On Shavuos, the Aseres HaDibros are read in Shul. It is the right thing to stand during this reading and accept upon ourselves the same enthusiastic commitment that was undertaken at Mt. Sinai a few thousand years ago.
The Torah reader (Baal Koreh) reads the words from the Torah using Ta’am Elyonim.
Let me explain. There are two sets of squiggles, underneath the letters in the Torah scroll as well as some squiggles that are featured above the letters. These symbols below and above are what tells the Torah reader the tune of how to sing the words. Usually, the Torah reader follows the notes of the tune that is put below the letters. However, on Shavuos, he ignores the symbols beneath the letters and focuses on the symbols above the letters, singing the words in what is called Ta’am Elyonim, “the upper” tune. This is because when we accept the Torah we are “above” this world. We become higher than just mere human beings. We rise above physicality and mortal and head to eternal.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
- I AM THE LORD YOUR G-D WHO TOOK YOU OUT OF EGYPT FROM THE HOUSE OF SLAVERY.
Acceptance of G-d is the first commandment.
- YOU SHOULD NOT HAVE ANY OTHER gods BEFORE ME. DON’T MAKE GRAVEN IMAGES AND DON’T BOW DOWN TO THEM OR SERVE THEM.
No worship of anything other than G-d.
- DON’T TAKE THE NAME OF G-D IN VAIN
You can’t swear with G-d’s name for trifling matters and can’t swear falsely. (that is why Jews who are in a court will say “I affirm” rather than “I swear”)
- REMEMBER THE DAY OF SHABBOS TO SANCTIFY IT. SIX WEEKS WORK AND ON THE SEVENTH DAY, IT IS A DAY FOR G-D AND YOU DON’T DO ANY WORK, NOT YOU, YOUR SON, DAUGHTER, SERVANTS, ANIMALS OR STRANGER WHO LIVES WITHIN YOUR GATES BECAUSE G-D MADE THE HEAVEN AND EARTH AND ALL THEREIN IN SIX DAYS AND ON THE SEVENTH HE RESTED – THEREFORE G-D BLESSED THIS DAY AND SANCTIFIED IT.
There are two places in the Bible where the ten commandments are written. In one place it says, Watch the Shabbos and here it says Remember the Shabbos. Watch the Shabbos means make sure you don’t transgress the negative commandments associated with Shabbos – such as lighting a fire, etc. Remember the Shabbos means you need to keep the positive commandments of Shabbos – candlelighting, Kiddush, Challos, serving delicious foods, wearing nicer clothing, etc.
Don’t do any work: this means the work that was done to assemble the Tabernacle and is therefore classified as work according to the laws of Sabbath. Mankind doesn’t define what is work vis a vis Shabbos. There are 39 categories of labor that are considered work according to G-d’s laws.
Keeping Shabbos testifies that we know G-d created the world and is master of it.
- HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.
- DON’T MURDER.
- DON’T COMMIT ADULTERY.
- DON’T STEAL (KIDNAP)
This commandment is only about stealing people, not about stealing possessions. Stealing is wrong, but is not liable for the death penalty and is not one of the ten commandments. Not stealing a soul is one of the ten commandments.
- DON’T BE A FALSE WITNESS AGAINST YOUR PEER.
- DON’T COVET THE HOUSE OF YOUR PEER, HIS WIFE, HIS SERVANTS, HIS CATTLE OR ANY OF HIS POSSESSIONS.
Any person transgressing the ten commandments is liable for the death penalty.
The ten commandments were written in column form (on sapphire tablet); five commandments on each side. The first side are commandments that pertain to laws between man and G-d. The second side is about issues between man and man. The two align.
For example, the first commandment in the first column is “I am G-d.” The first commandment in the second column is “Don’t Murder.” Each person is created in the image of G-d – when we murder we are destroying an image of G-d.
The second in Column 1 is: no idol worship. Its counterpart in Column 2, the seventh commandment (second on its side) is no adultery. G-d considers idol worship to be like an adulterous relationship. We are supposed to be in an exclusive relationship with G-d, just as we are to do in our marriages.
Third on side 1 is: Don’t swear falsely and on side 2 the third is don’t kidnap – a man once came to the rabbi and said “I’m a thief – that is the one thing I won’t change about myself, but I’ll take on any other commandment you tell me to do.” So the rabbi said, ‘never say a lie’. The man came back months later, a reformed person, no longer a robber. When asked why, he said he realized that in order not to lie, he had to stop stealing, because if he were not to lie, if ever he was asked in court whether he robbed, he would have to admit to his crimes and he would be put away for life – so because he would not swear falsely, he knew he could no longer rob.
Side 1, the fourth commandment is the Sabbath – Side 2, the fourth thing listed is not to testify falsely. By keeping Shabbos we testify to the world that we know G-d created the world. When we don’t keep Shabbos we testify falsely.
Column 1, the last commandment is honor your parents. On the other side opposite it the last commandment is to not covet. G-d gives each one of us the circumstances, down to the parents we need to have, down to the possessions we need for our own mission in life. We cannot look at anyone else’s stuff – we have what we need for our own unique mission in life.
Who knows ten? I know ten. Ten are the commandments on the Luchos. Ten are the Sefiros (seven that pertain to our world and three beyond). Ten are the utterances that created the world. Ten are the generations that G-d waits for a good person to come along (Adam until Noach, then Noach until Avraham). Ten are the tribulations/tests of Avraham. Ten are the plagues that G-d wrought on the Egyptians. Ten constant miracles happened in the times of the Bais HaMikdash. Ten are the Mitzvos that go into having bread on our table so we hold the bread with all ten fingers when making the Hamotzee blessing. A PERFECT TEN — beyond physical limitations — let’s soar by accepting the call of the Ten Commandments this Shavuos.