Posts tagged " Ten Commandments "

Good Gracious, You’re Pregnant!

October 9th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 7 comments

“Just five more minutes,” “One more chapter,” “I guess I can stay a little longer.” The temptation to stretch out an enjoyable activity just a little bit more is one to which we can all relate.

After a month of reveling in God’s closeness, culminating with the Festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles), the Jewish people felt the same way. In response, God granted them an extra holy day, Simhat Torah, that begins as Sukkot ebbs away (starting this year Wednesday night, Oct. 11). Literally translated as “The Joy of the Torah,” it is on this day that we conclude and begin anew the annual cycle of reading the Five Books of Moses.

That makes this week a particularly apt time to highlight the idea that the first time in Genesis that a specific letter is used to start a word, that word provides a key to the inner meaning of that initial letter.

Consider the first usage of the word good in Scripture.

And God saw the light, that it was good
(Genesis 1:4)

In Hebrew, the word for good is TOV.  Its initial letter TET is the ninth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, giving it a numerical value of nine. Since TOV is the first word in the Bible to start with a TET, the letter itself is linked to good. Elsewhere, ancient Jewish wisdom also links the number nine to pregnancy giving us the following equation.

TET = 9 = TOV = good = pregnancy


There is another place in the Torah where ancient Jewish wisdom focuses, not on the presence of the letter TET, but its absence. The thirteen verses containing the second appearance of the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:6-18) contain at least one instance of every single letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Amazingly, the thirteen verses containing the first appearance of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2-14) reveal one stunningly conspicuous exception.

The letter TET is completely absent from the first commandments!

Anything good endures forever, and Moses was destined to cast down and shatter the first two tablets of the Ten Commandments.  Had they contained the letter TET, representing the concept of good, they could not have been destroyed.  The thirteen verses comprising the second appearance of the Ten Commandments do contain the letter TET, because these tablets last forever.

What is going on?

The existence of the Ten Commandments and what they represent defines  a Biblical perspective of goodness. What good means to an ardent Islamic fanatic in Iraq is quite different from what good means to, say, a faithful Christian farmer and family man in Fresno. In reality, good comprises four categories of action.

  • Improving our relationship with God.
  • Advancing the interests of our families.
  • Advancing our financial interests.
  • Serving the interests of our friends and fellow citizens.

Time and energy invested in these four activities is good, carrying lasting impact, and is thus never wasted.

Pregnancy, and subsequent devotion to children, serves all four of these categories, making it in some ways the ultimate good. Through this medium we can

  • Become a partner in creation with God.
  • Promote family.
  • Have a worthwhile reason for gaining wealth.
  • Bless  society by increasing the number of well-raised and productive human beings.

In order to avoid a single wasted hour or a single wasted joule of our energy we need to strive to ensure that each waking hour is devoted to serving God, our families, our financial interests and God’s other children.

Simhat Torah, the festival of rejoicing in the Torah provides an incentive to begin looking at Scripture anew with deeper insights, more maturity and greater perception than last year’s study. If you would like to start afresh with understanding that flows from ancient Jewish wisdom, we recommend our money-saving and value-filled Complete Library Package and Library Pack PLUS. As an added bonus, when you purchase before our site closes for Simhat Torah this Wednesday evening (through Saturday night), we will automatically add at checkout a free copy of the new book, The Skeptic and the Rabbi so that even the enjoyable time you spend reading will further your knowledge of and connection to God.

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Nothing Trumps Your History

November 9th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools 24 comments

When democracies vote, citizens hope to elect leaders whose values align with their own.  The problem is, how do you know?  One clue is to pay far more attention to what they have done over the years than to what they say.  Interestingly, in America’s recent election, the news media along with their attendant opinion-generators focused exclusively on the candidates’ words.  In one case to ignore prior misdeeds, and in the other to ignore prior accomplishments.  What is wonderful about raising children is that they pretty much ignore what parents say but derive their sense of values entirely from what parents actually do.  A man I know understands this well: here is his story.


My son has autism and can’t connect with others

August 25th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 25 comments


I have been listening to your podcasts & have found them to be very informative & fascinating. I just listened to your episode of 2/20/16 about Jewish attitudes towards money, business, etc. I was saddened, though, as I heard you discuss the 10 Commandments in terms of God’s 5 Commandments about “connections”. I am the mother of a young adult autistic son who has never been (and most likely will never be) able to connect to people well enough to make a friend, hold a job, or lead what society considers a productive life.

As a Catholic Christian, I believe my son has dignity as a child created in the image of God. The inability to connect with others, though, is central to what it means to be autistic. It is a heartbreaking & serious lifelong condition that limits his ability to be a part of the world around him.

As you quoted from Genesis, God said,” It is not good for man to be alone,” but this is my son’s reality. How does Jewish wisdom respond to the unique challenges associated with autism? With autism becoming so much more prevalent, I wonder if you might address this topic for me & other families living with autistic family members.

Thank you so much & God bless you & your work!

Ann R.


Dear Ann,

Thank you for trusting us with such a sensitive question. We completely agree with you that your son’s life has intrinsic value and dignity by virtue of being created in God’s image. (more…)

Repetition Reveals Reality

August 10th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools 1 comment

James Bond knew it.  Sherlock Holmes knew it.  Even Lieutenant Columbo on the NBC show from the 70’s knew it.  There are no coincidences in life.  If these famous agents and detectives repeatedly spotted someone in their vicinity, they were being followed.  If the same gun was used at separate crime scenes, the crimes were linked.  When something occurs repeatedly, there is usually a useful message waiting to be recognized.  However, we don’t always get it.

You might have heard someone exclaim in exasperation, “That always happens to me!”   Maybe you have noticed repetitive patterns in your own life.  For instance, someone I know is frequently late for meetings and appointments.  He is quite certain this is always because of unexpectedly bad traffic.  A woman I know seems to lurch from one domestic crisis to the next and attributes it to bad karma—whatever that means.  A fellow boater has encountered rocks six times in six summers.  In each case the rocks won and his boat lost.  In each case he blamed bad luck that comes his way because long ago he changed his boat’s name.

Each and every one of us can surely examine our own lives for repeating patterns of undesirable events.  The value comes when we then honestly ask ourselves what is really responsible for those things happening.  Examining those repetitive events may reveal something vitally important about the reality you have created in your life.

Through studying Scripture, we are trained to become adept at spotting repetition.  When a word is central to understanding a certain passage, God highlights this for us by repeating the same word seven times. In ancient Jewish wisdom, seven implies a complete unit.  For example, we have seven colors of the rainbow, seven days of the week, seven weeks between Passover and Pentecost, and so on.

Additionally, the number seven in Hebrew is the same word as the Hebrew word for feeling satisfied and complete.

There are literally hundreds of examples of how God inserted the code of sevens into the Five Books of Moses.  Here is an amazing one.

We might think that the number ten reveals an essence of the Ten Commandments. However, an exploration of the sections of the Bible dealing with the Ten Commandments shines a different light on the matter.  

We read about these commandments for the first time in the last verse of Exodus 31. The word ‘tablets’ appears twice in that verse.  The word ‘tablets’ appears five more times as the story unfolds. (Exodus 32: 15-19)  Shortly thereafter, Moses smashed these tablets.

God instructed Moses to prepare another set of tablets and would you believe it! In the account of the second set; the word ‘tablets’ also appears seven times. (Exodus 34)

In the book of Deuteronomy Moses recounts the events of the past forty years in the desert.  Would you be surprised to see that the code of sevens is followed here too?

Sure enough, Moses tells about the first set of tablets mentioning the word ‘tablets’ exactly seven times. (Deuteronomy 9:9-17).  When he recalls how he smashed those tablets and made a new set, he again mentions the word ‘tablets’ seven times. (Deuteronomy 10:1-5)

In Scripture, this Divine Message is seldom referred to as the Ten Commandments but as you can see, it is called the Tablets (implying two-ness) twenty-eight (4 X 7) times.  This tells us that the ‘two-ness’ of the tablets was more important than the ‘ten-ness’ if you get my drift.

Through this method of seven-fold repetition, God directs us to look in a different direction. Focusing on repetition in our own lives can lead us down a more productive path of self-examination.