The Bible Says What? The Ten Commandments misses out the most important one!
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The Bible Says What? The Ten Commandments misses out the most important one!

 Rabbi Yuval Keren looks at a controversial passage of Jewish texts and looks at a progressive response

The Ten Commandments are regarded as the pillars of Jewish – and indeed human – faith and conduct. Yet if we examine them one by one, we will find none of them easy or straightforward.

‘Do not have other gods before Me’ seems to be broken daily when some of us worship pop idols or make routine offerings to the god of Mammon (money and material wealth). So many of us casually take God’s name in vain (OMG) and, no matter how hard we try, we all fail at honouring our parents.

Yet in my eyes the most challenging of all is the last on the list: Do not covet your neighbour’s house, your neighbour’s wife, servants, animals, and all that is your neighbour’s. (Exodus 20:17)

It is challenging because it involves thought rather than action – and it is impossible to stop this thought. Also, why does it begin with details and conclude with “and all that is your neighbour’s”?

Perhaps when we look at someone else, we tend to judge them by one or two characters we feel we lack in ourselves. This might be their house, their status, sports car, good looks, age, health or their greener grass. Jealousy is then easy to settle and the feeling we would have loved to be in their shoes. 

If we examine the person as a whole, we will find that no other person’s world is perfect. One successful way of applying the commandment ‘do not covet’ is to look at others as if they were not different from us, with all our flaws and faults.

This is the essence of the most important of all commandments and the one missing from the grand list of 10, but ever present in all ethical rules: ‘Love your fellow as yourself’ (Leviticus 19:18).

Rabbi Yuval Keren serves Southgate Progressive Synagogue

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