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כבד את אביך ואת אמך למען יאריכון ימיך

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

Every mitzvah is accompanied by halachos, laws, and customs which guide its fulfillment. If one does not adhere to them, the fulfillment of the mitzvah is nullified. Some mitzvos have numerous halachos, while others are simple and basic. The mitzvah of kibbud av v’eim, honoring one’s parents, which is one of the most difficult mitzvos to carry out properly, has a considerable amount of laws and criteria which must be met in order to appropriately execute this mitzvah. Determining what is included in the term kavod, honor, and what is not and who is deserving of honor (i.e. an abusive…

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זכור את יום השבת לקדשו

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

I think the primary essence of Shabbos is to be derived from the word l’kadsho, “to sanctify it.” This does not in any way mean to belittle the importance of zachor, “remember,” the Shabbos. Clearly, one who does not remember, who does not observe Shabbos according to halachah, can hardly sanctify it. The suggestion, however, is that Shabbos observance without focusing on its sanctity, by concentrating on the positive aspects of rest, and how this time should be spent spiritually elevating ourselves, undermines the essence of Shabbos. Shabbos is a day of elevation, of spiritual growth, which is achieved through…

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אנכי ד' אלקיך אשר הוצאתיך מארץ מצרים מבית עבדים

I am Hashem, Your G-d, Who has taken you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery. (20:2)

Kabbalas haTorah, the Giving/Receiving of the Torah, was the crown of Creation. As the Abir Yaakov (Horav Yaakov Abuchatzeira, zl) writes, the purpose of Creation is to recognize Hashem’s Monarchy. It is understandable that the world cannot exist without Torah, which guides us how to serve Hashem. In this sense, the world was not completed until Klal Yisrael received/accepted the Torah on Har Sinai. With this in mind, the Abir Yaakov explains the first pesukim of the Torah: Bereishis bara Elokim, “In the beginning, G-d created the heavens and the earth…darkness was on the face of the depths, and the…

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ויספר משה לחתנו את כל אשר עשה ד' ... ויאמר יתרו ברוך ד' אשר הציל אתכם

Moshe told his father-in-law everything that Hashem had done… Yisro said, “Blessed is Hashem Who has rescued you.” (18:8,10)

The power that a story has to impact a person cannot be overstated. Horav Nachman Breslover, zl, teaches, “There is nothing that revives the spirit, purifies the heart, deepens the thought, or draws us close to our Father in Heaven more than telling a story (obviously, there is an art to telling a story). Indeed, prior to giving us the mitzvos of the Torah, Hashem preceded it with the story of Creation.” Moshe Rabbeinu employed the effectiveness of a story to inspire Yisro and draw his heart close to Hashem, “Moshe related to his father-in-law all that Hashem had done.”…

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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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