The Ten Commandments: Still The Best Moral Code

29 October 2018 | Studying the Ten Commandments starts with learning the Ten by heart.

  • #1. I Am The Lord Your God
  • #2. No Other Gods
  • #3. Do Not Misuse God’s Name
  • #4. Remember the Sabbath Day
  • #5. Honor Your Father and Mother
  • #6. Do Not Murder
  • #7. Do Not Commit Adultery
  • #8. Do Not Steal
  • #9. Do Not Bear False Witness
  • #10. Do Not Covet

#1. I Am The Lord Your God
G-d wants us to be free. Thus, G-d took the Israeli out of the house of bondage.

G-d is the Lord, indeed the only G-d. G-d has the ultimate power and is the source of ethics,  of morality. That is, G-d decides what is right and what is wrong. When human follow G-d’s commandments they are doing right. It is an obligation to G-d.

It is very much important to note that G-d is not human. Doing the obligation to G-d indeed means doing all the Commandments is for human, nothing for G-d.

The first and foremost thing G-d wants us, the human, to do is that we treat other human beings morally. The only thing we can do “for” G-d is to treat all His other children decently. The Creator creates this world, but more important, the Creator cares about His creation.

Freedom comes from moral self-control. There is no other way to achieve it. Freedom is given to human by G-d. Freedom is not given by any great man. If freedom is man-given then the man, no matter how great s/he is, can take it away.

Building America on the three values of “In G-d we trust,” “Out of many, one,” and “Liberty” is to observe the Commandment. “In G-d We Trust” is on every dollar note to create a common positive energy by all the Americans those accept the US dollar notes as their national money. In light of this, although many different people come to America, if they all trust in G-d then they are actually one nation where creations of G-d are living together. Last but not least, if the people in the nation observe the Ten Commandment then G-d gives them liberty. Today, this explains why freedom is important to people and why “free to choose” is essential to economic prosperity.

#2. No Other Gods
The Commandment of “No Other G-ds” made the ethical revolution of the Ten Commandments – what is known as ethical monotheism – possible.

If there are other G-ds, no matter how noble sounding – there will be other moral standards. Then people will follow many, and different, moral standards thus end up with a world of cruelty.

With one G-d, all people are brothers and sisters in one family of the Creator. Brothers and sisters have an obligation to treat others morally.

#3. Do Not Misuse God’s Name
To “carry” or to “misuse” G-d’s name means committing evil in G-d’s name. And G-d will not forgive.

When an irreligious person commits evil, it doesn’t bring G-d and religion into disrepute. But when religious people commit evil, especially in G-d’s name, they are not only committing evil but also they are doing terrible damage to the name of G-d.

#4. Remember the Shabbat Day
Remember the Shabbat Day reminds people that they are meant to be free. The Shabbat almost single handedly creates and strengthens family ties and friendships. When a person takes off from work one day every week, that day almost inevitably becomes a day spent with other people – firstly family and/or friends. Shabbat day has incredibly positive effects on marriages.

Shabbat is the most holy day.

#5. Honor Your Father and Mother
Why G-d commands us to honor our parents but not love our parents?  Strikingly, the Bible commands us to love our neighbor, to love G-d,  and to love the stranger.

It is firstly because, our parents are unique. So they must be treated in a unique way. A father and a mother who are not honored are essentially adult peers of their children. For instance, when you leave the house of your parents for studying, working, and building your own careers and families in other cities, you keep contacting your parents and visiting, occasionally or frequently, them. You don’t do the same to neighbors and friends.

Secondly, the Bible understands that there will always be individuals who, for whatever reason, do not love a parent. Therefore, it does not demand what may be psychologically or emotionally impossible. If you don’t love your neighbors, you can move to another address. If you don’t love the stranger, you can find another one. But you can never find another parent.

Last but not least, if your children see you honor your parents, no matter how difficult it may sometimes be, the chances are far greater that they will honor you. When you observe the commandment of “honor your father and your mother,” then “That your days may be long in the land that the Lord your G-d is giving you.”

#6. Do Not Murder
It is necessary to make it clear and firm that “You can kill, but you cannot murder.” Killing can be moral or immoral. Killing can be legal or illegal. Murdering is always immoral and illegal.

#7. Do Not Commit Adultery
While “Do not commit adultery” is the most consistently difficult for the Ten Commandments to observe, it is “the best way to protect the family.”

One reason is the enormous power of the sex drive. It can be very hard to keep check in for the entirety of one’s marriage – especially when an attractive outsider makes him or herself sexually or romantically available.

Another reason is the human desire to love and be loved. There is no more powerful emotion than love. If one falls in love with someone whole married, it takes great effort not to commit adultery with that person.

Adultery is prohibited because it threatens the very building block of the civilization that the Ten Commandments seeks to create. That building block is family – a married father and mother and their children. Anything that threatens the family unit is prohibited in the Bible.

Family is so important. Without family, social stability is impossible. Without family, the passing on of society’s values from generation to generation is impossible. Commitment to a wife and children makes men more responsible and mature. Meanwhile, more than anything else, family meets most women’s deepest emotional and material needs. And nothing comes close to the family in giving children a secure and stable childhood.

Adultery threatens the family in different ways. The most obvious is that sex with someone other than one’s spouse can too easily lead to either or both spouses leaving the marriage. Aside from the sense of betrayal and loss of trust, adulterous partner lives a fraudulent life.

#8. Do Not Steal
“Do not steal” is the one commandment that encompass all other five commandments concerning our treatment of fellow human beings. How does “do not steal” encompass the other five? Murder is the stealing of another person’s life. Adultery is the stealing of another person’s spouse. Coveting is the desire to steal what belongs to another person. Giving false testimony is stealing justice.

This is also the only Commandment that is completely open-ended. The commandment against stealing doesn’t even hint at what it is we are forbidden to steal. Which means that we cannot take anything that belongs to another person. An that, in turn, means three big things.

  1. We are not allowed to steal another human being – what we call kidnapping.
  2. We are forbidden to steal what people own.
  3. People own many things, that we are forbidden to steal, include:
    • (i) A person’s reputation. Stealing a person’s good name – whether through libel, slander, or gossip – is particular destructive from of theft. Because, unlike money or property, once a person’s good name has been stolen, it can almost never be fully restored.
    • (ii) A person’s dignity. The act of stealing a person’s dignity is known as humiliation. And humiliating a person, especially in public, can do permanent damage to what is perhaps the most precious thing any of us owns – our dignity.
    • (iii) A person’s trust. Stealing a person’s trust is known as deceiving someone. One example is tricking people into buying something, as when a real estate agent omits telling a prospective purchaser all the flaws in a home, in order to make a sale.
    • (iv) A person’s intellectual property. This form of theft includes anything from copying software or downloading music and movies without paying for them to stealing a person’s words, what we know as plagiarism.

#9. Do Not Bear False Witness
Lying is the root of evil.” The Commandment means two things: “Do not lie when testifying in court,” and “Do not lie.

A society cannot survive contempt for truth – whether inside or outside a courtroom. If people testify false in a courtroom, there can be no justice. And without even the hope of justice, there can be no civilization. And this Commandment is clearly concerned with truth generally, not only in a courtroom.

There are many important values in society, but truth is probably the most important. Goodness and compassion may be the most important values in the micro, or personal, realm. But in the macro, or societal, ream, truth is even more important than compassion or kindness.

#10. Do Not Covet
This Commandment prohibits the thing that leads to the acts of evil – i.e., murder, adultery, stealing, and perjury. This is the only commandment legislates thought. All the other Commandments legislate behavior. In fact, of the 613 laws in the Five Books of Moses, virtually none prohibits thought.

Why do the Ten Commandments include a law that prohibits a thought? Because it is coveting that so often leads to evil. In other words, coveting is what leads to violating the preceding commandments – those against murder, adultery, stealing, and perjury. In most instances, it is because they covet something that belongs to another person.

To covet is much more than “to want.” To covet means to want to the point of seeking to take away and own something that belongs to another person. “Seeking to own” does not mean just envying or lusting after. Neither envy nor lust is prohibited in the Ten Commandments. Uncontrolled envy can lust can surely lead to bad things, and they can both be psychologically and emotionally destructive, but neither one is prohibited in the Ten Commandments. Why? Because neither is the same as coveting. It is coveting that almost inevitably leads to stealing, to adultery, and sometimes even to murder.

Whatever belongs to another person must be regarded as sacrosanct. We cannot seek to own anything that belongs to another. Because only evil can come of it.


* Dennis Prager, 2015. The Ten Commandments: Still The Best Moral Code. Salem Books

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