Parshat Yitro: The commandments in God’s love

Our Sages reflect on why this portion is named Yitro, considering that in it the Ten Commandments were presented along with the Torah for the children of Israel: “Now Moses’ father in law, Yitro, the priest of Median, heard all that God had done for Moses and for Israel, His people that the Lord had taken Israel out of Egypt.” (18:1). They point out among other things that the Torah had to be given to Israel and the converts who joined them, including Yitro, who said: “Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the deities, for with the thing that they plotted [Pharaoh and the Egyptians], [the Lord came] upon them.” (18:11). In this context Yitro is considered the epitome of the idolatrous consciousness who later recognized the Oneness of God.

“In the third month of the children of Israel’s departure from Egypt, on this day they arrived in the desert of Sinai.” (19:1). Our Sages explain that seven weeks had to pass before the Giving of the Torah, as a period of self-purification in which the children of Israel refined and redirected all aspects, levels and dimension of consciousness that were subjugated under the dominion of Pharaoh (ego) and the bondage in Egypt (attachment to lower passions and instincts). After this self-refinement, the most transcendental event in Jewish history and consciousness took place: the embrace between the Creator and His Chosen People in which the Torah establishes that connection, the Oneness with Him: “I am the Lord, your G-d, who took you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” (20:2).

This is one of the foremost and fundamental statements in which Judaism recognizes and acknowledges that only the Creator is, and His Creation exists because of Him and it is sustained only by Him; therefore He is our God. We also must comprehend this statement in the context that it is written, meaning that He is the One who takes us from the bondage in the land of ego and its illusions to bring us to His reality, which is the only true reality.

The second as well as the remaining Ten Commandments are obvious consequences of the first: “You shall not have the gods of others in My presence. You shall not make for yourself a graven image or any likeness which is in the Heavens above, which is on the Earth below, or which is in the water beneath the earth. You shall neither prostrate yourself before them nor worship them, because I, the Lord your God, am a zealous God who visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the sons, upon the third and the fourth generation of those who hate Me, and perform loving kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and to those who keep My Commandments.” (20:2-5).

The Creator is our One and only reality that we have to know through His Torah and Commandments. As we have mentioned before, He is a zealous God because His Love does not cohabit with anything different than His ways and attributes. This again is reminded: “You shall not make [images of anything] with Me. Gods of silver or gods of gold you shall not make for yourselves.” (20:19). Hence we must not create any individual or collective fantasies and illusions for ourselves based on ego’s materialistic desires: “You shall not take the Name of the Lord, your God, in vain, because the Lord will not hold blameless anyone who takes His Name in vain.” (20:6). How can we afford the luxury of tampering or transgressing the Essence that is the Name with which we are created and sustained? We are responsible for the life that we were given and for the Divine Love that conceived it along with all His Creation.

“Remember the Shabbat day to sanctify it. Six days may you work and perform all your labor, but the seventh day is a Shabbat to the Lord, your God; you shall perform no labor, neither you, your son, your daughter, your manservant, your maidservant, your beast, nor your stranger who is in your cities. Because [in] six days the Lord made the Heavens and the Earth, the sea and all that is in them, and He rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Shabbat day and sanctified it.” (20:7-10). We have mentioned in previous commentaries that God, the Shabbat, the Torah and Israel are One. Hence as co-creators with God we must emulate His ways and attributes, including working six days by being and doing His Commandments in order to prepare our way to be in His Presence and Oneness that is this special Day of Rest.

“Honor your father and your mother, in order that your days be lengthened on the land that the Lord, your God, is giving you.” (20:11). Again, life is reminded to be honored and respected through the ones who give it. Our mystic Sages teach that father and mother represent wisdom and understanding, and we as their offspring represent knowledge as the synthesis of both. In this context our parents also represent the tradition, legacy and heritage we received from our ancestors and forefathers. Therefore we have to honor them. This Commandment is clearly related to our life within the Land that Gd has given us which includes not only our history but our unification with Him.

“You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (20:12). Our Sages explain that the first five Commandments are linked to our relationship with God and the remaining five to the relationship with our fellow man. This points out that indeed all of them are related to the Creator because we are His image and likeness. Murder negates life that is given and sustained by God’s Love as His manifest reality.

Adultery is one of the many forms of idolatry with which one rather lives in his/her own individual illusion than the one true reality that is God’s Love. Stealing falls into the same category in which the feeling of lack leads one to take what is not his/hers. As we have said often, feeling lack is the manifestation of our separation of the Oneness that God’s Love is, and it is equalized to taking His Name in vain.

We must be responsible to be permanently aware of our constant connection with the Creator as an individual and collective awareness. That includes living in this Truth for ourselves and others, not allowing negative thoughts that make us fall into ego’s fantasies and illusions which may lead us to bear false statements against our fellow man.

Again we are reminded to be eternally zealous and vigilant of our connection with the Creator and not allowing any thought, emotion or feeling of lack: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, his manservant, his maidservant, his ox, his donkey, or whatever belongs to your neighbor.” (20:13). In our awareness of God’s Love we are provided in order to live in His ways and attributes, as it is written in this portion and reiterated countless times in the Torah: “But Moses said to the people, ‘Fear not, because God has come in order to exalt you, and in order that His awe shall be upon your faces, so that you shall not sin’.” (20:16).

In this context “sin” is the choice that we make instead of living in Love’s ways and attributes. Love is goodness and we emanate from by God’s Love with the goodness of His blessings: “(…) wherever I allow My Name to be mentioned, I will come to you and bless you.” (20:20).

About the Author
Ariel Ben Avraham was born in Colombia (1958) from a family with Sephardic ancestry. He studied Cultural Anthropology in Bogota, and lived twenty years in Chicago working as a radio and television producer and writer. He emigrated to Israel in 2004, and for the last fourteen years has been studying the Chassidic mystic tradition, about which he writes and teaches. Based on his studies, he wrote his first book "God's Love" in 2009. He currently lives in Kochav Yaakov.
Related Topics
Related Posts