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    Not commandments – Shavu’ot

    Central to Shavu’ot is the Revelation on Mount Sinai, where God gave Aseret HaDibrot (Ex. 20:1-14).

    We call them “The Ten Commandments” in English, so why isn’t the Hebrew Aseret HaMitzvot?

    The Hebrew means “Ten Words”. “Word” has several meanings; in this context it is like the phrase, “Hear the Word of the Lord”.

    The language of the Ten Words is sometimes imperative (the “thou shalts”) and sometimes not (e.g. the first Word), sometimes positive (e.g. the fourth Word) and sometimes negative (e.g. the third Word).

    Maimonides regards the first Word as a “commandment”: “Know and accept that I am your God”.

    The Ten Words are ten principles, representative of ten categories: 1. History, 2. Theology, 3. Sanctity, 4. Work and Rest, 5. Family, 6. Life, 7. Marriage, 8. Property, 9. Honesty, 10. The Other.

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