Gershon Hepner

The Ten Commandments are answers to ten questions

Before the Sinai theophany we’re told that Moses spoke,
and that God answered Moses there by using His great voice.

This might imply that Moses was the source we should invoke
for Ten Commandments, indicating all Ten were his choice,
as if the Bible’s words are hinting to us that all Ten
were generated as God’s ten divine responses to
the questions Moses chose to ask Him on Mount Sinai when
he wondered what might be the most important things to do
and not to do, receiving answers on two tablets in
the form of Ten Commandments, which were God’s replies to all
ten questions Moses asked, and like the universe begin
in that great waste and void which we should every question call,
including this one: “Why did God create the universe?”

The Torah gives a clue, by stating that the world began
with tohu vohu, meaning “waste and void.” This very verse

suggests all fundamental questions asked by Everyman.

Before the Sinai theophany we learn in Exod. 19:9:

יט  וַיְהִי קוֹל הַשֹּׁפָר, הוֹלֵךְ וְחָזֵק מְאֹד; מֹשֶׁה יְדַבֵּר, וְהָאֱלֹהִים יַעֲנֶנּוּ בְקוֹל. 19 And when the voice of the horn waxed louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by a voice.

One day after I composed this poem I heard a devar Torah by Rabbi Dr. Zev Wiener, explaining the talmudic principle of שומע כעונה, which means “he who hears is like he who responds.” First stated in bSukkah 38b, this principle means that a person who listens to the recitation of a text is equivalent to the person who recited it. The Talmud learns this rule in 2 Kings 22:16, which states that after Hilkiah the High Priest found a scroll, presumed to have been the Book of Deuteronomy, King Josiah read it, although verse 22:10 tells us six verses earlier that Shaphan, the grandfather of pre-exilic Judea’s last governor, Gedaliah, is its public reader.  The Talmud’s rule of  שומע כעונה explains my poetic suggestion that Exod. 19:19 implies that when Moses heard the answers to his Ten Questions, it was as if he himself had also given the answers, presented to us as the Ten Words which we call the Ten Commandments.

My poem also provides a new explanation for the problematic dagesh in the dalet in the word מִדַּבֵּר, middabber, which implies that when Moses was speaking to God he was speaking to himself in Num. 7:89 (see Benjamin D. Sommer, “YHWH’s Simulated Speech: The Priestly Interpretation of Prophecy,”

About the Author
Gershon Hepner is a poet who has written over 25,000 poems on subjects ranging from music to literature, politics to Torah. He grew up in England and moved to Los Angeles in 1976. Using his varied interests and experiences, he has authored dozens of papers in medical and academic journals, and authored "Legal Friction: Law, Narrative, and Identity Politics in Biblical Israel." He can be reached at
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