The giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai was one of the most important moments in the history of the Jewish people. The children of Israel received the Ten Commandments direct from the hand of God as a kind of guide for all mankind. While there are many more commandments, the essence of the entire Torah can be found in the Ten Commandments written by thee finger of God on two stone tablets.
After the people had received the commandments, Moses went back up the mountain, entering the mist in which God was. One might wonder what was the point of the Ten Commandments if Moses then went up and received over 600 additional do’s and don’ts from God. The Ten Commandments, presented to man like a prelude to the total Torah, illuminate the mystery of diminution.
Society both then and now has a tendency to sanctify abundance. I remember when I was a child we just had regular tomatoes. Today there are also cherry tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, orange tomatoes, chocolate tomatoes, and more. One variety is not enough for us. We want more, quickly and cheaply. And we see this in all areas of our lives. Where have we not yet traveled? What have we not yet seen? We definitely need to go try this or that restaurant. We are always eager for the new, for the next thing. Until…
Until the coronavirus came knocking at our door. The pandemic brought our busy lives to a near standstill. We were restricted, if not outright forbidden, to connect with other people. Our freedom has been partially taken away, and many cherished habits have become difficult. Now in relative isolation, we feel lonely, lost even. How can we live without abundance? How do we cope with this new reality of having less?
But the Ten Commandments show us that less is more. These are the foundational rules for a healthy life. Speak honestly, have a day of rest, honor your parents and treat your neighbors as you want to be treated. Everything that God intended for us is contained in these simple instructions. But we have trouble stopping with the simple. We need detailed do’s and don’ts to expound upon these matters so that we can better digest and understand them. It was true for the generation that left Egypt to wander in the desert, and it remains true for us today.
The pandemic initially forced us to reduce and to look within, but we quickly found replacements and returned to some semblance of abundance. Instead of shopping in malls, we now order everything online. Rather than look people in the eye, we have Zoom conferences. But there is a warmth and a love that is lacking. I hope and pray that this difficult time will help us to reconnect with the meaning and essence of life, which is so perfectly and simply conveyed in God’s Ten Commandments.