We Have to Do More!
By Rabbi Label Lam
I am HASHEM your G-d Who took you out of the Land of Egypt from the house
of bondage! (Shemos 20:2)
Don’t kill! (Shemos 20;13)
What do these two statements of the Ten Commandments share in common?
Conceptually they appear quite distant. One is an affirmative requirement of
the mind, while the other is a refraining from action. One is on the side
with the first five, with all the mandates between man and G-d and the other
is on the interpersonal side between man and man. That may already be enough
of a hint to reveal part of the answer.
First of all our sages tell us that the Jewish People were initially able to
perceive all 613 Mitzvos in the Ten Commandments with all their myriad
details. The Ten Commandments therefore are something like the table of
contents for the totality of the Torah. The outline for the entire book is
on display on the first page before the book begins. Every Mitzvah finds its
roots there in those original statements. Secondly, the Maharal from Prague
instructs us that the Ten Commandments are not only to be learned in a
linear fashion following the flow chart from one to ten but rather also in a
side by side comparison style. Therefore one lines up with six and two with
seven and three with eight and four with nine and five with ten.
Now we can ask again, “What does ‘I am HASHEM…’ and ‘Don’t Kill!’ have in
common? They both share the top of the chart in each category of both sides
of the tablets. Numbers one and six somehow work together. How so?
1-The acceptance of G-d’s existence as the Author or Creation can powerfully
inhibit a person from slipping into the depravity of murder? The murderer
says to himself, “What’s this person doing in ‘my way’?” The murderer feels
the world is his own. He declares with his action that he is the arbiter of
life and death. When the reality of The Creator dawns on him life shrinks
back into proportion and he realizes he is a creation himself with no higher
ranking than anyone else. HASHEM put that person there just as much he was
placed here and now.
2-Only when a person comes to terms with the notion of a Creator can he
fully appreciate that he himself and the other he strives with are both
created in the “Image of G-d”. The side by side comparison serves to elevate
the enormity of the crime, while highlighting some other new and important
values at the same time!
Yesterday I received a “thank you” letter in the mail from Rebbetzin Marsha
London of Nefesh Academy, thanking me for trekking out to Brooklyn in the
snow to speak at her husband Rabbi Yechiel London’s (zl.) first Yurtzeit a
few weeks ago. Rabbi London was a huge Talmud Scholar and he had dedicated
all his life’s energies to the very end reaching and teaching Jews of all
types n’ stripes. My last contact with him was at a Shabbaton for NYU
students that he and his wife were leading. At the end of her letter
Rebbetzin London writes the following:
“I’ll share with you a story: When Rabbi London was in the hospital there
were many “close calls”. On one particular Sunday he had been learning with
some grandchildren and a great nephew, teenage boys, when his blood pressure
plummeted and his heart stopped. Doctors and nurses came running in; the
family left the room to say Tehillim and pierce the heavens while many
members of the hospital worked feverishly.
After a long time he came back to this world and he was transferred to the
ICU. Later that evening when my daughter returned to the hospital to see him
the Rabbi removed the oxygen mask from his face and said, “You see how much
you need to do to save one Neshama?!”” The Rebbetzin concludes, “Everything
was mussar to him- we’ve got to do more!!”
DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.