Rabbi Dr Zvi Aviner
IDOLATRY-2/Presenting G-d In
The Ten Commandments
In the Second of the Ten Commandments of Sinai,
the idols are defined in an exclusive way, as “Other gods besides me.”
It makes sense, then, that in order to comply,
we need to know first, who G-d is.
This is why Moses, in the Ten Commandments, opens up
by first presenting G–d, the Speaker, in details,
and only then proceeds with the Idols to their kinds,
Thus, the First of the Ten Commandments says:
(1) I Am (Self )
(2) The Lord (YHVH) your G-d (EeLoHiM) ( Attributes)
(3) Who took you out of Egypt Land (Deeds, Kingship)
Here the Speaker – G-d – introduces Himself in a particular way;
where every word is important, every line is carefully designed
Line 1: “I Am…”
Here G-d presents His SELF or His ESSENCE, which is beyond our description.
In fact, our “self” too is beyond description, since we can’t define it.
The SELF, in the first line, overrides the Attributes in the following line:
Line 2: ….Lord (YHVH) your G-d (EeLoHiM)
What are these Names YHVH and EeLoHiM?
They are G-d’s Attributes, where
YHVH (Lord) presents the Attribute of GRACE, MERCY, COMPASSION and FORGIVENESS
EeLoHiM (G-d) presents the Attribute of JUDGMENT and JUSTICE
As a rule, through the entire Bible,
YHVH is always translated as LORD
And EeLoHiM is always translated as G-D
Although the English terms LORD and G-D express reverence and awe,
they miss the specific meaning of the Hebrew Terms YHVH and EeLoHiM
which are e essential for comprehending the Torah (Bible) .
Note: Although G-d has infinite Attributes,
yet He elected to present Himself by those two
for our benefit. It is important for us to know,
as an introduction to the Ten Commandments,
to the Heavenly Code of Laws, that He is
A G-d who is Merciful as well as Judgmental
Line 3 : …who took you out of Egypt Land…
Here G-d presents His Actions, Deeds,
Telling us that He is not only a CREATOR,
but a KING who Runs His Kingdom,
Who interferes with human history.
You may wonder why does He chose to present His Kingship this way?
He could have better chosen another, more impressive way,
like declaring: “Who has created the world!” (Abarbanel’s question)
The answer is that speaking to former Egyptian slaves,
nothing was more important in their eyes, then being their REDEEMER
After all, Kingship must be personal. I accept Him as MY KING.
Thus, if these three lines of introduction
constitute a Commandment,
what exactly do they command?
Some say, it commands us to BELIEVE in G-d’s existence,
an idea rejected by many. How can anyone COMMAND to
believe in his existence? It does not make any logical sense
Maimonides, in the Cod of Laws, sees it as a Command
to KNOW that He exists, and to KNOW Him the way
He presents Himself here at the Ten Commandments,
namely that He is the Ruler of the World etc.
And he writes:
“Getting this knowledge is a positive Commandment that says
‘I Am YHVH Your EeLoHiM. And whoever think that
there is another G-d besides Him, transgresses the words:
‘ Thou shall not have another EeLoHiM over My Face.”
Thus the First of the Ten Commandments tells us
to KNOW Him by these very Names and in this very fashion
that He, the Speaker, is presenting Himself!
Indeed, we comply with this Command in the way
we address G-d in our blessings and prayers.
Bess G-d for our 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 the ground.”
Here we express His Kingship, Deeds, in the last line
saying that He is the One Who has Brought us the bread from earth.
We change line 3 according to the item for which we bless G-d.
Example 2: An illustration
Suppose I enter your class room for the first time and introduces myself as –
- I Am (my self)
- Rabbi Dr. Zvi Aviner (my attributes, titles, name)
- And I teach Torah on the internet (my actions, deeds)
I have selected this sequence carefully.
in line 1, I presented my self
in line 2, I presented my titles and name, attributes,
in line 3, I describes what I do.
In line 1, I presented my self,
In line 2: I mentioned my rabbinical title first,
Informing you that I am versed in Judaism
and that I’m qualified to teach Torah.
Then, still in line 2, I’ve added my title Dr. informing you that
I also know something about Science, and I’m qualified to speak about it too
In line 3, I infer that I’ve been teaching Torah for a while,
and that I have been improved by your board to teach you.
Note that I choose to mention my rabbinic title first,
since it is more relevant to you, in our Torah class
To my patients in my clinic, I would first present first my title Dr,
and would probably omit my rabbinical title altogether
Now if any of my student distorts or mispronounces my name or attributes,
like calling me “roobi” instead of “rabbi,” it would be not only rood,
but rather a betrayal of ignorance of what ‘rabbi’ means.
Likewise, if a patient addresses me in my private name, Zvi,
or call me “ductoor” instead of doctor, it would not only be rude,
but would betray ignorance of what ‘doctor’ means.
Hence , mispronouncing G-d’s Name, like:
saying Jahowa or Yahwa instead of Y-H-V-H (letter by letter, as an acronym)
or replacing EeLoHiM by another name,
it would betray ignorance of what YHVH and EeLoHiM means.
So if a scholar says or writes about Jehovah, of YHWA,
take it a sign of the author’s ignorance of what the name means
Now, what is EeLoHiM? What is YHVH? Moses does not explain it here.
He assumes that the reader – us – is already aware of these Names
from Genesis Chapter One.
What does the first chapter of the Torah say?