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Rabbi's Blog

rabbi 05 smallsf badge lgRabbi Joel Landau  (rabbi@adathisraelsf.org) has been the Rabbi of Adath Israel since May 2013. He was ordained by the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem and has served previously as a congregational Rabbi in Charleston, South Carolina and Irvine, California. A full biography of Rabbi Landau is available here.


In our contemporary world, it is sometimes challenging to appreciate the relevance of biblical texts in our daily lives. With this in mind and Shavuot around the corner, I’d like to share with you my understanding of the Ten Commandments and their application:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

1. “I am the L-rd your G-d, who brought you out of the Land of Egypt…”

I know what you’re thinking already. This one doesn’t appear to be much of a commandment. More like a statement or a proclamation. However, this knowledge is the foundation of the following Commandments and of faith in general. Knowing that Hashem is our G-d, who took us out of the land of Egypt, demonstrates that there is no longer any doubt as to G-d’s existence or His control over the world. He is undeniably the Adon Olam, Master of the World.

2. “You shall have no other gods except me...”

Morality is the basis for all human behavior. As the Master of the World, G-d alone determines right and wrong. Any time a person allows his or her sense of right and wrong to be dictated by anything other than G-d, that person is worshiping a false god (e.g. art, business, compassion, education, law, life, love, nationalism, reason).

3. “You shall not take the name of the L-rd your G-d in vain

Words are the vehicle through which concepts and ideas gain or lose importance. Unnecessary use of G-d’s name in any form trivializes Hashem.

4. “Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy

Time is our most important commodity. Dedicating one-seventh of our lives in a manner that accentuates our commitment to G-d exemplifies His importance in our lives.

5. “Honor your father and your mother

Gratitude is the cement of relationships. Recognizing the huge debt due to our parents for their part in giving us life and behaving toward them accordingly sensitizes us to the appropriate behavior toward G-d, Who has given us everything.

6. “You shall not murder

This includes euthanasia, abortion and any act that devalues another’s life (e.g. embarrassing someone, causing loss of livelihood, certain types of rape etc.)

7. “You shall not commit adultery

This includes any act that might damage or destroy a marriage (e.g. “flirting,” spending an inordinate amount of time with another’s spouse, etc.).

8. “You shall not steal

This includes charging interest to a Jew, any type of deception, excessive profits, intellectual property, kidnapping, insulting someone’s dignity.

9. “You shall not bear false witness

This includes any false statement regarding another, implied or explicit.

10. “You shall not covet the possesions of your neighbor

Everything a person acquires is a gift from G-d, Who determines every person’s needs and supplies them. Therefore, we are forbidden to even think about taking from another, as that is tantamount to second-guessing G-d.