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לא תגנב

Do not steal. (20:13)

We all come across people whom we once trusted, until they took advantage of our trust – then we lost it. The problem is that, unfortunately, after one person hurts us, we tend to judge everyone according to that new barometer. Not all people are perfect, and some extenuating circumstances bring out the worst in people. Sadly, it is so much easier to think negatively than positively, because negativity requires less creativity. Once betrayed, we are inclined to dig in and ignore everyone, because we do not want to be hurt again – and again. While everyone deserves the benefit…

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לא תרצח לא תנאף לא תגנב

You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal. (20:13)

The Aseres HaDibros, Ten Commandments, comprise the centerpiece of Hashem’s Revelation at Har Sinai. They are the basis of our Torah. One would think that when Hashem “introduces” Himself to the people that He redeemed from Egypt, for whom He wrought unparalleled miracles, a nation that had achieved an extraordinarily high level of holiness, the dor deiah, generation of knowledge, that these commands would be earth-shattering. Yet, Hashem enjoins them to commit to such common sensical prohibitive mitzvos as: do not steal; do not commit adultery; do not murder. One lectures to a group of revered intellectuals concerning profound matters,…

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זכור את יום השבת לקדשו כבד את אביך ואת אמך

Remember the Shabbos day to sanctify it. (20:8) Honor your father and your mother. (20:12)

“Remembering” Shabbos should be a part of our lives. It is the vehicle by which we come closer to Hashem. How can we squander a moment? How can we fail to remember? This mitzvah is followed by the commandment to honor one’s parents. The juxtaposition of these two mitzvos upon one another (they are repeated in Parashas Kedoshim, Vayikra 19:3), in which both mitzvos are included in the same pasuk) implies a special relationship between the two. The fact that in Vayikra, they follow after the enjoinment of Kedoshim tiheyu, “You shall be holy,” indicates that, although every mitzvah consecrates…

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זכור את יום השבת לקדשו

Remember the day of Shabbos to sanctify it. (20:8)

Horav Moshe Zalmen Grossman, zl, believed that the term shomer Shabbos aptly translated, “You shall guard the Shabbos,” is an exhortation to watch over the Shabbos. A soldier who is charged with guard duty does not dare sleep. Thus, Rav Zalmen Shomer Shabbos, as he was consequently called, remained awake the entire Shabbos, engaged in learning and singing, delving into esoteric studies. It was known that Rav Zalmen could be found all Friday night in the Karliner bais hamedrash in Meah Shearim. In those days, poverty was the primary concern of Yerushalayim’s observant community. People simply had no money to…

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ואתה תחזה מכל העם אנשי חיל יראי אלקים אנשי אמת שנאי בצע

And you shall discern from the entire people, men of accomplishment, G-d-fearing people, men of truth, people who despise money. (18:21)

Yisro presented Moshe Rabbeinu with a tall order to be used as the criteria for selecting the nation’s judges. He identified four qualities, which, following meticulous consideration, were to become one: anshei chayil, men of accomplishment. Veritably, the commentators, each in his inimitable style, define these four qualities as they see them. Ralbag explains anshei chayil as men who fear no man. They have strong characters, believe in what they are doing, and have robust self-confidence. Yirei Elokim, G-d-fearing, refers to those leaders who have the fear of Hashem written all over their faces. They do not for a moment…

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וכל העם ראים את הקולת

The entire people saw the thunder. (20:15)

Thunder is a sound which one hears, not sees. Yet, the nation was able to see the thunder: Ro’im es ha’nishma, “They saw what is (ordinarily only) heard.” This indicates that during the Revelation, the nation transcended human/normal physical limitations, rising to the level of superhuman comprehension, whereby they could see what had otherwise only been heard. Horav Tzvi Hirsch Ferber, zl, writes (Kerem HaTzvi) that he came across an innovative satirical explanation of ro’im es ha’nishma. At that time (early 20th century England/Europe) Jewish observance was hemorrhaging, decreasing with each passing day. One of the obvious reasons for this…

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כבד את אביך ואת אמך למען יאריכון ימיך

Honor your father and mother so that your days shall be lengthened. (20:12)

Kibbud av’v’eim is a difficult mitzvah to fulfill properly because there is no shiur, measurement, to it. The mitzvah has no limits, because one can always do more. Indeed, the great Amora, Abaye, who was an orphan (his father died before he was born, and his mother died in childbirth), considered himself fortunate, since he never transgressed this mitzvah (Kiddushin 31b). Why is arichas yamim, longevity, the stated reward for Kibbud av v’eim? Each generation is a link in a continuum that goes on until the advent of Moshiach Tzidkeinu. This link is as strong as the relationship one has…

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והגבלת את העם סביב... כל הנוגע בהר מות יומת

You shall set boundaries for the people roundabout…Whoever will touch the mountain will surely die. (19:12)

Nogea means to touch inappropriately or to reach up/out. It is the act of going beyond one’s domain into that of another. One may extend himself indecorously or even correctly, but, in any event, he goes beyond himself into another otherwise inaccessible area. He reaches/touches elsewhere. The Jewish People were warned not to touch the mountain. It was off-limits to them. It was theoretically beyond their reach, out of the sphere of their purview. The Chafetz Chaim, zl, cited this pasuk in a letter admonishing the head of a medical conference against tampering with the Torah-study of yeshivah students. Apparently,…

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ואתם תהיו לי ממלכת כהנים וגוי קדוש

You shall be to Me a kingdom of ministers/priests and a holy nation. (19:6)

The Torah hereby informs us of our mission statement, the identity which we must strive to achieve as members of Klal Yisrael. The Kohanim stand at the spiritual helm of the nation as mentors and paradigms of moral/spiritual perfection. They have dedicated their lives to the service of Hashem – a mission which the Torah expects all of us to complete. Second, we are to become a goy kadosh, holy nation. Holiness is achieved via separation and removal of oneself from the moral temptations and conflicts that would destroy our spiritual ascent. One can hardly live a life of abandon,…

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ואתה תחזה מכל העם אנשי חיל יראי אלקים אנשי אמת שנאי בצע

And you shall discern from among the entire people, men of accomplishment, G-d-fearing people, men of truth, people who despise money. (18:21)

Yisro advised Moshe Rabbeinu to seek Judges who possessed four exemplary attributes; most important, they were seeking anshei chayil, men of accomplishment. Rashi interprets accomplishment as referring to men of means who would not be swayed, who could resist pressure, thus enabling them to render their judgment not subject to external influence. Sforno interprets chayil to mean men who possess good judgment, common sense, and the ability to recognize when truth is being related and when it is not. Interestingly, after sifting through the ranks of the people, he found numerous anshei chayil, which is a strong indication of the…

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