If it can be said that the Torah has a climax, it would surely be in this week's Torah portion — the Giving of the Torah at Sinai, the Ten Commandments. Here is a code everyone subscribes to, possibly without even reading it. "Thou shalt not kill," and "Thou shalt not steal" are for many people all the Ten Commandments, all of morality in fact. I have heard self-styled skeptics question the Divinity of the Torah, and readily affirm G‑d's authorship and their personal acceptance of the Ten Commandments.

We aren't apt to worship graven images; we will honor father and mother; we will make earnest if occasionally imperfect attempts not to take His Name in vain; we will concede the wisdom and necessity of the Thou-shalt-nots.

An otherwise universally acceptable standard carries an unsuspected challengeHowever, an otherwise universally acceptable standard carries an unsuspected challenge — "On the seventh day you shall not do any work." Not much leeway there; "any work" seems quite explicit. This Fourth Commandment, especially the quoted part, is either literally unknown (some think the entire commandment reads, "Remember the Shabbat day to keep it holy"!) or casually ignored.

Can there be the Ten Commandments without the Shabbat? Can there be a Shabbat without our refraining from all work, as the Torah so clearly demands? Has the Shabbat become indistinguishable from weekdays because of economic hardship, or through indifference? Have electricity and thermostatic heating and refrigerators and gas stoves made a workless Shabbat more difficult or more easy? Is a day of respite from weekday activities, a day for the mind and spirit, really out of date?

These questions are part of the great re-examination American Jewry faces. The personal decision about Torah and Jewish living cannot long be evaded. If we don't ask ourselves questions, history will.