticus 19:12 says, “And you shall not swear by My name falsely”; (4) Exodus 20:7 (20:8 in NJPS) says, “Remember the Sabbath day,” and Leviticus 19:3 says, “And you shall keep My Sabbaths”; (5) Exodus 20:11 (20:12 in NJPS) says, “Honor your father and your mother,” and Leviticus 19:3 says, “You shall fear every man his mother, and his father”; (6) Exodus 20:12 (20:13 in NJPS) says, “You shall not murder,” and Leviticus 19:16 says, “Neither shall you stand idly by the blood of your neighbor”; (7) Exodus 20:12 (20:13 in NJPS) says, “You shall not commit adultery,” and Leviticus 20:10 says, “Both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death; (8) Exodus 20:12 (20:13 in NJPS) says, “You shall not steal,” and Leviticus 19:11 says, “You shall not steal”; (9) Exodus 20:12 (20:13 in NJPS) says, “You shall not bear false witness,” and Leviticus 19:16 says, “You shall not go up and down as a talebearer”; and (10) Exodus 20:13 (20:14 in NJPS) says, “You shall not covet . . . anything that is your neighbor's,” and Leviticus 19:18 says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus Rabbah 24:5.)

The Sifre taught that to commit idolatry is to deny the entire Torah. (Sifre to Numbers 111:1:3.)

Tractate Avodah Zarah in the Mishnah, Tosefta, Jerusalem Talmud, and Babylonian Talmud interpreted the laws prohibiting idolatry in Exodus 20:2–5 (20:3–6 in NJPS) and Deuteronomy 5:6–9 (5:7–10 in NJPS). (Mishnah Avodah Zarah 1:1–5:12; Tosefta Avodah Zarah 1:1–8:8; Jerusalem Talmud Avodah Zarah 1a–; Babylonian Talmud Avodah Zarah 2a–76b.)

Tractate Shabbat in the Mishnah, Tosefta, Jerusalem Talmud, and Babylonian Talmud interpreted the laws of the Sabbath in Exodus 16:23 and 29; 20:7–10 (20:8–11 in the NJPS); 31:13–17; 35:2–3; Leviticus 19:3; Numbers 15:32–36; and Deuteronomy 5:11 (5:12 in the NJPS). (Mishnah Shabbat 1:1–24:5; Tosefta Shabbat 1:1–17:29; Jerusalem Talmud Shabbat 1a–; Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 2a–157b.)

Noting that Exodus 20:7 (20:8 in NJPS) says, “Remember the Sabbath day,” and Deuteronomy 5:11 (5:12 in NJPS) says, “Observe the Sabbath day,” the Gemara taught that God pronounced both “Remember” and “Observe” in a single utterance, an utterance that the mouth cannot utter, nor the ear hear. (Babylonian Talmud Shevuot 20b; see also Mekhilta Bahodesh 7:8:1.) Rav Ada bar Ahabah taught that the Torah thus obligates women to sanctify the Sabbath (by reciting or hearing the Kiddush, even though women are generally not bound to observe such positive precepts that depend on specified times). For Scripture says both “Remember” and “Observe,” and all who are included in the exhortation “Observe” are included in the exhortation “Remember.” And women, since they are included in “Observe” (which the Rabbis interpret as a negative commandment that binds all Jews), are also included in “Remember.” (Babylonian Talmud Shevuot 20b.)

The Mishnah taught that both men and women are obligated to carry out all commandments concerning their fathers. (Mishnah Kiddushin 1:7; Babylonian Talmud Kiddushin 29a, 30b.) Rav Judah interpreted the Mishnah to mean that both men and women are bound to perform all precepts concerning a father that are incumbent upon a son to perform for his father. (Babylonian Talmud Kiddushin 30b.)

A Midrash noted that almost everywhere, Scripture mentions a father’s honor before the mother’s honor. (For example, Exodus 20:11 (20:12 in NJSP), Deuteronomy 5:15 (5:16 in the NJPS), 27:16) But Leviticus 19:3 mentions the mother first to teach that one should honor both parents equally. (Genesis Rabbah 1:15.)

The Rabbis taught in a Baraita what it means to “honor” and “revere” one’s parents within the meaning of Exodus 20:11 (20:12 in NJSP) (honor), Leviticus 19:3 (revere), and Deuteronomy 5:15 (5:16 in the NJPS) (honor). To “revere” means that the child must neither stand nor sit in the parent’s place, nor contradict the parent’s words, nor engage in a dispute to which the parent is a party. To “honor” means that the child must give the parent food and drink and clothes, and take the parent in and out. (Babylonian Talmud Kiddushin 31b.)

Rabbi Tanchum ben Chanilai found in God's calling to Moses alone in Levitcus 1:1 proof that a burden that is too heavy for 600,000 — hearing the voice of God (see Deuteronomy 5:22) — can be light for one. (Leviticus Rabbah 1:1.)

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