If God is with us, who can be against us?
In this portion of the Torah, Yitro (named after a Gentile), the Israelites received the Ten Sayings or Commandments. This is not only Israel’s constitution, it is also for the entire world. There is so much to learn from the revelation of the Bore Olam, but sadly, over time God’s principles were warped by elitists who separated themselves from others, not from want of serving the people but out of a sense of being better than them.
I grew up in a home in which my parents had an idea about a Creator, but it was mostly at a superficial level. Over the years, after university, I began to question what mattered. Before becoming a believer in God, I was a proud atheist. I thought that only people with limited mental capacity could believe in a Superior Being and that everything lay in our hands.
A series of circumstances forced me to ask deeper questions about life, especially after the tragic death of my older brother. I was teaching thermodynamics at the young age of 22 and through the simple “Law of Entropy”, I found an answer to the question of the existence of the Creator of the universe, one that made sense to me. That’s how the Creator began to make me aware of His Presence within me and how He would start guiding me.
The path of following the Creator is never easy because there are things within our inner being that need to be changed. I call them “Paradigm Shifts”. The course of change can be quite painful because our minds lead us in one direction while the Creator is leading us in the opposite. During this difficult process, we learn to humble ourselves before the Creator. Humbling ourselves means that we acknowledge our limitations and listen to that small voice within, reminding us that we are responsible for our actions. In the final analysis, we are the only ones who can decide to think for ourselves. The Torah teaches us how to be free from all types of slavery.
The Creator gave our people the Ten Commandments and wanted us to bring them to the world; we were not supposed to keep them for ourselves but to disseminate them to all humanity. The people who stood at the base of Mt. Sinai were not just Israelites but were from other nations. We were never meant to be elitists who feel better than others; on the contrary, we were small when compared with the greatness of God. That allows us to humble ourselves as we see that He is the only one who holds the Truth, not us. He wants us to be the best that we can be, not to compare ourselves with anyone else. Rather than constantly comparing ourselves with others let us understand that the only one to compare ourselves with is ourselves. Let’s ask ourselves, “Am I better than I was yesterday and where am I going”?
These Ten Words are all that we need; they form the constitution of Israel. However, we have set up volumes of laws predicated upon “precedence”, which is an unjust system. Judging by precedence means that our situation is not judged upon its own merits but upon someone else’s situation that preceded ours. Each precedent created is added to the one that came before so that now so much has been added to the original Ten Words of God that we have become lost in the mire. They have been made so heavy that we no longer know how to apply them. We have forgotten their essence. This so-called age of enlightenment has eradicated the simple and clear revelation of the Creator given us on how to live and walk with Him.
Today’s society all over the world has lost the idea of basic human decency and morality. It is a supposed “free society” in which all are free to do whatever they want without consequences. This is not the first time in our history that this has happened, but today it is worse because we think that we have reached the pinnacle of all knowledge and no one will stop us from doing anything we want without consequences. The sad thing is that we are more interested in whatever lies outside of human values and morality. We have created the religion of humanism in which God can no longer play any role in our lives and has erased the Ten Commandments.
People get so upset when you speak to them about a relationship with the Creator. They yell at you saying this is only for people who have no brains and think that they are so much more advanced than you. Why do they get so upset when you mention that you need to be under the power of the Creator if they are so much more enlightened?
There is something within their soul that is being affected. The world is reacting against the Creator because of their “religions”. There are two similar types of people –religious people and politicians. If you support them, they promise you paradise, soon. But if you have the chutzpah to disagree with them, they not only attack you but try to stop you from speaking. This is happening as we speak, right here in this “free” country of Canada. You cannot speak about the Creator; the Ten Commandments have been removed from our schools. Look at the moral turpitude of the people today. Parents of young children have an extremely difficult job. We need to stand up and fight against the immorality of this world. I do not believe that I have the right to impose my morality upon others but in the same way, they do not have the right to impose their immorality upon me. They can practice their immoral behavior privately but instead, they insist that theirs is great and that we refuse to accept it, we are accused of hate crimes.
We, in this community, are not popular and are not growing because people need to be called by the Creator. They need to be moved from within about what is wrong or right. This is not about being judgmental, looking down upon others or separating ourselves from them. On the contrary, it is about becoming humble. When we learn and understand these Ten Commandments, they raise us to a higher standard; they are simple yet profound. We each have the right to communicate and share them but not to enforce them. There are so many people who are ignorant about these ten principles of life.
I have a theory…I believe that every human being has received the Ruach, the Breath, the Spirit of God. Every human being, created in His likeness and image, has that Divine Spark within us from conception. That is what the Torah teaches us. His Word is within us. Anthropologists know that even the most primitive groups of people have a set of moral standards by which they live. That tells me that we all come from the same Creator. Long before the Creator revealed His Ten Commandments for Moses to write down, there were many civilizations (like Sumerian, Akkadian, Hammurabi, Hittite, etc.) that had their systems of laws and codices. Many had similar ideas to what Moses received which tells me that the Creator revealed His Presence to all humanity. The problem is that religions distort His Word. They say that they are interpreting the Word of God, that their words outweigh God’s Word and that they are bringing enlightenment to the world but in truth, they are bringing humanity back into darkness.
That is why this parashah is so important.
There are three words used in the Torah, mitzvot, chukkim and mishpatim. The mitzvot can be understood as commandments; the chukkim are ordinances which do not always have a logical explanation but are for our good and the mishpatim bring us the rules for society to work well together.
One of the greatest crimes that religious people have committed was renaming the Ten Commandments, the Torah, to “law” or “nomos” in Greek. They are God’s principles which teach us how to live. They were not to be enforced. When the people of Israel first heard these words at Mount Sinai, they said that they would do and obey. They accepted them before they were handed to Moses. It was a two-way agreement. They were not forced upon us.
Now, in the 21st century, humanity thinks it is so advanced that we can destroy ourselves with the push of a button. Society is motivated by selfishness but with the gift of Free Will comes responsibility. If we could see into the hearts of people around us, to read their kavanah (intentions), we would see how selfish humanity has become. The Creator wanted humanity to help each other and to depend upon one another instead of destroying each other. It is not healthy to compare ourselves with others, rather it is far better to examine ourselves and look for areas that we can be a positive influence upon society.
We are living in perilous times, on the brink of self-destruction, not only with weapons, but we are in the midst of an epidemic that is attacking people all over the world and more like that are coming. We as parents are at a loss about what to do with our children who are still in schools where values are upside down. They think their teachers know more than their parents. Our governments are pushing values upon us that go against the Torah. Those who speak out suffer the consequences because our we are being muzzled. There is no more free speech.
It is time to awaken from this nightmare and to express ourselves even when people do not agree with us. We don’t need to fight or argue, but rather to tell them what we believe, to not be afraid to speak out when we don’t agree with the opinion of others. Let us not look to be accepted by man, only by the Creator. Are you with the Creator or are you against Him?
Legalism doesn’t take us anywhere; we need to be flexible and open-minded while clinging to the Principles of the Scriptures. There is only one Truth and it never changes If you want to justify your behavior, justify it by measuring it against the truth, not wishful thinking.
Finally, even the story of Yitro, (which is not chronological, since it should be after the giving of the commandments), brings words of wisdom. We, the Jews are not the only ones who hold the truth. All humanity is a creation of God. We are all one because He made us one. In this community we search for the Truth; striving not to follow people but God. Search everything, take what is good and get rid of what is not good. Truth comes from the Creator and He will never lead us on the wrong path. If the Bore Olam is with us, who can be against us?
Rabbi Netanel ben Yochanan (Ranebi)