וַיְדַבֵּר אֱלֹהִים אֵת כָּל־הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה לֵאמֹר׃ Hashem spoke all these words, saying: וְלֹא־תַעֲלֶה בְמַעֲלֹת עַל־מִזְבְּחִי אֲשֶׁר לֹא־תִגָּלֶה עֶרְוָתְךָ עָלָיו׃ Do not ascend My mizbayach by steps, that your nakedness may not be exposed upon it.
וַיְדַבֵּר אֱלֹהִים אֵת כָּל־הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה לֵאמֹר׃
Hashem spoke all these words, saying:
וְלֹא־תַעֲלֶה בְמַעֲלֹת עַל־מִזְבְּחִי אֲשֶׁר לֹא־תִגָּלֶה עֶרְוָתְךָ עָלָיו׃
Do not ascend My mizbayach by steps, that your nakedness may not be exposed upon it.
God begins His powerful communication with the Children of Israel by outlining ten essential instructions, known colloquially as the Ten Commandments, that, according to Jewish tradition, encompass all the concepts of the 613 Biblical commands.
God commands the people to accept His authority, not to believe in any other godly powers, not to take his name in vain, to keep the Sabbath and honor parents. He also forbids murder, adultery, theft, false testimony and covetousness.
The people are overwhelmed by the sensory experience of the revelation; the text describes the people seeing sounds of thunder and the shofar blasts. The people ask Moses to hear God’s word on their behalf and bring it back to them. Moses reassures them that they will not be struck down; God showed them His glory so that they will not be moved to sin.
Immediately following the giving of the Ten Commandments, God again reiterates, this time to Moses to tell the people, the command not to create any images; even the things they had seen that day should not be recreated in His service. He then explains that the correct way to serve Him is by building an altar of earth and bringing sacrifices. Wherever sacrifices are brought, He will cause His name to be mentioned, and blessings to be bestowed. As the Israel Bible points out, nowhere is that more true or more powerful than in the Land of Israel.
Virtual Classroom Discussion
Why do you think God singled out these Ten Commandments to highlight at Mt. Sinai? Does this make them more important than the other things He commands elsewhere in the Torah?