Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Lesson to Learn

Tonight we begin the Yom Tov of Shavuos. This is the anniversary of the day the Torah was given to us at Mount Sinai. Many people have the custom to stay up all night and study it in honor of that occasion. It is symbolized by the giving of the Aseres HaDibros – the 10 commandments which is read during the morning prayers.

One should not underestimate the significance of these special Mitzvos. Not that they are any more important than other Mitzvos in the Torah. But because they were singled out to be put literally in stone.

The 10 commandments can be categorized two ways. One having to do with man’s relationship with God and the other having to do with man’s relationship with his fellow man.

Interestingly the first three are mostly related to matters of belief. One is related to observing Shabbos. And fully six of them are related to the interaction between man and his fellow.  I don’t know why God singled out these Halachos for special mention… or what they all have in common. But I think it is fair to saysince the majority of the laws deal with interpersonal relationships, it shows just how important God treats them.

In an era where the opposite seems to be the focus, one has to wonder why interpersonal laws are so over-looked and taken for granted. Interpersonal relationships should never be taken for granted. No matter how obvious they seem to be.  What could be more obvious than Lo Tirtzach – Do not murder? And yet God made a point of singling this one out as one of ten - writing them in stone with His own ‘finger’.

The lesson I believe is that one should always be aware of even the obvious. Because the obvious all too often does in fact get over-looked. Cheating in business, or on your taxes is rarely if ever the focus of a Yeshiva education. Instead the less obvious spiritual  laws pertaining to interactions between man and God are the focus. Shabbos, Kashrus, Daled Minim on Sukkos (Lulav and Esrog etc.) … this is what we study in Yeshivos.

Just look at Kashrus. There is so much emphasis on Chalav Yisroel, Glatt Kosher meat, Yoshon, Pas Yisroel.  And yet when it comes to Geneiva, there have been some pretty prominent religious figures that have been caught  cutting  corners, lying and cheating on business loans… or even stealing via tax or money laundering schemes. And yet these were people who were very meticulous in matters spiritual.

Perhaps this is why God put these laws into the 10 commandments.  The obvious ones are the ones we tend to overlook. Both in our personal lives and in the schools. The result has been one Chilul Hashem after another.

With the reading of the 10 commandments tomorrow, perhaps now would be a good time for us to reflect on these issues in our lives and see how we might do better, both as individuals, as a group… and especially as parents. There is no more important role model for a child than a parent

And perhaps our Yeshivos would do well to focus a bit more on these issues too. Not only by teaching about them but by Mechanchim (educators) being living examples who go out of their way to behave as honestly as they can in every aspect of their lives. This will not only make us more observant and better people, it will also make a Kiddush HaShem.

Good Yom Tov