1. The Ten Commandments begin, “I am the L‑rd, your G‑d, who took you out of the land of Egypt.” The commentaries question why the verse mentions the exodus from Egypt rather than the creation of the heavens and the earth. On the surface, creation is a greater miracle than the redemption from exile. This question is reinforced by the Rambam’s statements at the beginning of the Mishneh Torah:

The foundation of all foundations and the pillar of knowledge is to know that there is a Primary Being who brought into being all existence. The knowledge of this concept is a positive commandment as the verse states, “I am the L‑rd, your G‑d.”

The fact that the Rambam explains that the mitzvah involves believing in G‑d as Creator reinforces the question why the verse mentions the exodus from Egypt instead of the creation.

A resolution of this question can be found in Rashi’s commentary on the above verse. Rashi writes: “Because I took you out, it is worthy that you subjugate yourselves to Me;” i.e., the phrase explains why the Jews should accept G‑d’s majesty. Since that majesty is manifest upon the Jewish people in particular, as the verse states, “I am... your G‑d,” the verse refers to the exodus, an event that involved the Jewish people alone, rather than the creation which involves every entity in the world.

This resolution, however, is insufficient because the word “who” appears to be a description of who “the L‑rd, your G‑d” is, rather than an explanation of why we should serve Him. In this context, the question thus remains. After G‑d announces, “I am the L‑rd, your G‑d,”1 why is the exodus mentioned instead of the creation?

One of the explanations to this question is that the exodus from Egypt relates to a higher level of G‑dliness than creation. Creation has its source in the name E‑lohim and, therefore, that name is used for G‑d in the narrative of creation. E‑lohim is numerically equivalent to the word Hatevah (“nature”) and thus refers to the G‑dly energy which maintains and is enclothed within the natural order. The exodus from Egypt, however, involved a step above the natural order. “The King of kings, in His essence and glory, revealed Himself to them and redeemed them;” it was a revelation of the name Y‑H‑V‑H, the attribute of G‑dliness that transcends nature. This quality was revealed at the giving of Torah. Thus, to emphasize that it is the aspect of G‑d that transcends nature which is revealed, it is the exodus and not the creation which is mentioned.

This explanation, however, does not resolve the difficulty in the Mishneh Torah mentioned previously for there, the Rambam explicitly associates the command, “I am the L‑rd...” with the creation. To resolve this problem, we have to understand the nature of the revelation at Mount Sinai.

In regard to that revelation, the question has frequently been raised: Why was the revelation accompanied by thunder and lightning? Why is it considered so unique? On the surface, the concepts mentioned in the Ten Commandments are simple matters connected with the maintenance of a stable society. These guideline were fulfilled before the giving of the Torah (several as part of the seven Noachide Laws). Indeed, our Sages state that Adam was commanded to fulfill them.2 If so, what was so unique about the giving of the Torah?

The explanation of the concept is as follows: The intent of the giving of the Torah is,

for the light of G‑d’s infinity to be revealed... [G‑d’s essence] is enclothed in the Torah which is His wisdom and “He and His wisdom are one”... that this revelation should be on this lowly plane, in material things. This is the meaning of the verse, “And G‑d spoke all these words (in order that) I, Y‑H‑V‑H will be your E‑lohim, i.e., your strength and life energy.

Thus, the new development brought about by the giving of the Torah is that the decree separating the higher realms from the lower realms was nullified and the aspect of G‑dliness that transcends creation (the aspect connected with the redemption from Egypt) could be drawn down within the context of the physical reality of the world.

There are two levels in Torah (which reflect two dimensions of the Giver of the Torah):

a) One level which reflects how the Torah has descended and lowered itself to be enclothed within the context of this material world.3 This relates to the aspect of G‑d which brings into being and maintains our limited existence.

b) The level of Torah which is united with its source, G‑d’s wisdom and G‑d’s will. On this level, the Torah is “a hidden treasure for You,” above all the limits of the world, above even the limits of the spiritual realms.

At the giving of the Torah, these two levels were combined. The aspect of Torah which is one with G‑d became invested in the aspect of Torah that is enclothed within the world.4 Based on the above, we can understood why the commandment “I am the L‑rd...” is associated with the exodus, thus reflecting that the aspect of G‑dliness which transcends existence, can be related, as the Rambam indeed does, with the creation. This, indeed, is the aim of the Torah, to have that dimension of G‑dliness which transcends the limits of creation permeate through the creation itself. Thus, the giving of the Torah and the exodus from Egypt reveal how the dimension of G‑dliness which brings into being a limited creation is itself not limited.

The potential to unite these two opposites (limitation and transcendence) stems from G‑d’s essence which is above both limitation and transcendence. Since the Torah is one with G‑d’s essence, unity is established between the Torah which descends into this world and deals with worldly matters and the aspect of Torah which transcends worldly existence.

Based on the above, it can be explained that two new developments characterize the difference between the Torah as it was possessed by the Patriarchs and the Torah as it was given on Mount Sinai:

a) The patriarchs possessed only the aspect of Torah that is connected to this world;

b) Their fulfillment of Torah and mitzvos was primarily a spiritual service which did not effect the material nature of the world.

Conversely, when the Torah was given on Mount Sinai, the essence of Torah, the aspect of Torah which is one with G‑d’s essence was transmitted. Therefore, the potential was also granted to elevate and refine the material nature of the world, infusing holiness into the physical substance of the world, and uniting it with the transcendent aspects of G‑dliness.

These three dimensions of G‑dliness: a) the aspect of G‑dliness which brings into being heaven and earth; b) the aspect of G‑dliness which transcends the limits of creation; c) the essence of G‑d which is above both limitation and transcendence and has the potential to fuse the two together, are reflected in the verse which introduces the Ten Commandments. That verse states: “And G‑d spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am Y‑H‑V‑H, your E‑lohim.’ “

In this context, “G‑d” refers to the essence of G‑dliness, the level which is above all definition. From this level emanates speech, i.e., a revelation which expresses that essence, saying “I.” This allows for “Y‑H‑V‑H,” the aspect of G‑dliness which transcends nature, to be “your E‑lohim,” your strength and life-energy.

The awareness of these three levels of G‑dliness can clarify the Rambam’s statements about the knowledge of G‑d in the beginning of the Mishneh Torah. As mentioned previously, in the first halachah, the Rambam mentions our obligation “to know that there is a Primary Being who brought into being all existence.” In the halachah which follows, the Rambam adds a second point:

If one would presume that He does not exist, no other being could possibly exist.

The latter statement raises several questions:

a) How is it possible for a Jew to arrive at such a thought? Furthermore, why are we (as part of the mitzvah of Torah study) obligated to learn about such a presumption?

b) The Hebrew term translated as “presume” יעלה על הדעת is somewhat cumbersome. Why did the Rambam chose it over other expressions with the same meaning?

c) On the surface, this halachah is merely restating — in a negative form — the same content communicated by the first halachah, that G‑d is the source for the existence of all creation. What new idea does it teach?

The concepts can be explained as follows: The first halachah describes the aspect of G‑dliness which has limited and contained itself and become manifest on the level where He is a “Being” which can serve as the source for existence. This is the level of G‑dliness in which He manifests Himself as Creator.

In the second halachah, the Rambam describes a higher level of G‑dliness. Therefore, he uses the expression יעלה על הדעת which literally means, “raises up one’s knowledge.” A person becomes conscious of a level of G‑dliness which is above the level of “existence.” From the standpoint of this level, the entire creation could not exist. The awareness of this level of non-being represents a process of growth and development over and above the awareness of G‑d achieved through the comprehension of the first halachah.

As a preface to these concepts, the Rambam begins, “The foundation of all foundations and the pillar of knowledge” (v‑u‑v‑h). The first letters of these Hebrew words spell out the name Y‑H‑V‑H. In this context, that name refers to G‑d’s essence, the level which is above both limitation and transcendence. Since this level is above both the levels of “existence” and “non-existence,” it has the potential to fuse together the two, causing that the level of G‑dliness in which He limits Himself to become a “Being,” is infused with the transcendence of the level of “non-being.”

Thus, these halachos allude to three levels of knowledge, G‑d as He is manifest in creation, G‑d as He transcends creation, and the essence of G‑d which is above both these levels and fuses the two together. These three levels parallel the three levels described above in the explanation of the first of the Ten Commandments.

The above concepts give us a deeper insight into the verse which introduces the Ten Commandments, “And G‑d spoke all these words, saying...” G‑d reveals Himself in “all these words,” which refer not only to the Ten Commandments, but to the entire Torah, the Written Law and the Oral Law, and “every new concept to be developed by an experienced sage.”5

This allows the possibility for each Jew to have this revelation reflected in his own Torah study. This is implied by the word “saying.” Throughout the Torah, the word “saying,” implies a statement or command given with the intention that it be communicated to others. In this instance, however, the entire Jewish people (even those of future generations) were present at the giving of the Torah and, therefore, that implication is not appropriate.

The Alter Rebbe explains that, in this instance, the word “saying,” implies that whenever a Jew recites a Torah concept the revelation of Mount Sinai is repeated. The words of Torah spoken by a Jew are “the words of G‑d.” Similarly, Psalms states, “My tongue will relate Your words,” i.e., the words of Torah recited by a Jew are “Your words,” and the person is merely relating them.

After this preparation, the Ten Commandments were given. The first two commandments are of a general nature. They represent, “the totality of the Torah, the commandment, ‘I am the L‑rd,’ includes all the positive commandments and the commandment, ‘You shall have no other gods,’ includes all the negative commandments.” As will be explained, these two commandments reflect the two dimensions of G‑d, being and non-being, mentioned above.

Afterwards, the Ten Commandments continue with “simple concepts,” laws which are associated with maintaining the existence of our material world,6 relating the elements of our material existence to the transcendent revelation of G‑dliness. We see this union in the first commandment, “I am the L‑rd,” which, as explained above, involves the knowledge of — not merely the belief in — G‑d. Man comprehends within the concept of his limited human intellect, the existence of G‑d, relating also to the transcendent levels described above.

When a Jew realizes that through studying Torah, he is reciting “G‑d’s words,” that the words of Torah which he is studying are the same as the words of Torah given on Mount Sinai, he will approach Torah study with awe. Each day, he will consider the Torah he is studying as new and approach it with “awe and fear, trembling and sweat,” reexperiencing the emotions expressed by the Jews at Mount Sinai.

Though these concepts are true throughout the year, they receive special emphasis on Shabbos parshas Yisro when we read the Ten Commandments in the communal Torah reading. “A Jew must live with the times,” i.e., center his life around the weekly Torah portion. Thus, on Shabbos Yisro, we live with the giving of the Torah and the revelation of the transcendent dimensions of G‑dliness within the world.

The giving of the Torah is reflected in the revelation of light in our G‑dly souls and offers the potential to refine and elevate the lowly elements of our material world, in particular, our individual animal souls.7 To explain this in the context of the passage from the Mishneh Torah quoted above: The revelation of G‑d as “the Primary Being” — the level of G‑dliness associated with creation — leaves room for the existence of a world in need of refinement. In contrast, the “elevation of one’s knowledge” to the rung which appreciates G‑d above existence — the level of G‑dliness associated with the giving of the Torah — gives us the potential to carry out this service of refinement. The revelation that G‑d is the true existence and that our world is essentially nothingness, brings about the nullification of selfishness within our world.

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2. The above also relates to the portion of the Mishneh Torah studied today, the conclusion of Hilchos Sotah which is the conclusion of Sefer Nashim. The Rambam concludes those laws with the directive for a husband to:

Speak gently to his wife... to direct her in a straight path... for him to be careful with his wife, his children, and the members of his household and warn them. He should supervise their ways at all times to know that they are proper... as it is said: “And you shall see to it that your tent is at peace and supervise your dwelling, that you do not sin.”

This concept relates to the giving of the Torah because the giving of the Torah represents the marriage between G‑d and the Jewish people and this world, His dwelling. Within this material world, there is the potential for undesirable influences, therefore, G‑d “sees to it,” that His “tent” (i.e., His wife, the Jews) is at peace and supervises His dwelling, establishing “a dwelling for G‑d in the lower worlds.”

The conclusion of the text, “that you do not sin,” raises a question: Generally, an effort is made to conclude Torah texts in a positive manner and indeed, at the end of several of his halachos, the Rambam obviously adds concepts for that intent. Although in this instance, he is quoting a Biblical verse, he could have followed the pattern of the final Mishnah in the tractate of Berachos which reverses the order of a verse so that the tractate would end in a positive manner. If so, why did the Rambam choose to end the chapter in a manner that the final word is “sin?”

It can be explained that, in this instance, though the final word “sin,” is not positive, the connotation of the verse in its totality, that a person will not sin, is positive. Indeed, it can be explained that this represents the ultimate of good, that even in a situation where the potential for sin exists, a person does not sin.8 [Or if, ח"ו, he does sin, he transforms the sin into good through the service of teshuvah, transforming darkness into light and thus revealing, the higher quality of light.]

In this context, we can see an advantage of the service of a Beinoni over that of a Tzaddik. The Beinoni’s service involves the confrontation of bad — evil thoughts occur to him — and yet through his service, he overcomes them and does not sin.

This concept can also be connected to the allusion to the Rambam found in the Torah. The first letters of the Hebrew words, רבות מופתי בארץ מצרים, “multiply My wonders in the land of Egypt,” are an acronym for the name Rambam. Though the phrase concludes with the words, “the land of Egypt,” which represents the lowest in levels, the service in such a situation brings out, “a multitude of wonders.”

This approach brings out the fullest possible good in a marriage relationship, including the ultimate marriage relation-ship, the bond between G‑d and the Jewish people, and, in a more personal sense, in the marriage bond between couples in this world. One must be concerned with one’s wife’s behavior,9 this, in turn, will ensure “that your tent is at peace.”

3. The above can be related to the uniqueness of the present day, the yahrzeit of a tzadkanis. Such a day also involves the fusion of two opposite movements, the ascent of the soul to higher levels in the spiritual realms, and influence descending to the lower planes, “bringing about salvation in the midst of the earth.”

In particular, a lesson can be derived from the name, Chaya Mushka. Chaya (חי-ה) is related to the word Chaim, “life.” The ultimate source of life is G‑d’s essence which gives influence to the soul, “an actual part of G‑d from above.” The final letter, hay, alludes to the five organs of speech, which in a spiritual sense, refer to the potential for creation (for the world was created through G‑d’s speech).

The name Mushka is a Yiddish term. The use of a language other than Lashon HaKodesh alludes to the elevation of the lowest aspects of our existence. Thus, we see many leaders of Israel had two names, one in Lashon HaKodesh, and one in a secular tongue, e.g., the Alter Rebbe, Schneur Zalman, the Tzemach Tzedek, Menachem Mendel, the Rebbe Rashab, Sholom DovBer. The second name alludes to the service of refinement of the lowest aspects of the world which brings about the highest revelations.

In particular, Mushka (מושקא), is connected with the concept of “perfume.” Our Sages explain that smell is a sense which “brings pleasure to the soul,” pleasure being the highest of our spiritual potentials. Also, Chaya Mushka is numerically equivalent to 470, which is also the equivalent of the Hebrew word, eit (עת),” meaning “time.” Koheles mentions 28 different “times,” some, whose positive nature is open and revealed, and others, which through our service can be transformed into good. This relates to the name of the Rebbetzin’s father, Yosef Yitzchok which alludes to the service of the transformation of the estranged and also to the service of happiness.10

The yahrzeit should, as is Jewish custom, be connected with deeds undertaken in memory of the departed.11 In this context, it is worthy to mention the gathering of women organized in connection with the yahrzeit. Surely, this gathering will involve resolutions for increased efforts in spreading Yiddishkeit, in particular, spreading the three mitzvos, lighting Shabbos candles, kashrus, and Taharas Hamishpachah, which are associated with Jewish women. [We can assume that such resolutions will be made as evident from the kinus held in the previous year of which an album mentioning those resolutions was recently printed.]

Similarly, institutions should be established in memory of the Rebbetzin, in particular, institutions for the education of Jewish girls. Until the previous generation, Jewish girls received their education from their mothers and grandmothers. In the previous generation, however, the leaders of the Jewish people began establishing institutes of Jewish education for girls, for example, the Previous Rebbe, the Rebbetzin’s father, established Bais Rivkah.

Also, it is proper that gifts be given to charity in multiples of 470, the numerical equivalent of the Rebbetzin’s name. May these efforts bring about the fulfillment of the prophecy, “May those that lie in the dust arise and sing,” with the coming of the complete and ultimate redemption. May it be in the immediate future.