Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Your Ten Commandments

Where We Left OffBut all of a sudden (see June's Religious Freedom? Meh.), everyone's talking about The Ten Commandments. No, not the 1956 Cecile B DeMille movie starring Moses as Charlton Heston. But rather HB71, the very new law in the State of Louisiana. The Pelican State.

So. Abq Jew must ask (he must! he must!)

10 C What's Wrong

Well, there's plenty wrong with this picture. More than you can shake a red stick at (looking at you, Baton Rouge!).

First of all - what this picture shows are not The Ten Commandments. What they are are first-two-word mnemonic devices that help us remember the complete text of The Ten Commandments. You know - reminders.

Second - The Ten Commandments present an incomplete picture of the mitzvot (requirements) that The Holy One, Blessed Be He, has placed upon his people Israel (and not on anybody else).

Taryag Mitzvot

There are, in fact 613 (תריג) of these mitzvot: 248 positive (DO) mitzvot, corresponding to the number of parts in the human body; and 365 negative (DON'T) mitzvot, corresponding to the number of days in a calendar year.

It will come as no surprise to you, Abq Jew's loyal readers, that there is no agreement about just what these 613 mitzvot are. However, we (as usual) defer to the opinion of Maimonides, who enumerated them in his magnum opus, the Mishneh Torah.

For example:

 1. To know there is a G‑dExodus 20:2

81. To put a Mezuzah on each door post—Deuteronomy 6:9

250. To give charity—Deuteronomy 15:11

You know - the mitzvot we Jews all know and love. 

 It should be noted that 

To place the entire federal bureaucracy, including independent agencies such as the Department of Justice, under direct presidential control.

Project 2025

is one small part of the far-right's Project 2025, about which much hullabaloo has been and needs to continue to be made. It is not one of the 613.

It should also be noted that

444. Carry out the procedure of the Red Heifer—Numbers 19:9

Red Heifer

about which we Jews will have the honor of reading (see June 2014's OMG THAT WAS 10 YEARS AGO Statutes and Ordinances) this coming Shabbat, is most definitely one of the 613. 

Where were we

A third thing wrong with our image of The Ten Commandments above is that it's written in Ktav Ashurit, aka Modern Hebrew lettering. We'll get to that.

But at least it's in Hebrew, the language in which The Ten Commandments were first published. Louisiana's HB71, on the other hand, provdes the exact words that must be posted in every classroom. 

NOTE: They're in English. They are, and Abq Jew quotes:

The Ten Commandments
I AM the LORD thy God.
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven images.
Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
Thou shalt not kill.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not steal.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his cattle, nor anything that is thy neighbor's.

Abq Jew hereby reminds us all that all translation is interpretation. This translation, moreover, does not appear to correspond to any known Jewish (ie, JPS) or Christian (ie, KJV) version of The Ten Commandments. 

Where did it come from?, lawsuits ask.

It almost goes without mentioning that The Ten Commandments proclaimed in the Book of Exodus is different from The Ten Commandments recorded in the Book of Deuteronomy. Hence

Lecha Dodi

the verse in the Kabbalat Shabbat hymn Lekha Dodi. But then -

Down to tachlis

And let's talk about Hebrew script. Chabad asks What Is the Authentic Ancient Hebrew Alphabet? and provides a long, detailed answer to this question. 

But Abq Jew is gonna stick with the Aish Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld, who provides a simpler account of 

Ancient versus Modern Hebrew Script

It’s known that the ancient Israelites wrote in a totally different script of Hebrew than the one used today. Wouldn’t the earlier one have been the original script of Hebrew – the one the Torah was given in? If so, how could it have been changed later? 

On the one hand, we are so concerned that a Torah scroll be written perfectly, with perfectly-formed letters. But on the other, the letters would seem to have no sanctity! 

They are just an adopted script from later on in our history!

The Aish Rabbi Replies

It’s a very important issue. You are quite right that ancient Hebrew was written in a completely different script from modern. 

 Hebrew Scripts

This ancient script is known as Ktav Ivri or the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet. It resembles the Phoenician alphabet of the time. 

The modern one is known as Ktav Ashurit – literally, the Assyrian script. It closely resembles the ancient Aramaic alphabet and became adopted by the Jews shortly after they were exiled to Babylonia after the destruction of the First Temple. 

The two alphabets have identical letters and bear some resemblance, but are quite distinct.

All of the older archeological finds of written Hebrew were in this ancient script, while from around the 5th century BCE, with the return of many Jews from Persia, the newer script became common. 

Even at that point Ktav Ivri still continued to be used. Coins have been discovered from as late as the Bar Kokhba rebellion (132-36 CE) with Ktav Ivri inscriptions.

All of this begs the question you raised. Does this mean the script of the Torah itself changed? If the “proper” and original script of Hebrew is Ktav Ivri, how could later generations begin using a different script, changing the form of the Torah itself?

The Talmud (Sanhedrin 21b-22a) addresses this issue and explains that it was done through Divine sanction

In Deut. 17: 18, the Torah instructs that a Jewish king must write for himself a “copy of the Torah” (mishnei hatorah) which can equally be translated “a changed Torah.” From this the Sages saw an allusion to the fact that the text of the Torah scroll would eventually change.

Likewise, the Book of Ezra (4:7) refers to a letter the Jews of Israel wrote to the Persian king Artachshasta (Artaxerxes) in a “changed script” – written in Aramaic with Aramaic characters. From this the Sages likewise deduce that the script of the Jews had officially changed (to the Assyrian script, nearly identical to the Aramaic).

In fact, as the Talmud points out, this is perhaps the reason why shortly beforehand, when the famous “writing on the wall” appeared in Belshazzar’s palace on the fateful night of his death (Daniel 5), no one was able to interpret it, although no doubt many Jews were present. 

The message was written in Assyrian Hebrew, which not even the Jews could make out – until Daniel interpreted it with Divine inspiration. 

This was the point in time in which God officially sanctioned that Hebrew would now be written in a different script.

All of which raises the question -  

 The Ten Commandments

Is this photo accurate? 

Our Wise Men, Of Blessed Memory - well, they just were not sure. 

But there is one opinion in the Talmud that the Hebrew script never changed – meaning, that although Ktav Ivri was in common use among the people, Ktav Ashurit was always used for sacred purposes.

Some Rabbis claim that all opinions agree that the Ten Commandments and possibly the original Torah of Moses were written in the Assyrian script.

And the Aish Rabbi concludes:
I should add finally that in truth the whole issue is not really problematic since by the letter of the law, a Torah may be written in Greek (and according to one opinion in any language) (Talmud Megillah 8b). 
Thus, the change from one script of Hebrew to another was not technically forbidden – although clearly Ezra would not have taken it upon himself to institute so drastic a change without the Torah’s approval (Rashba and Ritva to Megillah 2b).
But wait

The State of Oklahoma is about to get involved.
The Sooner State.

Seventh Day

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