By the Grace of G‑d
16 Shevat, 5724 [1964]
Brooklyn, NY

...One of the basic messages of the Ten Commandments is contained in the fact that they begin with I am, etc., i.e. the profound principle of monotheism, which in itself was a tremendous revolutionary idea in those days of idolatry, dominated by the polytheistic culture of Egypt (as indicated in detail in the Second Commandment, where all forms of idolatry are strictly prohibited). Incidentally, the emphasis on monotheism, and the denial of polytheism, is to be seen not only in the fact that these ideas form the subject of the first two Commandments, but also in the quantity of words and detail which they contain.

At the same time, the Ten Commandments conclude with such apparently simple and obvious injunctions as, Thou shalt not steal, etc.

The profundity of monotheism, with which the Ten Commandments begin, and the simplicity of the ethical and moral laws, with which the Ten Commandments conclude, point to an important lesson, namely:

a) The true believer in G‑d is not the one who holds abstract ideas, but the one whose knowledge of G‑d leads him to the proper daily conduct even in ordinary and commonplace matters, in his dealings with his neighbors and the respect for their property even if it be an ox or an donkey, etc.

b) The ethical and moral laws, even those that are so obvious as, Thou shalt not steal, and Thou shalt not murder, will have actual validity and will be observed only if they are based on the first and second Commandments, that is to say, based on Divine authority, the authority of the One and Only G‑d.

If in a previous generation there were people who doubted the need of Divine authority for common morality and ethics, in the belief that human reason is sufficient authority for morality and ethics, our present generation has, unfortunately, in a most devastating and tragic way, refuted this mistaken notion. For, it is precisely the nation which has excelled itself in the exact sciences, the humanities and even in philosophy and ethics, that turned out to be the most depraved nation of the world, making an ideal of murder and robbery, etc. Anyone who knows how insignificant was the minority of Germans who opposed the Hitler regime, realizes that the German cult was not something which was practiced by a few individuals, but had embraced the vast majority of that nation, who considered itself the super race, etc. Surely it is unnecessary to elaborate on this at greater length.

With all good wishes, and with blessing


A similar letter:

...The Ten Commandments begin with the fundamental precepts of man's relation to G‑d, and conclude with precepts governing man's relation to man. This emphasizes that even the most elementary ethical and moral precepts have a validity and effectiveness only if they derive from the authority of "I am G‑d your G‑d" and "Thou shalt have no other gods."

The history of mankind has continuously demonstrated that human life can make no real progress where the imperatives of morality and ethics are not based on the authority of the Supreme Being, but are human inventions that can be changed and modified to suit the proclivities of the age. The state of the generation of the present day is the best proof of that.

In Jewish life, in particular, there can be no separation between morality and ethics on the one hand, and our belief in One G‑d on the other. Unity is the very core of both our belief and our daily conduct, where the material and spiritual aspects of life must be brought into full harmony, with the spiritual aspect being the predominating and determining factor.

There can be no difference of opinion as to the necessity to bring up a child in the proper relationship towards others, with respect for parents and elders, and so forth, from his earliest age. On the same basis, it is equally imperative to bring up a Jewish child in the spirit of Torah and Mitzvoth from his earliest age. Only this kind of upbringing and education can be called a complete and unified education, a true Torah-education. This is what the wisest of all men meant when he said, "Train the child in the way he should go, and he will not depart from it when he grows old" (Prov. 22:6).

Excerpt from a letter dated 5730 [1970]