Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Yitro
To dedicate this lesson

Does Jewish Law Permit Owning Statues?


Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Shvat 21 5781
The highlight of our Sedra - and perhaps all the Torah! is the reading of the Aseret HaDibrot, the Ten Commandments. The Torahs intro to this earth-shaking event - And G-d spoke ALL these things, saying. is puzzling; of course Hashem spoke all these things! And so Rashi explains:

Hashem first spoke all 10 commandments at the same time (an act that is humanly impossible), and then He delineated each of them one by one.

The obvious question is that if a human being could not process all the commandments presented simultaneously, then what was the purpose of doing it? Particularly if we were soon going to hear them individually anyway!

I suggest that G-d was sending a crucial message: While every Mitzva is a "stand-alone" important act that brings merit and meaning to our lives, we must also appreciate the totality of the Torah. We cannot pick and choose which Mitzvot we will keep, and discard the others. We also cannot decide which "type" of Mitzvot we will respect - those that are between us and Hashem, or those which are between us and our fellow human being - and just focus on those alone. It is a package deal - just as you cannot keep your lungs healthy yet neglect your heart, or follow a healthy diet only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Sadly, we have seen too many people promote the admirable practice of studying Torah, or bringing happiness to brides and grooms, or honoring the deceased, while at the same time endangering the welfare of others around them (not to mention their own well-being!). That is what Chazal call, "Mitzva haba b'aveira," a meritorious act that is accomplished by illicit means (the classic case: stealing another person's Lulav and Etrog in order to make a blessing on it!). The positive is swallowed up by the negative.

The goal is to strive to be wholly holy - that's the package we must deliver to the Almighty.
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