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Beit Hamidrash

Parashat Yitro

By: הרב שי פירון

This is an experience I'll never forget. I was about six or seven, and having already insisted on my opinion, I remember it clearly as if it had just occurred. My grandfather, Rabbi Moshe ben Yaakov Tzvi Elimelech Dickmann, took me for the first time to a synagogue. It was a small building located on the second floor of the school Beth Jacob on Michael Haifa Street. It was a Minyen of older people with deep wrinkled faces testifying to what they went through in past years in Europe and what they left behind there, and I was the only child there. Every Saturday, immediately after prayers, we would go to the home of my Grandparents. There we had a great Shabbt meal with Kiddish and bread and fish and great food, after which Grandpa would sit in his chair and reach for the transistor to listen to the Hazanut program he was expecting all week. As a child of non-religious parents, I did not see this action as something weird. Together we went to pray, and sang hymns for  Sabbath and also listened to the radio on Shabbat.

Time pass, and I not as scheduled (at least by my family) found my way from the religious school I was sent to ("so that I know about Judaism," my mother said) to Bnei Akiva and a Yeshiva high school, and from there to a "Yeshiva Gvuah". Today when I think of Grandpa and his manner every Saturday it strikes me as an absurd secene from a movie. Radio on Shabbat after service, and even more - Hazunutl?!

With all the great love to my Grandpa, I have no words in his defense. When I think of it myself, I know it's all because of that war, when my Grandpa's relationship with god weakened. The evil spirit that pervaded the people influenced his beliefs as well. On the other hand I know that if not for my Grandpa's synagogue visits I would not have been who I am today. My Grandpa's synagogue was what led me eventually to the Beit Midrash.

I remember this story about my grandfather because this Shabbat, we read the Ten Commandments. Year after year, this class moves me where we stand and actually receive the Torah anew. The reader's voice joins a growing voice echoes from Sinai to the present and says: "Anochi", "Lo Yehe Lecha" and so on.

This is not just a semantic issue alone. The importance of the Ten Commandments stood before the eyes of Hahamim throughout the ages and it also made ​​them, at some point, make us read the Commandments every day (Masechet Tamid,). As to why they did this, Rambam says: "The point of reading the Ten Commandments every day is because they are the basis of the Mitzvut and his beginning". After the Churban there were some who wanted to move the Takana to the synagogue but "it has already been cancelled from resentment of atheist". Talmud Yerushalmi explains what is this "fear from the Athesit": "why not read them? Because the Athesit will claim that these  alone has been given to Moses at Sinai." Hahamim cancelled the Mitzva due to fear of distortion of the Torah and the preference of the Ten Commandments over other Mitzvut in the Torah. Hahamim understood that some will want to see the Ten Commandments as the main thing overwhelming everything else.

Incidentally, today we know that Hachamim's fear of the Ten becoming the  main  mitvut is justified in view of the fascinating archaeological finds in the caves of Qumran. It turns out that the Qumran sect members put in their tefillin the verses of the Ten Commandments. The concern regarding the preference of the Ten above all others has also led to a religious dispute concerning standing up when reading the Ten Commandments. This is reflected in one of the Rambam's sayings: "The minhag that led the Rabbi to settle, is the right one, and his evidence under the view of those willing to study, and nothing should be added to them. And everyplace were they would stand  the should be prevented, because what comes of it from loss of faith and what that it simulates that the torah has more important and less important mitvut ... Which is very bad. And all the holes bringing to this bad faith should be closed ... And it has been worked out, there is no difference between denying the entire Torah or deny one verse Moses said himself. And one of the atheists who believed,  that the only the Ten were from heaven, and the rest of the Torah Moses himself said, so they canceled their reading every day. And must not make the Torah some parts more important than others. "(Answers Tambam,)..

The Rambam's concerns from those who see some of the Torah as important and some not so much, led others to disagree with him while they note that the Rambam himself has thirteen principles of faith and Rabbi Joseph Albo reduced them to just three. This way or another, it is clear that what guided Hachamim at all times was the fear of the emergence of Judaism in parts, degraded and missing, which chooses certain parts of the Torah out of folkloric or cultural motivations. On the other hand, while Hachamim were afraid that the Torah would tear, you cannot ignore the huge contribution that contributed over the centuries of observance of only main points of Torah and mitzvot. Although this is not the whole Torah, there is a profound developmental that guards the flame to the point of the inner identity.

Read this article in Hebrew!