Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Ten Commandments and the Jews

It's no secret that many on the Christian Right want monuments of the Ten Commandments in schools, courts, and other public places. But I wonder how many of my fellow Jews realize how many of them are posting the wrong ten commandments! And no, I'm not talking about shamor vs. zachor.

Let's look at the one that Judge Roy Moore refused to take down from the Alabama Supreme Court Building:

Notice anything? (Hint: try counting them.) It turns out that most Protestants use a different set of commandments. What Jews think of as the first commandment, they think of as some sort of preamble. What Jews think of as the second commandment, they separate into the first and second. This monument does a pretty good job of splitting the difference. By using eleven commandments rather than ten, they manage to appease both groups. Notice though how "Honor thy father and mother" gets pushed to the second tablet.

The distinction is a little clearer on the monument at the Texas State Capitol:

And even more obvious on this plaque from a Pennsylvania courthouse. It's hard to make out, but it skips "I am the Lord..." entirely:

And it doesn't get much more obvious than this display at the Cambridge Public Library in Massachusets:

Granted, it's not a big difference, but I hope it may serve as a small wake-up call to Orthodox Jews who've been supporting the erosion of the wall between church and state. I wonder which commandments Senator Lieberman displays in his office:

In addition to the group’s ministry to people one-on-one, Faith in Action has presented more than 300 stone tablets of the Ten Commandments to officials and asked them to display and obey them.

“I’ll never forget the day I ran into Sen. Joseph Lieberman while riding the underground subway between the Senate offices and the Capitol,” Schenck recalls. “I had the opportunity to speak to him about several issues. He later became the first senator to accept and display the Ten Commandments plaque in his office. He even asked for one in Hebrew for his home office.”

Here's a picture of Schenck with one of the plaques:


Blogger Charlie Hall said...

Well said. At one point in the 19th century, there were major conflicts in the US regarding which "version" of the Bible to use in public schools: the Catholic Douay-Rheims or the Protestant Authorized (King James) Version. I have read that in Pennsylvania there were actually riots over the matter.

Nowadays, though, since a large fraction of Orthodox Jews have now assimilated in their thought processes even while remaining outwardly shomer mitzvot, it is politically incorrect in some circles to point out the important differences between us and non-Jews. On Shavuot it is worthy of remember that difference.

6/01/2006 5:45 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

I point you to the ruling of the 6th Circuit Court... look on my blog about December time, I believe. Chag Sameach - no reason an atheist can't enjoy. :)

6/01/2006 6:59 PM  
Blogger Eugene Weixel said...

Very interesting! Thanks for this.

6/01/2006 8:31 PM  
Blogger Modern Day Prophet said...

Thanks for this, I turly enjoyed it.

6/02/2006 12:07 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hmmm.. Very interesting. I never noticed the different (then again, I'm pretty much opposed to public display of ANY of them, so I don't really look that closely). This is a good illustration of how the Christian Right seems to "partner" with certain other groups, but really is only out for it's own, not a collective end.

6/02/2006 6:57 AM  
Blogger asher said...

..and this is relevant, how? By the way, I think Rambam believes the first commandment is a preamble as well.

Why do we eat diary on shavout? Because the jews weren't taught the laws of koshruth prior to the giving of the torah. Which would mean we should eat diary on passover as well....hey...never use logic when it comes to food and jews.

6/03/2006 5:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If my memory serves me correctly, I believe it was the BeHaG as quoted by the Ramban that said this

6/06/2006 2:47 PM  
Blogger Rabbi Seinfeld said...


The difference between Pesach and Shavuot is that Kashrut became law only at Sinai; but they still had to wait 40 days for Moshe to return with the details of how to shecht (and whatever time it took them to kasher their pots and pans)

I posted a 10 Commandments quiz back in February. Test your Jewish literacy!

6/11/2006 12:26 AM  
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