18:1 As will be recounted shortly, the people left Refidim and journeyed a short distance to Mount Sinai.1 Because of all that had happened since Moses left him, Jethro, the former priest of Midian, took special pride in being Moses' father-in-law. When he heard about the Splitting of the Sea and the war with Amalek, he came to meet the Israelites shortly after they camped at Mount Sinai. The Splitting of the Sea had greatly enhanced the people's reputation among the nations of the world,2 but Amalek's attack had somewhat abated this respect, even though the Israelites had repelled the attack. In order to reinstate the Israelites' esteem among the nations, Jethro—who was still highly respected, despite his excommunication3—went into the desert to meet them and honor them.4 In general, Jethro heard about all God had done, half in Moses' merit and half in His people Israel's merit (for Moses' merits were equal to those of the rest of the people combined): how He provided them with the manna and the well, how He repulsed Amalek, and most of all, that God had brought Israel out of Egypt.

2 So Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, took Moses' wife, Zipporah, after she had been sent away,5

3 and her two sons. The name of one was Gershom, because Moses had said, "I have been a stranger in an alien land."6

4 The name of the other one was Eliezer ["my God is an aid"], because Moses had said, "the God of my father came to my aid, and He rescued me from Pharaoh's sword."7

5 Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, came to Moses, together with Moses' sons and his wife, leaving the comfort of his home to go into the desert where Moses was encamped, to the Mountain of God, Mount Sinai.

6 He sent word to Moses: "I, your father-in-law Jethro, am on my way to you, so please come out to greet me. If you do not consider my being your father-in-law sufficient reason for you to honor me, please be informed that I am coming together with your wife, so for her sake you should come out to greet us. If this is still not enough, know that she is coming with her two sons. Come out for their sakes."

7 Moses went out to greet his father-in-law. When Aaron and his sons saw Moses go out, they followed him, and the rest of the people then followed suit. Jethro was thus accorded great honor. Moses prostrated himself and kissed Jethro, they asked about each other's welfare, and they went into the tent.

8 In order to encourage him to join the ranks of the Jewish people, Moses told his father-in-law everything that God had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for the sake of Israel, as well as all the travail that had befallen them on the way, at the Sea of Reeds and in the attack of Amalek, and that God had rescued them.

9 Jethro rejoiced over all the good that God had done for Israel by providing them with manna and the well and teaching them parts of the Torah. But he rejoiced most that God had saved them from the hands of the Egyptians. It was reputedly impossible to escape Egypt, yet here an entire nation had succeeded in fleeing. At the same time, Jethro was pained over the suffering of the Egyptians for, being a Midianite, he was of Egyptian stock.8

10 When Jethro heard how the Egyptians had drowned in the Sea of Reeds and had suffered the very fate that they had wished to inflict on the Jews, he said, "Praised be God who rescued you from both the hands of the Egyptians, a difficult people, and of Pharaoh, a difficult king, who liberated the people from the authority of the Egyptians.

11 Now I know that God is greater than all the deities—and I am familiar with them all9for He has done what no other deity can do: in the very matter that the Egyptians plotted against Israel they have been foiled!" Until this point, Jethro had not considered converting to Judaism and joining the Jewish people, feeling that it was sufficient for him to renounce idolatry and establish a relationship with God individually. Now, however, he decided to convert.10 This was when he changed his name from Jether to Jethro.11

After Moses descended Mount Sinai

12 In order to complete the story of Jethro, the Torah now12 jumps ahead four months, to the 10th of Tishrei of the following year, 2449, when Moses descended Mount Sinai for the last time.13 When Moses descended the mountain, Jethro offered up an ascent-offering and peace-offerings to God, and Aaron and all the elders of Israel came to eat bread with Moses' father-in-law while Moses served them. The religious atmosphere and discussion at this meal rendered it a holy event; as such, it was as if the participants were eating in the presence of God.

Second Reading 13 It was on the following day, the 11th of Tishrei, that Moses sat to judge the people, assisted by Aaron, his sons, and the seventy elders. All the people stood respectfully around Moses as he judged the litigants. Moses spent only part of the day adjudicating disputes, but since he did so honestly and correctly, God considered it as if he had toiled in this task from morning to evening. The same holds true for any honest judge.

14 When Moses' father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing to the people, letting them stand while he sat, he said, "What is this thing that you are doing to the people? Why are you alone seated, while all the people stand around you as if from morning until evening? It is only in a king's presence that everyone is required to stand; in a judge's presence only the litigants are required to stand."

15 Moses replied to his father-in-law, "It is not because I want to comport myself like a king; it is because the people come to me to seek instruction from God.

16 Whenever one of them has a legal matter he comes to me, and I judge between a man and his fellow, and I make known God's rules and teachings. I received the teachings directly from God, and by teaching the people myself I can share with them something of my own experience of Divine revelation. My objective is not to simply teach them the dry laws, but rather to impart to them the underlying Divinity of these laws. This is why I teach them myself and have them stand in my presence."

17 Moses' father-in-law said to him, "What you are doing is not good.

18 You will surely wear yourself out, you yourself as well as Aaron, the seventy elders, and this entire people that is with you, for this matter is too weighty for you; you will not be able to do it alone. The people are not on your spiritual level, and although you can temporarily elevate them to your level when they are in your presence, you cannot keep them at that level, since in the final analysis they were not privy to the Divine revelation to which you were. Moreover, they will soon enter their land, where they will have to spend much of their time earning a living, forcing them to abandon the intensely spiritual lifestyle they enjoy here in the desert. This will cause them an additional descent in Divine consciousness. Furthermore, the day will come when you will not be present to lift them to your level of Divine consciousness. You must prepare them for this eventuality.

19 Therefore, listen to me; I will give you advice, and you should then consult with God as to whether to accept it. Implement my plan only if God agrees with you as you present it. Here is my plan: You be the people's representative before God, and you shall convey the cases they bring you to God when it is necessary to inquire of Him how to judge a case.

20 You shall caution the people regarding the rules and the teachings, and inform them of the path they should follow and the deeds they should do in general. You should indeed teach the Torah to the people yourself, in order, as you said, to impart to them your experience of having received it directly from God.

21 But when it is time to apply the Torah's teachings to legal cases, this should be done by individuals who are on the people's level and can therefore relate the Torah to them. Nonetheless, in order to ensure that these teachers—and their successors throughout all ensuing generations—transmit to your teachings faithfully, you must select them with your prophetic vision.14 Thus, you shall discern from among all the people men who are well-established, not needing to ingratiate themselves with anyone, and who possess the following seven qualities: they are God-fearing; they are men who command respect on account of their integrity; they 'hate' money, that is, they are sufficiently unattached to their wealth that if they owe someone something it is not necessary to bring them to court to get them to pay (anyone more attached to his money than this will be easy to bribe and therefore unfit to be a judge15); they are righteous; wise; understanding; and of good reputation.16 Appoint these individuals over the people as leaders of thousands, leaders of hundreds, leaders of fifties, and leaders of tens. Since there are 600,000 adult men, this means 600 leaders of thousands, 6,000 leaders of hundreds, 12,000 leaders of fifties, and 60,000 leaders of tens.

22 They shall judge the people at all times: every major case they shall bring to you, and every minor case they shall judge themselves—to ease your burden by sharing it with you.

23 If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to bear up, and all the people who are presently helping you judge the people as well—Aaron, his sons, and the seventy elders—will arrive at their destination in peace."

Third Reading 24 When the Torah was given, Moses wanted the people to continue to hear God's word directly even after the initial revelation on Mount Sinai.17 Here too, he felt it would be preferable for them to hear God's teachings directly from him rather than from his pupils. Furthermore, Moses assumed at this stage that he was going to lead the people into the Land of Israel himself, and as soon as he did so the people would attain the same level of Divine consciousness that he already possessed. He therefore thought Jethro's concerns about what would happen after his demise were unfounded—which is why he had not suggested setting up a judicial system before Jethro did.18 Nonetheless, Moses heeded the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. He consulted with God and God approved Jethro's plan. This was the significance of his former name, Jether ("one who adds"): he caused God to add a section to the Torah.19

25 Moses then told the people that God has made them the noblest nation on earth; because of this lofty stature, He has made inadvertently misjudging even a civil case of theirs a capital crime. But, Moses continued, they complicate the legal process by always bringing new evidence and witnesses, they are mistrustful, and they are quarrelsome. For these reasons, he does not wish to be the people's sole judge. The people agreed readily—even though they should have protested, insisting that they prefer that Moses, rather than his pupils, instruct them—because they believed that they would be able to bribe judges of lesser stature. Moses sought out people with the seven qualities Jethro enumerated, but only found a sufficient number individuals with three of these qualities: righteous, wise, and of good reputation.20 Moses chose these well-established men from among all Israel and appointed them as heads over the people: leaders of thousands, leaders of hundreds, leaders of fifties, and leaders of tens.

26 From this point on, they judged the people at all times: every difficult case they would bring to Moses, and every minor case they would judge themselves.

27 Jethro remained with the Israelites for over seven months after this, in order to supervise the implementation of his plan. When they were about to leave Mount Sinai on Iyar 20, 2449, he decided to return to Midian to convert his family to Judaism before rejoining the people on their journey into the Land of Israel. Satisfied that Jethro had successfully completed the task of setting up a judicial system for the people,21 Moses sent away his father-in-law to convert his family, and thus Jethro went his way to his homeland.22

From Refidim to Mount Sinai

Fourth Reading The Torah now returns to the historical narrative before the episodes with Jethro. Before God offered the Torah to the Jewish people, He offered it to the Edomites and the Ishmaelites, but they refused to accept it.23

19:1 On the first day of Sivan 2448, the third month after Nisan, in which the Israelites had left the land of Egypt they came to the Sinai Desert, where God told them He would give them the Torah. The anticipation they felt on this day over receiving the Torah is to be re-experienced daily, for we are to relate to the Torah as if God gives it anew every day.

2 They departed from Refidim in a unanimous spirit of repentance for having doubted if God's presence was among them,24 and arrived in the Sinai Desert still in this inspired spiritual state, camping in the wilderness. They began to prepare for the Giving of the Torah. Although each individual related to this event differently, they all realized that it would forge them into one nation under the same God. United in this religious-national consciousness, Israel encamped there as one united people. Unfortunately, this was the last time until their entry into the Land of Israel that they were so united in spirit; at all their subsequent stops, there were individuals or groups who dissented against the community or rebelled against God.25 They camped facing the mountain at its east side (see Figure 13). The top of Mount Sinai was covered with cloud, and remained so continuously until the Giving of the Torah.26

3 The following morning, the 2nd of Sivan, Moses went up Mount Sinai to God. The angels protested the whole idea of giving the Torah to mortals, but Moses rebuffed their arguments, whereupon they showered him with gifts. The Angel of Death's gift was the knowledge that the incense used in the Tabernacle is effective against the plague.27 Once the angels' objections were satisfactorily rebuffed, God proceeded to prepare Moses to receive the Torah. God called to him from the mountain and said, "In general, when you teach the people the Torah, you shall first say each lesson gently to the House of Jacob, i.e., the women, telling them the outlines of the commandments and the rewards for their observance.28 Since women are more naturally predisposed toward spirituality, this will be enough to ensure that they uphold the Torah's commandments. In contrast, after you teach the women, you shall relate the lesson bluntly to the male Israelites, specifying all the punishments and details of the commandments in order to ensure their compliance.29 But now, tell both the women and the men exactly as follows, no more and no less:30

4 'You have seen what I did to the Egyptians: because of their depravity, they deserved to be punished even before they enslaved you, but I only punished them on your account. Furthermore, you have seen how I carried you swiftly, as if on eagles' wings, and brought you to Me on the night before the Exodus: you were dispersed over the whole land of Goshen, but I assembled you together instantaneously at Raamses when it was time to leave. Also, I figuratively carried you on eagles' wings when you were encamped at the Sea of Reeds: the eagle carries its young above its wings in order to protect them from the hunter's arrows; similarly, I placed My cloud between you and the Egyptians in order to intercept the arrows and rocks they hurled at you.31 You have also seen how I brought you to Me by choosing you from among all nations to assist Me in fulfilling My plan for the world. You have seen all these things firsthand, and you know that I did all this in order to bring you here to give you the Torah.32

5 So now, you will enter into a permanent relationship with Me, provided you are willing to bind yourselves to Me in two ways: (a) you vigilantly heed My voice, performing My commandments, and (b) you keep My covenant, i.e., bond yourselves to Me supra-rationally and unconditionally. Although undertaking to perform My commandments is a serious commitment, you will find that if you make this decision now, it will become easier for you as time goes on, for taking the first step is always the hardest. In any case, if you enter into this relationship with Me, you shall be for Me a treasure cherished above all nations. I am able to choose you for this relationship from all the other nations for the entire world is Mine; I am in no way limited in My choice.

6 Furthermore, you shall be unto Me a kingdom of nobles, who will rule over the other nations; and finally, you shall be a holy nation, wholly dedicated to My purposes, rather than to simply maintaining and enhancing the orderly, physical functioning of the world.'33 These are the words that you shall say now to the Israelites—no more and no less."

Based on this twofold bond between God and the people that was about to be forged at Mount Sinai, the Torah now splits the historical narrative in two. It will first recount the aspects of the historical narrative pertinent to the rational, contractual side of the relationship, beginning with the preparations for the Revelation at Mount Sinai,34 through the Revelation itself,35 and concluding with the laws given while Moses is still on the mountain.36 It will then backtrack and recount the aspects of the narrative pertinent to the essential, covenantal side of the relationship, starting again with the preparations for the Revelation,37 through the Revelation itself,38 the writing of the Tablets of the Covenant,39 and concluding with the instructions for the Tabernacle (through which God promises to "dwell among" the people), which were also given while Moses was still on the mountain.40

Fifth Reading 7 Moses came down the mountain and summoned the elders of the people, and presented before them all these words that God had commanded him.

8 All the people responded together and said, "All that God has spoken, we shall do." With this, they expressed their willingness to enter into a covenantal relationship with God.41 The following morning, that of the 3rd of Sivan, Moses ascended the mountain again and conveyed the people's words back to God. This was not technically necessary since God is omniscient, but Moses did not take advantage of this fact and fulfilled his mission with due propriety.

9 God said to Moses, "I am about to come to you in the thickness of the cloud,42 so that all the people will hear when I speak to you, and then they will believe both in you and in the prophets that succeed you forever." Moses descended the mountain and relayed this message to the people. When they heard that God intended to speak to them via Moses, they objected, saying that they wanted God to speak to them directly. They said, "We want to see our King!" The following morning, that of the 4th of Sivan, Moses ascended the mountain and reported to God the people's response.

10 God then said to Moses, "If that is the case, go to the people and sanctify them as follows, today and tomorrow: In order for them to receive the revelation they are requesting, they must be ritually pure. First, they shall wash and ritually immerse their clothes.43

11 Secondly, when a couple engages in marital relations, they become ritually defiled until the evening after they next immerse themselves in a mikveh or natural body of water.44 Therefore, all married couples should refrain from marital relations. In addition, if a woman discharges semen within three days after having marital relations, this renders her ritually defiled and she must immerse herself in a mikveh or natural body of water to regain ritual purity. Therefore, all married couples should refrain from marital relations for the next three days.45 In this way, they will be prepared for ritual immersion, at the latest, on the third day from today, the 6th of Sivan, for on the third day from today I, God, will descend on Mount Sinai and give the people the Torah. In order for them all to experience this revelation fully, I will heal them of their infirmities. I will restore sight to the blind among them, speech to the dumb among them, and hearing to the deaf among them.46 Thus, I will descend on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.

12 Since My descent on the mountain will temporarily sanctify it, you shall make a boundary for the people all around that will proclaim, 'Beware of ascending the mountain or even touching its edge.' You shall also tell them explicitly, 'Whoever touches the mountain will surely be put to death.

13 But no hand shall touch him to execute him, for he will be stoned. Prior to being stoned, the transgressor is to be cast down from a place twice his height; if he dies from this fall, there is no further need to stone him. Whether animal or man, if he crosses the boundary around the mountain he will not live.' Only when the ram's horn sounds a long blast from heaven, signifying the departure of the Divine presence from the mountain, will the mountain revert to its mundane state,47 and they may ascend the mountain. The horn I will sound will be the horn of the ram that Abraham sacrificed instead of Isaac on Mount Moriah."48

14 Moses came down from the mountain and went straight to the people, conveying God's message before attending to his personal affairs. He sanctified the people and they washed and immersed their clothes.

15 Moses said to the people, "Keep yourselves in readiness for a three-day period; do not 'approach' a woman, i.e., engage in marital relations." The remaining events of this day as well as those of the following day will be recounted further on.49

The Giving of the Torah

16 On the third day after this, the 6th of Sivan, as morning dawned, God began the process of revelation on Mount Sinai, before the people had assembled there. God was even more "excited," so to speak, about giving the Torah than the people were about receiving it. There was thunder and lightning, a heavy cloud on the mountain. There were three degrees of thickness to the cloud: darkness, cloud, and thick cloud.50 There was an extremely loud blast of a ram's horn, and all the people in the camp trembled.

17 God's presence was palpably coming from Mount Sinai towards the people,51 accompanied by a retinue of some of His angels.52 In response, Moses led the people out of the camp toward the Divine Presence, and they took their places at the foot of the mountain. God uprooted the mountain and suspended it over the people, and they eagerly and lovingly crowded under it.53

18 The whole of Mount Sinai was in smoke because God had descended upon it in fire. The fire was slightly above the mountain54 but it was close enough to burn the vegetation on the mountain.55 Its smoke rose up like the prodigious smoke of a limekiln but in fact much higher, for the fire reached up to the midst of the sky,56 and the entire mountain quaked violently.

19 In contrast to the sound of a mortal person blowing a ram's horn, which dies out as he runs out of breath, the sound of a ram's horn was here at first heard softly, so the people could get used to the volume, but it grew increasingly loud without any break. When God later articulated the first two commandments, He spoke over this sound. When Moses spoke the remaining eight commandments, God responded to the weakness of his mortal voice by making Moses' voice loud enough to be heard.

Sixth Reading 20 God lowered all seven heavens so they were suspended just above the top of the mountain; the heavens thus appeared as a blanket covering the mountain. God's Throne of Glory descended into this depression. God used the imagery of a "throne" in order to convey the idea that through giving the Torah, His presence was "settling" into the world permanently, much as a chair offers a person a fixed place of repose.57 In this sense, God descended figuratively upon Mount Sinai, onto the peak of the mountain. It was only the heavens, and not God's presence, that actually "touched" the mountain. Nonetheless, since the heavens were spread over the mountain as a blanket covers a bed, they did not interpose between the Divine presence and the mountain itself, just as the fact that a bed is covered with a blanket does not stop us from referring to a person resting on the blanketed bed as resting on the bed itself.58 This proximity of God's presence to the mountain sanctified it for the duration of the Divine revelation.59 God then opened all seven heavens so the people could perceive that He is the only God that exists.60 Never again would He reveal Himself publicly to this degree.61 God then summoned Moses to the mountain peak, and Moses ascended.

21 God said to Moses, "Go down; warn the people not to break ranks and move towards God to gaze better upon Me, lest they touch the mountain and many of them perish.62 Even if only one of them were to be lost this way, I would be as pained as if many of them had died.

22 I will allow the firstborn, who officiate as priests who come near God to offer sacrifices, to ascend the mountain somewhat.63 But they should not abuse this distinction;64 rather, they shall also sanctify and control themselves, lest God cause a breach among them by killing those who break ranks and venture too close."

23 Moses replied to God, "I do not need to warn anyone. The people cannot ascend Mount Sinai, for You have already warned us, saying, 'Make a boundary around the mountain and sanctify it.' "

24 Yet God said to him, "Go, descend, and warn them again. It is prudent to instruct a person about how he is to behave both in advance of the moment of action and again when the actual moment arrives. Then you shall come up again to the mountain peak. Aaron will ascend part way with you to his station, lower down on the mountain, and the priests—the firstborn—will ascend to their station, lower still. But the people shall not break their ranks at all to ascend to God, lest He cause a breach among them."

25 Moses went down to the people and conveyed this instruction to them again.

At the giving of the Torah, all Jews "converted" to Judaism, i.e., became legally responsible for fulfilling whatever the Torah obligates them to. The mixed multitude, however, were "converted" conditionally. They did not receive the status of full Israelites until later, after the incident of the Golden Calf.65

The Ten Commandments

20:1 God then spoke all these words—the Ten Commandments—from out of the darkness,66 the fire,67 and the cloud that covered the mountaintop.68 The people heard the sound of God's voice issuing from heaven, but they were able to hear distinct words only from the Divine fire on top of the mountain.69 All the commandments of the Torah are alluded to in the Ten Commandments.70 In giving these commandments, God obligated the people to keep them and made them liable to corrective punishment for transgressing them. He first miraculously said all ten commandments at once. He then repeated the first two separately and had Moses repeat the remaining eight,71 as will be described presently. The people responded to each commandment by saying, "Yes! We will!" to the preceptive ones and "No! We will not!" to the prohibitory ones.72 God spoke to the people from all four directions,73 in order not to overwhelm them with the intensity of a direct revelation from only one direction.74

2 The first commandment: "I am God, your God. This means that you are now officially obligated to fulfill all My commandments. However, your relationship with Me is not merely contractual; you do not consummate it simply by discharging your legal obligations to Me. For I am the one who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of Pharaoh, where you were slaves. By freeing you from Egyptian slavery, I have made you, in effect, into My slaves; your lives are from now on to be totally oriented toward My purposes and you no longer have any 'private lives' at all.75 Also: even though I appeared to you at the Sea of Reeds as a warring God and I appear to you here as a merciful God,76 do not think that there are two deities! I am both God the God of mercy, and your God, the God of judgment, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, one and the same. And even though you hear My voice coming from all four directions, do not let this lead you to think that there are multiple deities, either."

3 The second commandment: "You shall not possess any idols of other peoples' gods as long as I exist, i.e., ever, or wherever I may be, i.e., anywhere.77 These 'gods' are worthless; they do not answer those who call upon them.

4 You shall not make yourself a carved image or any other type of likeness of anything that is in the heavens above or on the earth below, or in the water beneath the earth, even if you do not intend to worship it.78

5 You shall not prostrate yourselves before them nor worship them, for I, God your God, am a zealous God in this regard. For those who hate Me and worship idols, I am a God who remembers the premeditated sins of the fathers, adding their demerits to those of their descendants, but only up to the third and fourth generation, and only if these descendants also worship idols.

6 But, in contrast, I am a God who shows kindness for at least two thousand generations of descendants of those who love Me and worship Me alone, and of those who observe My commandments. Thus, My attribute of goodness is 500 times greater than My attribute of retribution, since I preserve merit for 2000 generations but demerit only for four." God phrased these two commandments in the singular, as if addressing only Moses, so the people would be technically innocent when they would later commit the sin of the Golden Calf.79

God then had Moses repeat the remaining eight commandments, miraculously augmenting Moses' voice, as stated above.80

7 The third commandment: "You must respect God's Name. You shall not swear by the Name of God, your God, in vain, by swearing that something is something than it manifestly is not. For example, you must not swear that a tree is a rock. For God will not absolve anyone who swears by His Name in vain."

8 The fourth commandment: "Remember and observe81 the Sabbath day continuously, to keep it holy. 'Remember' it by anticipating it during the preceding week; for example, if you come across some special food item, set it aside for the Sabbath. 'Observe' the Sabbath by refraining on it from all categories of prohibited work.

9 Six days shall you labor and do all your work. But even if you have not finished all your work during the six workdays,

10 the seventh day is the Sabbath unto God, your God; you should behave on the Sabbath as if all your work is done. You shall not do any work—neither you nor your son or your daughter. Even though your children are not technically obligated to observe the commandments until they attain majority, you must nevertheless not permit them to do any forms of forbidden work. Your bondman and your bondwoman are forbidden to work, since they are obligated to observe all the prohibitions that you are. You may also not make your animal work. The resident alien, who is allowed to live within your gates, is also forbidden to work, although not to the extent that you are.82

11 For in six days God made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all that is within them, and He rested on the seventh day, even though He did not need to rest since He did not become tired, of course, by creating the world. Rather, He rested in order to set an example for you. God therefore blessed the Sabbath day by ordaining that, in the future, a double portion of manna would fall on Friday, allowing us to rest on the Sabbath—and this indeed happened, as you have seen—and He sanctified it by ordaining that, in the future, no manna would fall on the Sabbath, thereby preventing us from pursuing our material needs even if we wanted to. This too happened, as you have seen."

12 The fifth commandment: "Honor your father and your mother, so that your days will be lengthened on the land that God, your God, is giving you. The opposite is also true: if you do not honor your parents, your days will be shortened."

13 The sixth commandment: "You shall not murder."

The seventh commandment: "You shall not commit adultery, i.e., conduct extramarital relations with a married woman."

The eighth commandment: "You shall not steal people, i.e., kidnap."83

The ninth commandment: "You shall not bear false witness against your fellowman."

14 The tenth commandment: "You shall not be envious84 of your fellowman's house. You shall not be envious of your fellowman's wife, his bondman, his bondwoman, his ox, his donkey, or anything else that belongs to your fellowman."

The Giving of the Torah, continued

Seventh Reading 15 When God began to speak, all the people witnessed the thunder and the flames, the blast of the ram's horn, and the mountain smoking. They miraculously saw the thunder and the blast of the ram's horn even though these were sounds. The people saw and shuddered, retreated from the mountain twelve mil (= 24,000 cubits, approximately 11.5 kilometers or 7.2 miles), beyond the outer limit of their camp,85 and stood at a distance. The ministering angels descended and escorted them back to the mountain. The same thing happened after they heard each subsequent commandment.

16 After the people heard all ten commandments, the leaders and elders of the people said to Moses,86 "True, we have seen that it is possible—with outside help—for us to hear God's words directly and survive. But we want to receive the Torah in the framework of our own, natural existence.87 Therefore, from now on, you speak to us, and we shall hear God's words from you, but let God not speak with us directly, lest we die."

17 Moses said to the people, "Be not afraid, for God has come in order to raise you up in the esteem of all other nations, and He has appeared before you in this awesome way in order that you be imbued with the awe of Him and the awareness that there is no god beside Him, so that you will not sin."88

18 Yet, God agreed with the people, so when it came time for the next communication from God, the people stood at a distance, while Moses drew near through all three degrees of cloud:89 the darkness, the cloud, and the thick cloud where God was present.

After the Giving of the Torah

Maftir 19 After God gave the Ten Commandments, Moses ascended Mount Sinai for a period of 40 days, as will be described later.90 While he was on the mountain,91 God said to Moses, "This is what you shall tell the Israelites: 'You have seen that I spoke with you from heaven: although you heard My voice issuing from within the fire atop the mountain, you also sensed that it originated in heaven. Since you have seen this yourself, no one will ever be able to convince you otherwise. Furthermore, although I caused all the heavens—including the highest—to descend atop Mount Sinai,92 this did not render the spiritual realms any less transcendent.93 Therefore, do not attempt to depict the sublime spiritual revelations you have experienced in material form:

20 You shall not make a physical representation of any of the angels that you saw with Me in heaven. Nor may you make any replicas of the two gold cherubs that I will instruct you to make and place in the Tabernacle that I will instruct you to construct for Me.94 You must make these cherubs out of gold; if you make them out of silver, I will consider them idols of silver. And even of gold, do not make more than two, for if you do, I will consider the additional ones idols of gold. You shall not make for yourselves cherub-figurines for your houses of prayer or study, erroneously considering them some kind of 'medium' or 'channel' for My presence.95 They are only for use in the Tabernacle, and they will serve as a conduit for My presence only when I wish them to do so.

21 You shall make an altar for Me and place it directly upon the earth—not upon columns or on a base. This altar is to be a copper-coated wooden box that you will fill with earth whenever you set it up.96 When you make it, you must have in mind that you are making it for My sake. Near it you shall sacrifice your ascent-offerings and your peace-offerings from your flocks and your cattle. Wherever I allow My Name to be mentioned—i.e., in the Tabernacle (and later, in the Temple), when the priests bless you at the end of the daily morning sacrificial service97I will come to you and bless you by resting My presence on you.

22 I will later on98 command you to erect an altar when you first enter the Land of Israel, for the purpose of rearticulating My covenant with you. I will instruct you to build this altar out of stones rather than as a copper-coated wooden box filled with earth. When you make Me this altar of stones, you shall not build them hewn, for if you lift your sword over the stone to cut it you will profane it. The altar prolongs life, whereas the sword shortens life; and the altar reconciles Me with My people, whereas the sword cuts and destroys. It is therefore not fitting that the sword should be lifted above the altar stones. And if, as you see, I do not allow a sword to be lifted against lifeless stones simply because they promote peace, you can be assured that I will protect any human being who promotes peace from all harm.

23 You shall not ascend My altar on steps, so that your nakedness [a euphemism for "genitals"] not be exposed over it. Rather, build and use a ramp for this purpose. True, the priests will be wearing trousers under their tunics,99 so their genitals would not be exposed to the altar even on a staircase, but taking large steps gives the impression of exposing the genitals, and is therefore less modest than ascending a ramp. If, as you see, I am concerned for the respect due to inanimate stones just because they serve some purpose, all the more should you show respect to your fellow human being, who is created in My image and is sensitive about being shown proper respect.' " God also told Moses that He approved of the people's fear of Him100 and their wish that He communicate with them further only through Moses. God therefore told Moses to tell the people that married couples may now resume conducting marital relations,101 but that he should remain separated from his wife in order to always be ready to receive Divine communication.102