The Ten Commandments are more famous than understood. The greatest difficulty for the human mind is probably Commandment Number 1. “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the Land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Ex. 20:2) – what sort of commandment is that?
The fact is that it doesn’t need to be a commandment at all if we go by the Hebrew title, Aseret HaDib’rot (Ten Words, Ten Principles). Nonetheless Maimonides includes this first statement in the list of commandments, though he admits that if a person believes in God no commandment is needed and if they do not believe, no commandment helps. Belief can not be imposed or legislated. You can order me to believe, but you are wasting your time unless my heart and soul have already freely chosen to believe.
We can defend Maimonides, however, if we move to the second part of the verse. “I am the Lord your God” is not saying, “Believe in My existence”, but “Believe that it was I who brought the Children of Israel out of Egypt”. The question is not whether God exists – that is axiomatic from page 1 of the Bible – but whether He relates to His creation.
The sages said that a Roman noblewoman asked, “What has your God being doing since the six days of Creation?” In other words, “Is God only in the background or does He do anything for His world?” The rabbi to whom she posed the question said that God busies Himself making marriages, i.e. He concerns Himself with relationships. We believe not just that He is, but that it is He who is in charge of the world.