Genesis and Noah’s Seven Commandments

Rabbi Dr. Zvi Aviner

2022 classes

 

 

IDOLATRY-2/Presenting the G-d of Israel

 

 

 

In Moses’ Ten commandments, the idols are defined as “Other gods besides me.”  Inferring that one who worships any entity in the world besides the True G-d of Israel, is considered idolater.

Hence. To know who the idols are, we need to know first who is G-d.

Indeed, Moses’ First of the Ten Commandments presents the Speaker- G-d,

Then the Second of the Ten Commandments describes the idols in detail.

Last class we dwelled on the Second Commandment,

In this class we’ll focus on Moses’ First Commandment presenting G-d.

The First of the Ten Commandments says

 

(1) I Am (The Self )

(2) The Lord (YHVH) your G-d (EeLoHiM) (The Attributes or titles)

(3) Who took you out of Egypt Land (the Deeds, His Kingship)

 

Here the Speaker – G-d – introduces Himself carefully in a particular way.  He uses three lines:

 

Line 1: The “Self”, I Am, who is beyond description

Line 2: The Attributes:  Lord (YHVH) and G-d (EeLoHiM)

The Hebrew text simply says “YHVH,  your EeLoHiM,” where YHVH presents the Attribute of MERCY, while EeLoHiM presents the Attribute of JUDGMENT.

As a rule, in the entire Bible, YHVH is always translated as Lord, while EeLoHiM is always translated as G-d. The two English terms present awe, and there is nothing wrong with that, yet they   miss completely the specific meaning of YHVH as the MERCIFUL Attribute and ELHM as the Attribute of JUDGMENT.

And the Speaker- G-d – elected to present Himself by these two Attributes for a good reason – telling us that He is the G-d of Mercy and Judgment.

As He gives us the Ten Commandments, He wishes us to know that we would be judged by them,  yet He is the G-d of Mercy and Judgment.  Let us nor despair.

And that message is completely wiped out by the translation Lord your G-d.

Line 3 presents His Deeds, His activities.  He is  the One who had taken Israel out of Egypt Land.

He could have elected to mention other activities, like “The One who create the World.”  Speaking to Israel, the former Egyptian slaves,  He presented Himself a s their REDEEMER , because it would be more meaningful to them.

This capacity of G-d to intervene in History, or in Nature, is called KINGSHIP.   A king, after all, conducts his kingdom’s affairs.  A king is not aloof or detached from his kingdom, but, rather, very interested in his kingdom’s affairs.  As a king would lead his kingdom towards a goal, that he has set up for it.

In summary so far- the First Commandment of Sinai presents the Speaker- G-d, in three terms

Self: I Am

Attributes: Merciful and Judgmental

Kingship: I intervene in human history

Hence G-d wants us to know Him and address Him only by those particular Titles and Names.  He gives us His unique “address” where we would  send our prayers and blessings, in order to be accepted.

These Names serve like a password for our mail, a key to open His heart for us.   If you want to be heard, please send your prayers to this address.  If you use other Names, your prayer would be lost in space.

And He chose this address carefully for our benefit.  He wants us to know that He is the God of Mercy and Judgment, and that Mercy overrides Judgement, and that He is a King who is interested in our affairs and even intervenes in our history and leads us to His goal

 .

For instance:

Entering your class room for the first time, I would introduce myself as follows –

  1. I Am (my self)
  2. Rabbi Dr. Zvi Aviner (my attributes, titles, name)
  3. And I teach Torah on the internet (my actions, deeds)

I have selected this sequence carefully.

I first presented my “I”, my “self” that has no other description (line 1)

Then, in line 2, I presented my titles and name.  I have selected them carefully, in a specific order.

I mentioned my title Rabbi first, to inform you that I am well versed in Judaism, that I am qualified to stand before you and teach you Torah.

Then, still in line 2, I’ve also mentioned my other title Dr. to inform you that I know something about Science and about society.   I am qualified to speak about science.

I’ve elected to mention my rabbinic title first, since it is more relevant to you in our Torah class then my other title Dr.   To my patients in my clinic, though, I would present first my title Dr and probably omit altogether my rabbinical title.

Note also that having presented my titles and names to you, I’d   expect my students to address me by these names with no distortion or mispronunciation.  If someone addresses me as” Rubbi” instead of” Rabbi”, it wouldn’t only be rude, but would also betray complete ignorance of the meaning of the name.  My message embedded in my rabbinical title, has been lost on that person, and my hope to establish my authority in his eyes have been destroyed.

This goes also in regards to the Titles that G-d has chosen to present Himself in the Ten Commandments.  He has selected them carefully, setting up their order:  First, “Lord” (YHV H) then “Your G-d (ELHM).”  He wishes us to know that we are judged by these Commandments, yet Mercy comes first and She prevails.

Moreover, if we mispronounce these titles, it would not only be rude and impolite.  It would betray complete ignorance of their meanin .

Thus, saying Yahwa or Jehovah   instead of the acronym Y*H*V*H, wich is uttered letter by letter as any other acronym, would not only be rude and funny, but also would betray  complete ignorance of the meaning of the acronym.

And if one misses the meaning of that Holy Name, YHVH, the entire message of the Torah  would be lost.  It would lead to wrong conclusions.

For instance: K. Armstrong writes in the History of God, that the ancient Hebrews worshipped Yahwah the God of vengeance.  For it says that Yahwah has arrived from the south and his sword is drifting blood.

As great scholar as she is, Armstrong is unaware that YHVH is an acronym that stands for the Attribute of MERCY, who has turned angry and vengeful against the evil Pharaoh, who had thrown children to the Nile alive.  She would drown him and his army in the Sea of Reeds. By the way, ELHM is never described as ‘angry’ or acting in Vengeance.  ELHM acts “measure for measure” in precision.  The Merciful YHVH, in contrast, would act in Vengeance ia against evil  people who are cruel, who lack any compassion, who do everything She hates.  Yes, the Attribute of MERCY would either Love you or Hates you, according to your behavior.

 

Going back to my example, I presented myself in linen 3, as “I teach Torah.”  This is what I do.  These are my deeds.  I am engaged also in other classes teaching Torah.

In the same token, the Speaker in the Ten Commandments says in line 3 that He is the One Who had Taken Israel out of Egypt.  In other words, He intervenes in human history.

 

 

Blessing and Prayers

 

 

We comply with Moses’  First Commandment when we bless G-d for good things He has given us.

For instance- before eating  bread we say:

Blessed are –  

(1) Thou (You)

(2) YHVH (Ha-Shen) our ELoHiM

(3) The King of the Universe, who brings bread out of Earth”

We are careful to address Him the way He presents Himself in the First of the Ten Commandments. We follow that “coin of blessing” in all our prayers. This way we are sure the prayers go to the correct address.

This “coin of blessings” was established by the sages of Israel in Ezra time (550 BC) when they returned to the Land of Israel from Persia.

So next we ask: What is the precise meaning of the Titles YHVH and ELHM?

Moses does not explain them in the Ten Commandments.  For he assumes that the reader is already aware of the titles  from the Book of Genesis where  they are introduced in details by Chapter One.

In fact, Chapter One of Genesis has been written precisely for that – to introduce the CREATOR as ELHM and YHVH.

So let’s go next to the miraculous Chapter One of Genesis.