The Kosher Bookworm: Ten Commandments and Counting


Rabbi Etshalom’s new commentary, “Between the Lines of the Bible” volume two [OU Press / Urim Publications, 2012] is unique in many ways, however, simply put, for an English work it is quite different in both content and organization.

My good friend, Rabbi Gil Student who brought Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom’s latest commentary on Shemot, the Book of Exodus, to my attention, noted that, “with his captivating prose, penetrating depth and dazzling breadth, Rabbi Etshalom analyzes topics in the Bible in classical Brisk fashion.”

With the reading of the Ten Commandments this coming Shabbat, it would be interesting to see the application of this method to this holy event and to the details of the commandments themselves. It is this chapter, entitled “The Ten Commandments: Reassessing what we ‘know’” that will serve as the main focus for this week’s review.

A brief outline should be sufficient to give you an idea as to what this work and teaching has to offer.

Rabbi Etshalom treats the text with the sacredness it deserves. He parses just about every major nuance to seek out the inner meaning and purpose for each word and phrase.

Starting with the very word “commandment” he defines the essence of what is implied by a divine directive. Further on, the count of the number ten is analyzed to determine the true accuracy of the enumeration and meaning of each command and of its proper setting within our tradition. After reading this section you will learn that our system of enumeration is at variance with those of other faiths who count this text as sacred in their traditions.

Afterward, Rabbi Etshalom explains what he calls three premises that he establishes regarding the Aseret Hadibrot [The Ten Statements].This is not going to be easy, but, please just follow along.

The first premise deals with the proper understanding of the message, or rather the proper understanding of the context of events. Further on, a second premise is presented dealing with what the author calls “the Dibrot were interrupted” regarding the presentation of the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai.

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