The Importance of the Ten Commandments to Jewish Life
The Ten Commandments were given to the Jewish people via Moses, from
G-d at Mount Sinai, also known as Har Horeb. Since this day, these
commandments have been central to Jewish life.
They can be found twice in the Torah. Firstly in chapter twenty of
the book of Shemot (Exodus) and they are then repeated in chapter five
of the book of Devarim (Deuteronomy). There is a slight variation in
this repetition which concerns the fourth commandment, this law
regards Shabbat. In Shemot, it reads “Remember the Sabbath and keep
it holy” however in Devarim it reads “Observe the Sabbath and keep it
holy”. The reason for this is that G-d spoke the Ten Commandments
simultaneously, something that we as humans cannot do. Of course it
is important to both remember and observe, so this is another reason
why we are reminded.
The fact that Shabbat is in the Ten Commandments show us that it is
one of the fundamentals of our religion. It is how we show in our
daily life that the world which we live in was created by Hashem.
Furthermore, the fact that the commandments are repeated further
emphasises the importance of them to Jewish people and hence Jewish
The Ten Commandments are the fundamental rules of the Jewish faith,
the foundation of which is ethical monotheism.
The word monotheism means belief in one G-d and in order for the term
to be considered as ‘Jewish’ the word ethical must be added to it. Dr
Rabbi Louie Jacobs explains this as “there can be no religion without
ethics and no ethics without religion”; they are each based upon each
other. Furthermore he continues to say, “Unless ethics and religion
are wedded together, neither constitutes the Jewish way” and this
Jewish way is, ethical monotheism.
The commandments one, two and three are concerning belief in G-d,
idolatry and taking the Lords name in vain.
It is debateable whether the first commandment “I am G-d your Lord…”
is even a commandment at all, or if it is a statement. According to
the Arbabanel (15th century Spain), it cannot be considered as a
commandment as it is impossible to command someone to believe in
something, therefore he sees this as an introduction to all the other
commandments and that G-d is establishing his authority. However
according to the Rambam (13th century Egypt), this is a commandment
and he claims that if you look hard enough and you are sincere you
will come to believe the commandment here is to search for the truth.
Ethical monotheism is a essential element of Jewish life because it
effects everything within the religion, the ten commandments highlight
The second commandment, “do not have any other G-ds before me…” orders
Jews not to...