“The (So-Called) Ten Commandments”

In the Hebrew words of the Torah, The Big Ten are not called “The Ten Commandments” as most people of all faiths have been taught.

In Hebrew they are literally called Aseret HadevarimThe Ten Words Or The Ten Things. (The Hebrew word “devarim” can refer to “words” or “things”).

וַֽיְהִי־שָׁ֣ם עִם־יְהוָ֗ה אַרְבָּעִ֥ים יוֹם֙ וְאַרְבָּעִ֣ים לַ֔יְלָה לֶ֚חֶם לֹ֣א אָכַ֔ל וּמַ֖יִם לֹ֣א שָׁתָ֑ה וַיִּכְתֹּ֣ב עַל־הַלֻּחֹ֗ת אֵ֚ת דִּבְרֵ֣י הַבְּרִ֔ית עֲשֶׂ֖רֶת הַדְּבָרִֽים׃ 

And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he ate no bread and drank no water; and he wrote down on the tablets the terms of the covenant, the Ten Words.

Shemot/Exodus 34:28

The mistranslation to “Ten Commandments” comes from the Christian translators of the King James Bible in 1611 C.E.

Rabbinically, they’re called Aseret HadibrotThe Ten Utterances, based on the common root word.

The so-called “Ten Commandments” in Exodus 20…In the Torah, these words are never referred to as the Ten Commandments. In the Torah, they are called Aseret ha-D’varim (Ex. 34:28, Deut. 4:13, Deut. 10:4).

In rabbinical texts, they are referred to as Aseret ha-Dibrot. The words d’varim and dibrot come from the Hebrew root Dalet-Beit-Reish, meaning word, speak or thing; thus, the phrase is accurately translated as the Ten Sayings, the Ten Statements, the Ten Declarations, the Ten Words or even the Ten Things, but not as the Ten Commandments, which would be Aseret ha-Mitzvot.

Judaism 101

Aseret means Ten. Ha means The.

Here’s the tricky part: The Utterances themselves are referred to as mitzvot (plural), in other places in the Torah. Mitzvot are commonly translated as “commandments,” yet as a body of work the Big Ten are called Utterances, not Mitzvot.

It seemed to be incongruous until I realized the term Ten Utterances aligned with the deeper meaning of the word Mitzvah.

The root word of mitzvah is “tzavta,” which means “connection.” When interpreting Torah, root words of Hebrew words provide deeper, richer levels of understanding and meaning.

“The deeper meaning of the word mitzvah is not command, but connection.”

Alter Rebbe Shneur Zalman of Liady, founder and first Rebbe of Chabad

In contrast to a “commandment” a connection requires one to operate at a much higher level of receptivity and consciousness. A connection requires one to resonate with the consciousness of another entity.

A connection is a link between two or more separate entities, therefore, a “mitzvah” becomes the agent of connection between humans and the Divine.

For a “commandment” to exist it must be issued from one being to another. A command gives-out. A connection is received. The word Kabbalah, means “to receive.” In order for a connection to exist between two beings, it must be willingly received on an energetic level.

The word “commandment” is a simple concept to grasp. Who among us has not been commanded to do something by a person with power and authority over us? Be it a teacher, boss, bully, drill sergeant or family member, we have all experienced the one-sided (and intimidating) nature of a command.

The Ten Utterances, refers to speech and speaking. A connection (vs a commandment) is a synergistic communing. It speaks to you.

A Commandment is an order. An Utterance is a connection that must be willingly received.

©️2019 All Rights Reserved (Shiur 01.09.19)

32 thoughts on ““The (So-Called) Ten Commandments”

    1. Soul Circle

      Haha! I was not happy with it so I revised it a couple times and just now revised it again! I think I’m good now. LOL. Oy. Let’s hope so! Thank you for being here with me and commenting. Will visit you soon!!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I know the feeling. I think the mark of serious writer, published or no, is never being happy with their work, LOL.

        I definitely appreciate your blog though. Great info in easily digestible pieces. As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve been fascinated by Kabbalah for a long time. I think knowing how massive the Zohar is made it intimidating though.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Soul Circle

          Thank you! My goal is to make Kabbalah easier to understand and relatable to our everyday lives. Kabbalah can be really abstract and out there. My mission is to bring it down to earth. 😉😊

          Liked by 2 people

        2. Soul Circle

          Is there any Jewish topic, custom or tradition you’d like to know more about? Is there a subject matter that interests you and you want to know if it exists in Judaism or what Judaism has to say about it? Much of what I teach comes from Midrash, Aggadah and Jewish Kabbalah…which is a really deep and interesting pool of Jewish thought and interpretation.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. SLOW getting back to this one BUT life is getting crazy here.

            I did have one deep and one pretty shallow topic come to mind. I’ll handle the shallow one first, LOL. What happened with plural marriage / multiple wives in Judaism? Mormons were the last group I know of practicing it, and they gave it up to get Utah statehood.

            The Heavy topic; what does Judiasm teach about the afterlife and our soul? One thing that’s always bothered me about Christianity is that we need Jesus to save us, yet we’re not really children of Gd, more like house pets. I’ve heard various things said here by Gentile sources, but have never had the chance to ask a Jewish person or Rabbi.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Random thought. Re death. We’re all part of the consciousness and the consciousness that gives us life, awareness of ourselves – within us – after death that consciousness still exists, that energy is still there.

              Liked by 2 people

    1. Soul Circle

      I appreciate the acknowledgement of the political incorrectness. 😉 I teach people of all faiths who want to get into deeper levels of scriptural understanding. Thank you for visiting and commenting. 🌺

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Soul Circle

          I understand. These are strange and stressful times. Stay well and stay safe! Would love to hear more from you when your brain is rested up. Wishing you a good night’s sleep. 😴🌛

          Liked by 1 person

                1. Soul Circle

                  Same! I have a strong dislike for debates. Never was my cup of tea. I just like learning, growing and conversing…in a peaceful and receptive fashion.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. I guess when one gets to a certain level of ‘awareness,’ if you will, one desires peacemaking over quibbling!

                    However, problems can arise when another person – or national leader – is intransigent and not up to cooperation, fair dealing, etc.

                    One place we could start is for me to say that I do believe in evil and that it exists as a spiritual influence in this world. 🤨

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. Soul Circle

                      Yes! I love what you said in your first paragraph. Evil definitely exists in our world. We’ve seen it many times…Hitler, Pol Pot, Papa Doc…the list goes on from past to present! Abuse and sexual assault is rampant. Too much evil in our world. 🥺😢

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. You know, we prob agree on most things. I’m guessing one point of diff might be the nature of Jesus (which I think is a Romanization of his name).

                      Myself, I go back and forth on that one. A Jewish acquaintance of mine once said he felt it was ultimate egomania to claim oneness with God. (He didn’t use those precise words).

                      I replied that I thought Jews and Muslims had one thing common… they didn’t get that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah outlined in Jewish scripture.

                      You can imagine he didn’t like that too much. But we’re still on good terms.

                      Pls don’t hold back with me. I don’t get much out of fluffy talk. If you disagree, just say so… and preferably why.

                      I liked being intelligently challenged.

                      Btw, just made a pot of tea… (good idea!) 😁

                      Liked by 1 person

                    3. Soul Circle

                      Jewish teachings are actually about the Oneness OF GD and our interdependent, mutualistic relationship with GD, rather than Oneness with GD. Although it could be called Oneness with GD for the sake of simplicity, it’s more complex and nuanced than that. I’ll explain the Jewish concept in more detail, in a future post.

                      That said, I don’t view the concept of Oneness with GD/Divinity as egomania. Of course humans can misuse it that way, but I view it as a benevolent, enlightened, humble and humbling state of being.

                      People of all faiths can decide what does and does not resonate with them, within their own faith. I’ve explored many religions and have never found a single one that is ideal. There are pro and cons, good and bad, in all religious teachings.

                      I don’t believe there is ‘one true faith’ (one got it right, while the others got it wrong) and Judaism doesn’t teach that either. Judaism teaches there are many equally valid paths to GD, heaven and Divinity. Judaism is simply the Jewish way, NOT the only way or the one true way.

                      Being of independent mind, I have my own view of who and what the Messiah is and it’s not in accordance with Jewish or Christian theology. I have in-depth knowledge of Jewish teachings, yet I’m inclined to carve out my own path.

                      Liked by 1 person

  1. That’s cool. My biggest question with the Jesus as Messiah idea is that he was a human being. And I also believe in the possibility of ETs. So a man saves aliens too?

    Your saying that no one religion fits all or says it all resonates with me, especially since there are so many interpretations and practices, each most likely imbued with cultural bias.

    I applaud your finding your own path. That’s what I have always been doing… still am.

    My biggest challenge since this Corona thing has been not being able to go to Catholic Mass. I converted to Catholicism In 2001 so am not a cradle Catholic to be sure. However, I really do feel the presence of The Holy Spirit at the Mass and in the Eucharist. My mind questions and critiques many aspects of Catholicism yet I still experience this without fail.

    I also experience the presence of God elsewhere… and am obviously adapting to my new circumstances.

    There are pros and cons to a sudden mandatory withdrawal from a religious practice. As time goes by the pros seem to be on the rise.

    Just thought I’d let you know where I’m at now, more or less. It’s more complicated than what I’ve written. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Soul Circle

      My conflict with the Jesus as Messiah idea and also the Messiah concept in Judaism, is why does it have to be a man? I don’t believe the Messiah is a man. That seems weird to me. Men made the Messiah a man, IMHO. I also believe in the possibility of ET’s, but never thought about it in the context of the Messiah. Maybe the Messiah is an ET? My personal belief about the Messiah differs from Jewish and Christian tenets of faith. It came to me years ago in an epiphany.

      I grew up with a lot of Italian Catholics and Jews. When I was a kid, I thought it was so cool when my Catholic friends went to midnight Mass and got to go out at midnight. Is your church having virtual services? Most houses of worship are. What did you convert to Catholicism from? This is a weird time, when we have to go within, or get used to Zoom room as our new normal.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I guess one argument for Jesus as Messiah and also being a man is that God knew the Messiah was being born in a sexist environment and that men (and prob many women too) wouldn’t listen to a woman!

        Same argument could be applied to the Christian apostles. All men. Why? Well, God knew nobody would listen to women.

        The first person to see the risen Christ in the Jesus story was a woman, right? They thought she was mistaken at first (if I remember right).

        Again, I’m just relating the mainstream story, for the sake of argument.

        There is a Mass online but so far I haven’t watched it. 😁

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Soul Circle

          Yes, but GD could have changed that. Why didn’t GD tell the people to listen to women or a woman as the Messiah? GD told them everything else. GD was really big on thou shall and thou shall not. The religious patriarchy was man-made, and spilled over into general society, so why did GD let that happen? GD intervenes in many other instances. We could go round and round theorizing on this. I just don’t buy it. I think it had everything to do with man’s need for power and control and nothing to do with GD. Try the zoom room services. You might like it.


          1. Great reply. Well, sexism might have first arisen from the bio fact that males were bigger than women and could rape and subdue them, etc. Now that the brain is what matters most, we have the rise of women’s rights.

            Standard Xian answer to your question would be that God gives us free will. We choose, although God knows how we will choose.

            Some probably see this argument as self-evident, others as weak.

            You’re right we could go round and round but as long as we introduce new ideas and insights to one another, I don’t mind!

            I’ll check out zoom room. Right now I’m happy with quick meditations (when needed) and prayer (ditto).


            1. Soul Circle

              The standard Jewish answer is also the free will thing. Always. But GD was pretty much a dictator GD. Despite giving us free will, biblical GD still did a whole bunch of smiting, punishing, fear-mongering and dictating to make the people conform to GD’s will. The biblical GD was always punishing humans for exercising free will, so why would GD stop short with women’s equality? The free will thing is very selective. Why did GD make men bigger and stronger? Why not all equal? I’m afraid there are no real answers, but I do enjoy dialoguing! I can teach Judaism inside and out, but I’m a rebel at heart. 😉


  2. Pingback: Sacred Languages, Sacred Treasures – Soul Circle

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