Sunday, March 5, 2017

A new spin on the Ten Commandments

Alternative & Alliterative Ten Commandments
(I'm not attempting to replace traditional & halachic interpretations
of original text, nor am I even listing the correct ten.
Just something new & off-topic to consider)

I am the Lord your G-d who took you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

Is G-d your G-d? Or is He just someone else’s G-d, or maybe the whole world’s G-d, but not yours personally? Have you allowed G-d to take you out of the house of your bondage? Or have you not yet attempted to exit your house of bondage? Or are you unaware that you're even in bondage?

You shall not have other gods besides for Me.

Do you deify “otherness?” Does your belief in G-d make you regard other human beings as others? Do you see your fellow as foreign and separate, whose fate and destiny is completely independent to yours? That’s not belief in the One G-d, but in the “other” god. Don’t worship that deity. Furthermore, do you talk to Me in first/second person? Or do you regard Me as other and not present, in third person? Please don’t consider me an “other," because that’s not Me. I’m here with you.

Don’t make for you a graven image.

Don’t make yourself into a grave image. Your life isn’t just about your estate, your 401k or your life insurance policy. Likewise, don’t make the mistake to imagine that your life ends at, and therefore is defined by, the grave. Don’t imagine that life is only about enjoying yourself during the short time that you live, because after that, you’ll just be dead in a grave. Instead, realize that life goes on infinitely in a higher way, so you ought to live your life now in a higher way too…

Don’t worship idylls.

Don’t be idle. And don’t glorify idleness. Don’t think that the ultimate goal in life is to retire and vegetate! Stay active and proactive! And never ever worship sports or celebrity idols. That’s a sure way to be idle, by living vicariously in some surreal idyll that has nothing to do with real life. Shun all idle idol idylls!

Don’t take the name of the Lord your G-d in vain.

Are you vain? Do you think that G-d is vain? Don’t you realize that being vain makes you less G-d-like, not more?  Do you think G-d fits into any particular “vein” (i.e. a distinctive quality, style, or tendency), like blood flows through a vein? In a similar vein, is your concept of G-d one-dimensional, flat and rigid, like a vane?

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your G-d gives you.

Don’t just honor parents. Honor the fact that he is your father and that she’s your mother, and as such, respect the possibility that he or she might be a bit biased, overbearing or judgmental about you at times, just like they may have been in your earlier childhood. Remember that honoring them because they’re your parents is ultimately good for your longevity and for achieving your destiny that your G-d gives you. It’s good for you, so view parents with love and equanimity, even when they’re difficult.

Don’t kill*

Don’t kill your dreams, hopes and aspirations. Keep striving and you’ll achieve! And don’t assassinate anyone’s character. Remember that looks can kill, so look kindly at others. Think and speak kindly of them too. Don’t hurt or kill anyone with toxic words!

Don’t commit adultery.

Don’t commit the ultimate error of being resigned to being an adult, seeing yourself as a finished product who is done growing and developing. Instead, keep that childlike wonder and aspiration to grow ever higher. Be open to learning new things, developing new skills and discovering new talents. Don’t be so rigid and set in your ways. It’s okay to be wrong too, and to choose being happy over being right. Keep listening to that inner child of yours!

Don’t steel**

Don’t pretend you’re made of steel. You’re not. Have a heart of flesh, not a heart of stone. And you’re not a stele either (see above about not making yourself a “graven image.”) Allow for mistakes and be flexible. And don’t steal your most valuable asset, your time, and squander it all on trying to amass more steel or other more precious metals. Yes, you need those metals to live, but only as a means to an end, not as the ends in themselves. Make sure you maintain set times for things that really matter most, like your relationship with G-d, your spouse, family, friends and community, and for acts of goodness and kindness.

Don’t covet your neighbor’s house, wife, servants, oxen, donkeys, and anything that belongs to your neighbor.

But you may covet his virtuous deeds, selflessness, character, patience, friendliness, charitable acts, or anything that doesn’t truly “belong” to your neighbor. Instead, he belongs to them.  Those you may covet. But not that you should possess virtue, but that virtue should possess you.

* to be more precise, the term used in the Torah is לא תרצח, “Don’t murder.” Clearly the Torah permits killing when G-d’s Law deems it necessary, like in self-defense, or even pre-emptively when an enemy combatant is planning to kill you, for example. I was just using the familiar mistranslation.

** the actual term Torah uses is לא תגנוב, which the Sages interpret here as “Don’t kidnap,” i.e. stealing souls as opposed to stealing money. I was just using the familiar mistranslation.

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