"G-d our L-rd sealed a covenant with us at Chorev. Not with our forefathers
alone did G-d seal this covenant, but with us, we who are here today, all
of us alive. Face to face G-d spoke to you on the mountain from the midst
of the fire." (Devarim/Deuteronomy 5:2-4) Moshe then repeated the
Decalogue, the Ten Commandments that G-d uttered as the central event of
the Revelation at Sinai when the Children of Israel accepted G-d's Torah to
create a timeless covenant. Sifri (Tannaitic halachic medrash to the Books
of Bamidbar and Devarim) discusses G-d's initial offer of the Torah to the
nations of the world. Understandably, they wanted to know what it
contained. To one nation He told the ban on murder, to another the
prohibition of adultery. When they heard of these restrictions they had no
interest in accepting the Torah. They refused the offer.
In Beraishis/Genesis, centuries before the Torah was given, G-d spelled out
the Seven Noahide Laws that all of mankind is obligated to follow. These
seven include the prohibitions of adulterous relationships and homicide.
Why, then, did G-d, when offering the nations of the world the Torah,
describe the Torah using mitzvos (commandments) they were already commanded
to follow? More so, why would the nations of the world forego the
opportunity to become G-d's chosen people simply because the Torah
contained commandments they were already obligated to observe?
Rabbi Gedaliah Schorr (Rosh Yeshiva/Dean of Mesivta Torah Voda'ath in New
York; 1910-1979; acknowledged as one of the first American trained gedolim
[Torah giants], he authored Ohr Gedalyahu on the Torah and festivals)
explains the fundamental difference between the Decalogue and the Seven
Noahide Laws. Rashi (Shemos/Exodus 22:12) clarifies that all 613 of the
Torah's mitzvos are alluded to in the Ten Commandments. Each one of the ten
has numerous lessons and obligations extending from it, guidelines for the
countless intricate details of life. Rabbeinu Yonah explains that an
extension of the ban on murder is a prohibition of embarrassing another
person; such an act is tantamount to killing the person. But the original
Noahide restrictions were not nearly so broad and imposing. One could
readily go through life, maintaining the guidelines of the command with no
requisite character refinement. The Torah was given to people to enable
them to realize their spiritual potential. This accomplishment necessitates
attention not only to the big picture but on all of the small details as well.
This is what G-d was telling the other nations when he offered them the
Torah; this is the level of responsibility they rebuffed. But the Jewish
nation answered "we shall do and we shall listen." We accept the challenge,
we will grow from the challenge.