Ten Commandments -- Varying Divisions

A. Maberry maberry at U.WASHINGTON.EDU
Mon Feb 21 23:27:56 UTC 2000

There is an interesting Jewish commentary/explanation on why the Torah
begins with the letter Bet (Be-reshit ..., etc) which is the second letter
of the alphabet and not the first which is Alef. Several reasons are given
but it is also told how the situation made the Alef feel disconsolate
about not being chosen to begin the Torah. To console the Alef, God tells
her that even though he didn't begin the Torah with the Alef, he will
begin something even greater, the Commandments, hence they begin with the
word "Anokhi"(alef-nun-khaf-yod) = "I". KJV of Ex. 20:2-3 is "I am the
Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the
house of bondage. 3. Thou shalt ..., etc.
I am sure this is in several commentaries but the one that comes to mind
first is from a Yiddish work by Yaakov ben Yitzchak Ashkenazi called
Tsenerene (Hebrew form is: Tse'enah u-re'enah).

maberry at u.washington.edu

On Mon, 21 Feb 2000, D. Ezra Johnson wrote:

> I found out a little about this at my cousin's Bar Mitzvah the other week,
> because his Torah portion included the Commandments.
> The first thing I remember is that most Jews consider "I am the Lord thy
> God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of
> bondage" to be the First Commandment. It is interesting in that it is not
> strictly speaking a commandment at all.
> So I think the Jews' 1st and 2nd commandments are equivalent to the
> Christians' 1st commandment. Or maybe not quite so, because maybe the Jews'
> 2nd commandment includes the Christians' 2nd also. Anyway, they don't quite
> line up.
> I wish I had the Torah commentary that was explaining all this... another
> difference may have been whether the prohibition on graven images and that
> on idolatry were one commandment or two. Another might have been whether the
> prohibition on bearing false witness was combined with the no-coveting one.
> I know that the Torah commentary I was looking at also pointed out a few
> differences between Catholics, Lutherans, and other Protestants as well. And
> I think Muslims may have their own division..
> Dan
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