Wisdom of Kahana: The 11th Commandment
Clearly, as a Karaite, if I seek answers regarding this world, then it is the Torah and Tanach, or what is referred to commonly as the Old Testament that I turn to. There are those that accuse this most holy of books of being an archaic document, or one which has been superseded by later books created by men, but in those regards they are sorely mislead and mistaken.; the Torah is eternal. In this category of attempted replacement, we must include the Talmud of the Rabbanites, the New Testament of the Christians and the Koran of the Muslims. Three major attempts to displace the Tanach and all which sadly have been hugely successful in doing so. This only begs the question, “Why has man been so insistent on replacing God’s initial words with his own?” As God’s word is truth, then why is mankind determined to eradicate and then replace it with his own versions that are hardly divinely inspired? The Torah is in itself ‘Truth’, and as such, just as the Hebraic word for truth, “Emet” consists of the first, middle and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet, this being the True word of God, also is intended to be the only religious text that is holy. Not only at Man’s beginning, but also the middle and end of our existence. Divinely inspired, then it is beyond time, beyond limitations and certainly can never be reduced to irrelevance or historical interest as some other religions attempt to do.
Being man’s nature to attempt to relegate anything of importance to a historical anecdote, because in mankind’s mind the centre of the universe is ‘man’ and therefore anything not inspired of man is merely anecdotal, then it can only be assumed that God, knowing full well the nature of man would provide the words that would ultimately be recorded as the Tanach in such a manner that they were not only historic but also prophetic simultaneously. That the Almighty knew that man would always attempt to replace His words with others and therefore would carefully choose His own words to insure that they remained eternal. After all, God is not limited by the physical nature of either space or time as we happen to be. A long time ago I was taught that if I want to hear the true intention of YHWH then I must open my eyes, and if I wish to see HIS glory then I must ensure that I listen. It takes a long time to appreciate those lessons offered to us by those gifted with wisdom. At first we resist because we wish to argue who can see with ears and listen with eyes; we presume that we know better and that this advice is mistaken. But if we try long enough and hard enough, eventually our eyes do hear and our ears do see. For those that have gained this insight, you will know exactly of what I speak.
But even this knowledge that God had carefully selected the words he passed on to Moses and the elders so that they could stand alone, outside of time and space could not be accepted as they were. Once again, man had to prove that he was superior to the knowledge of the Lord and as such the Kabbalistic Rabbis have insisted that every letter of the Torah is gifted with a special meaning, a mystical and esoteric capacity that through their years of training in what borders as the black arts they, and only they, can release the arcane and occult knowledge. Once more man has intervened, placing himself between God and the divinely inspired word. The fault of these magical rabbis in their beliefs is that they cannot see nor hear what is already before them. Or perhaps they intentionally choose not to do so, otherwise they would relegate themselves to having no importance. If we accept that the word of YHWH is eternal, and we appreciate that therefore every utterance by the Lord has past, present and future references, then our senses will be opened so that we can hear the images and see the sounds that have been never truly concealed from us. The word of God as He instructed Moses was to pass directly between Himself and the people, without interpreters, without the need for commentators but only the wisdom of those that have seen it to give guidance on how to seek it for yourself.
Probably no greater event has affected mankind more than the giving of the Commandments by God to Moses on the mount. And yet, no set of laws has ever been violated more than these which were intended to be the keystones to everything we do culturally, civilly, and morally as a species. In fact to the point that in today’s world we have turned these laws virtually upside down, protected and rewarding the wicked, increased the suffering and punishment of the defenceless, and continue to pursue relentlessly that which feeds our greed, lusts and passions to the detriment of all others.
But surely, God would have known all this at the time he gave Moses his commandments. If His words were truly beyond time and space then He would have passed on to us the knowledge and foresight of what would likely happen and the warning that we should safeguard against such an occurrence. Perhaps it is only with hindsight that I can appreciate that this was definitely the case, and that the warnings were always there but we failed to stop what should have been obvious. That the breaking of his commandments would be our fault, not that we necessarily ourselves broke them but that we would let the breaking of them happen on our watch and we would do nothing to stop it.
And the commandment not to let this happen was given to us by God and was always present from the time of Moses standing upon the mountain top, but we have not given it its due recognition because we chose to break it almost immediately from the time that the YHWH provided it to us. This eleventh commandment which was the first and the most paramount that we chose to ignore and for which we have suffered immeasurably over three millennia. It was never hidden, never concealed, but it required us to use our eyes to hear and our ears to see because by doing so, we would be translocated to the top of the mountain and we would be standing alongside Moses and we would appreciate that we have failed in our duty and our instruction to preserve that which YHWH had gifted to us. For those of you that can still not see or hear it, then let me point it out to you. It is contained within the first sentence of Exodus 20 and it has always been there waiting for us to recognise its existence. These few words are quite interesting in their grammatical context. The first sentence could have been clearly written as “And God said to Moses,” but it was not and it was not done so for a very important reason. It was YHWH’s intention that we pay specific attention to these words but instead we glossed them over and as you will see chose to ignore them. Because it was not about God speaking only to Moses, He was speaking to all of us and he wanted these first words to be as much as a commandment as everything else that followed. In transliteration it reads, ‘ve-yedabir Elohim, et kol hadvarim ha-ayleh le-amor’ for those of you that cannot read the Hebrew. And it means, “And God spoke all these words, saying: לֵאמֹר. הָאֵלֶּה הַדְּבָרִים-כָּל אֵת, אֱלֹהִים וַיְדַבֵּר.” The last word could have easily been ‘ve-imru’ meaning ‘and He said’. Grammatically it would have made more sense. But God wanted us to spot the intentional difference. Similarly, the fact that the phrase ‘spoke all these words’ followed by the word ‘saying’ are used within the same sentence is intentional to emphasize that this was a commandment and an integral instruction to us as a people. Clearly it was the Lord’s intention to have this sentence stand on its own merits. Why would I say so, because the last word may equally be interpreted as meaning ‘to say’ as if it was in the future tense. And as such, then this sentence demonstrates the act of God not only speaking in the past (spoke), the present (these words) in the here and now, and the future (to say) and that being the case then God is commanding us to understand that His words are never to be revoked or superseded at any time, for any reason. Clearly, he was also warning us that this would be attempted at some point as it had been in the past, the present and will also be done in the future and it was our responsibility to fulfil his commandment and not to let it happen.
The past was easy to identify. The children of Israel had been enslaved in Egypt and already had forgotten the Lord, their God. To further emphasize the point of the present, while Moses was receiving the Commandments, Aaron was busy at the base of the mountain manufacturing a golden calf that would serve as an abomination. But the future was even more serious, because it would be fully in contravention of ‘all these words.’ That is why God chose the expression, ‘To Say’, because He needed us to remind ourselves every day that there would be continuous attempts to negate His commandments, His instructions and His laws. Try to imagine an intentional act of mankind that would violate all the commandments and do so willingly. Think about it, not only would this conspiracy to transgress God’s holy words defile all of what we have identified as His Ten Commandments, but it will also intentionally and with premeditation attempt to destroy everything He taught us in the past, alter His present existence, and erase His purpose from the future. If you are still struggling to imagine what I am referring to then take a closer look at those religions that followed and look closely how they have twisted and perverted these original commandments. Take a close look at our Pharasaic (Rabbinical) Judaism, our Christianity, our Islamic faith and even our secular legislations and recognize how they have transgressed the original intent of God’s instructions. We have killed, stolen, lied, transgressed and violated on a moral scale more now than ever before and continue to do so with each passing day. And yet, the religious and civil leaders of our time will say that they have made far greater improvements on both a legal and humanistic level to the laws and commandments given to us at the time of the Exodus. And they will conclude that the Torah and Tanach, so cherished and preserved by the Karaites, has been proven to be irrelevant to our current and future needs. And in its stead they will hold aloft their Talmuds, their Gospels and their Korans, along with their civic legislations and they will shout to the heavens, “See God, this is how man makes laws and commandments.” And I will pray that God will forgive us for the transgression of his 11th commandment for we were commanded to safeguard His holy words, to see that this would never happen, and we have failed.
May Peace be with all of us and may we all be forgiven,
Avrom Aryeh-Zuk Kahana