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The Aseres Hadibros are an expression of the oneness of Torah and the root of our connection to Hashem in this world. As we mentioned in our previous article, there is a powerful connection between the specific commandments on each side as well. Each individual dibrah on the right parallels the corresponding dibrah on the left. Together, they make up a unified whole of connection to both Hashem and one’s fellow man. While we already explained the unique connection between the first four pairs of dibros, we still need to understand the deep and unique connection between the last pair.

 

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Kibud Av Va’Eim and Lo Sachmod

Before comparing the last two dibros, we must first address an apparent problem with one of them. Kibud av va’eim, the commandment to honor one’s parents, is the fifth commandment, the last of those on the right side of the Luchos. However, the right side of the Luchos is reserved for mitzvos bein adam laMakom, and while it may not always seem so, parents are human too. Why, then, is the mitzvah of honoring one’s parents included on the right side of the Luchos?

The right side of the Luchos contains the mitzvos bein adam laMakom, but the deeper theme of the right side is mitzvos between man and his source (bein adam la’Makor). The first four are bein Adam laMakom, between man and his ultimate source, while the fifth, kibud av va’eim, is between man and his more immediate source, his parents. This juxtaposition reveals a deep connection between these mitzvos: The first step toward tracing oneself back to Hashem is recognizing that I am not my own creator, that I have a source. Kibud av va’eim is the first step toward doing so. Recognizing our parents as our source is the first step in tracing ourselves back to our ancestors, then to Avraham, then to Noach, eventually all the way back to Adam HaRishon, until finally we get back to Hashem Himself. In doing so, we trace our individual existence back to Hashem’s creation of the world itself. Kibud av va’eim is therefore the perfect transition between bein adam laMakom and bein adam le’chaveiro, as this mitzvah serves as the springboard for the connection between you and Hashem. Recognizing that someone created us helps train us to source everything in our lives back to Hashem.

This is deeply connected to the concept of hakaras ha’tov. While literally translated as recognizing the good, hakaras ha’tov actually refers to one’s ability to recognize where things come from, sourcing things back to their original root. The mitzvah of kibud av va’eim is essentially the paradigmatic mitzvah of hakaras ha’tov, recognizing where one’s existence comes from.

Aside from being jealous of other people’s possessions or circumstances, there is a tendency to be jealous of other people’s successes and achievements. However, the same principle applies here: nobody else’s successes affect ours, nor should it diminish our self-worth. We are all part of one nation, one people, one team. There is no room for jealousy when we are all working toward a shared mission; on the contrary, we should celebrate each other’s victories as our own. For example, one’s ear would never be jealous of their nose, as they are both parts of the same body. At root, they want what is best for the body, for the collective self. If we viewed ourselves as limbs of the body of Klal Yisrael, we would never be jealous of our fellow Jew.

This is what kibud av va’eim teaches us: the importance of tracing everything in our life back to its source, to Hashem. When we realize that our entire existence in this world, and all of the circumstances and challenges that we face come from Hashem, there is no place for jealousy, as Hashem has given each of us the exact tools we need to succeed in our mission.

 

Engrave Them on Your Heart

When we picture the Luchos, we instinctively conjure up an image of two rounded tablets. However, the Gemara explicitly states that the Luchos were cubic or rectangular. If so, why does almost every shul depict the Luchos with two rounded tops, as an almost heart-shaped figure? (There are, of course, practical suggestions, including those who suggest that this custom is, in fact, a mistake and is based on non-Jewish artwork.)

Perhaps the depth behind this is that the Luchos are intrinsically connected to the heart. The Aseres Hadibros are the heart of the Torah, and we are told to engrave them into our hearts, “Kasvem al luach libecha” (Mishlei 7:3).

This idea touches upon the unique nature of the Luchos and how they were written. There are four possible ways to record an idea in writing:

  • The first is to use an adhesive, such as glue, paste, or tape, to attach the message to the medium. This is the weakest form of writing, as the message remains separate from the medium and can easily be erased or removed.
  • The second is to use ink on paper. In this case, the message is not as easily removed, as the message is more connected to the medium itself. However, the ink still remains on the surface of the paper, separate from the medium (the paper). It is the very contrast between the ink and the blank paper that allows you to understand the message.
  • The third is to engrave the message into the medium itself. As such, the message becomes part of the medium and cannot be erased.
  • However, there is a deeper form of writing, which is to bore the message completely through the medium, whereby the message becomes one with the medium itself.

This fourth level is how the Luchos were written. The pasuk says that the letters of the Luchos were engraved through the stone and could miraculously be read both on the front and the back of the tablets (Shemos 32:15). Chazal discuss the miraculous way in which letters such as the samech and mem-sofis both had inner pieces that floated in the air, disconnected from any other part of the stone.

This is the deep message of the Luchos. We must engrave their words onto our hearts; we must become one with the medium; we must become one with these mitzvos. We cannot simply perform the mitzvos; we must become the mitzvos. May we be inspired to fully embrace the inner depth of the Aseres Hadibros and merit to fulfill the directive of “Kasvem al luach libecha.”

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Rabbi Shmuel Reichman is the author of the bestselling book, “The Journey to Your Ultimate Self,” which serves as an inspiring gateway into deeper Jewish thought. He is an educator and speaker who has lectured internationally on topics of Torah thought, Jewish medical ethics, psychology, and leadership. He is also the founder and CEO of Self-Mastery Academy, the transformative online self-development course based on the principles of high-performance psychology and Torah. After obtaining his BA from Yeshiva University, he received Semicha from Yeshiva University’s RIETS, a master’s degree in education from Azrieli Graduate School, and a master’s degree in Jewish Thought from Bernard Revel Graduate School. He then spent a year studying at Harvard as an Ivy Plus Scholar. He currently lives in Chicago with his wife and son where he is pursuing a PhD at the University of Chicago. To invite Rabbi Reichman to speak in your community or to enjoy more of his deep and inspiring content, visit his website: ShmuelReichman.com.