The First Two Commandments
How many of the ten commandments did the Jewish People actually hear themselves? Which ones were spoken by God? Which ones by Moshe? Join Rabbi Yitzhak Zuriel as he explores these questions by learning through the first two dibrot of the ten commandments with classical commentators as well as some of the philosophical writings.
The First Two Commandments: Who says these are two separate mitzvot?
Shalom to all of you who plan to attend this 4-part series on the first two of the Ten Commandments!
You can attend the live shiurim or view the recordings, although I encourage you to join us in the live sessions and take part in the discussions about the material.
If you have questions following the classes, you can direct them to me also by email to firstname.lastname@example.org .
We will be asking some good questions about these first two of the Dibrot, and looking for explanations both in the Talmudic literature and in the Rishonim (classic commentators from the medieval period). I hope that you will find this exploration interesting, on two levels: (1) the technical exegetical and peshat problems and explanations that we will encounter; (2) the in-depth explanations that we will see in the Rambam and other writings about the content of these two commandments.
In this first session, we will study the verses in Shemot 20, and then jump right into the Rambam’s explanation of the essential meaning of these two mitzvot, and also see his explanation of why they are both actually mitzvot.
I have posted here sources for you to peruse before the class, if you want (not required).
The First Two Commandments: How did the people hear them? And why?
In the previous shiur, the first of this series, we saw that the Rambam counted the content of the verse אנכי ה’ אלקיך (“I am Hashem your G-d…”) as a separate and distinct commandment of the Torah, and distinct from the following verses, which themselves contain the second commandment לא יהיה לך (“You shall not have before me other gods…”). We also saw how he explained the content of these two commandments in the first paragraphs of his great halachic work the Mishneh Torah.
In this second class of the series, we will learn what the Sages have taught about the manner in which the people of Israel heard and understood these commandments in the extraordinary experience they had at Mount Sinai. We will examine the words of the commentators Rashi and Hizkuni on the verses and on those words of the Sages, and see how these explanations differ from that of the Rambam in the Moreh Nevuchim (Guide of the Perplexed).
I have posted here some of the sources that we will use in the class, including the full text of the abovementioned Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim chapter 33) in English.
The First Two Commandments: What did the people hear at Har Sinai? (II) – Hizkuni, Rambam, Abarbanel
In the previous session, we began to explore the question of what it was that the people actually heard in the experience of Ma’amad Har Sinai, the foundational event that took place at Sinai. In this shiur, we will first contrast the explanation of the Hizkuni, which we saw at the end of the previous shiur, with that of the Rambam, in explaining how we know that only the first two of the dibrot were heard somehow by the people. We will read together and explain the entire chapter 33 of the Rambam’s Moreh Nevuchim to understand more deeply the Rambam’s understanding of why the people only heard the first 2 dibrot. Time allowing, we will then contrast the Rambam’s view of what the people heard directly from G-d with the view of the Abarbanel.
The First Two Commandments: Drill down in the First Commandment (אנכי); The Failure at Sinai – a radical Hasidic view
In this, the fourth and last session of our pre-Shavuot mini-course, we will engage in two final ways with the beginning words of the Ten Commandments.
First, we will drill down and study very carefully the text of the first dibra – “אנכי”. We will do this by examining the classical commentaries of Rashi (11th cent. CE France/Germany), Ramban (13th cent. Spain), Seforno (16th cent. Italy), and the Bechor Shor (12th cent. France/Germany).
To conclude our journey for now, we will encounter a radically different interpretation of the events at Sinai from what we’ve already seen – relating to what the people experienced, how they reacted, and what was the end result – presented in the Hasidic text דגל מחנה אפרים. He also relates to the question of why the people only heard the first two commandments, with a surprising explanation.
I have posted here the sources for this session.
Rabbi Yitzhak Zuriel has been enjoying guiding students in how to learn and understand Talmud at WebYeshiva.org since its founding. He began his teaching career as a teacher and educational director at Michlelet Bruria in the 1980s. For over 20 years, he has been working as a software engineer in Jerusalem, and during that time has been an editor and contributor to the company NDS's Torah journal, Chiddushei Torah@NDS, that was published annually from 1996-2014 . He and his wife reside in Ma'ale Adumim and are parents to five children and have many grandchildren.