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How is the first commandment a commandment—what is required of us?

by Mrs. Dinka Kumer

  

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"I am the Lord, your G-d..." is the commandment of incorporating our natural belief in G-d into our reality. We are commanded to understand that G-d exists, and that He causes all else to exist.

Belief relates to things that we already know exist, but are beyond our mental capacities. Knowledge denotes having learned or experienced something and made it part of one's reality. There is a story about a thief who prayed to G-d that his robbery be successful. This thief was obviously oblivious to his paradoxical prayer. He hadn't contemplated what G-d really wished of him. Though he did believe, G-d was a far reality from his own. He didn’t 'know better' because he didn’t know G-d. The growth from belief to knowledge is a process. For example, you may have not studied physics or engineering much, but you would board an airplane with the faith that you will arrive at your destination. Yet, once you have researched those sciences, you might even be able to design a better airplane.

Belief in G-d is like a "crown above the head", and it is intrinsic to every Jewish person's soul. It impacts our lives to the extent that unlearned Jews have given their lives for this belief. Yet the goal is to know G-d in our every action. The more we learn about G-d, His attributes, His wishes of us, and His interaction in our lives, then the less we leave to faith, because we know more about G-d. On the other hand, the more we know, the more we also realize that we know so little, and have more to learn. “Where knowledge ends, faith begins.”

All the commandments are about choosing to do the right thing. "I am the Lord, your G-d" is the choice to constantly deepen our knowledge of G-d, and never let the realization of His presence depart from our minds. This Mitzvah is the foundation and springboard for all the other 612 commandments. By accepting G-d as the One in Whom we believe and strive to know, then we also accept all His other commandments.


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Ten Commandments

Posted by: Stephen L. Dubinsky, Chicago, IL on Dec 07, 2006

'I am the Lord your God...' is not a commandment. It is an introduction, a statement of fact. It is similar to other documents from that area and time:'I am Nebudchadnezer, King of Babylonia...', or 'I am the Pharoah, exalted ruler of Egypt'.

The first commandment is, 'You shall have no other gods besides me.'

Thank you

Stephen L. Dubinsky

Editor's Comment

There are in fact commentators who maintain that "I am G-d your G-d" it not counted as one of the Ten Commandments, nor as one of the 613 and commandments; rather it is an underlying foundational commandment upon which all other commandments stand. Either way, it is universally accepted in Judaism that one is commanded to believe in G-d.

RELATED CATEGORIES

G-d » Belief in G-d
Torah » 10 Commandments
Holidays » Shavuot » 10 Commandments

Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.