Seven Intimate Commandments
One may suggest that these seven rabbinical commandments are alluded to in the seven last letters. Each letter is the initial of one of the seven rabbinical commandments.
The Ten Statements and the 620 Commandments
The central theme of this week’s parsha is undoubtedly the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. This is when G-d delivered, orally, the Ten Statements, known colloquially as the Ten Commandments.
In truth, the Talmud informs us that there are actually 613 commandments. It follows then that all of the 613 commandments flow from these 10 statements.
Rashi, in his commentary (Exodus 24:12), cites R. Saadia Gaon who composed a poem called Azharos in which he connects the 613 commandments to the Ten Statements.
The Midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 13:15) states that there are exactly 613 letters from the very first words of the Ten Commandments, “I am the L-rd, your G-d” until the last two words “asher lerayacha [“whatever belongs to your fellow], which contain an additional seven letters.
According to the Midrash these additional seven letters correspond to the Seven Days of Creation to teach us that G-d created this world for the sake of our observance of the 613 commandments.
The Baal HaTurim (Exodus 20:14) explains that the additional seven letters correspond to the Seven Noahide commandments. These commandments were originally given to Noah for all of humanity and reiterated at Mount Sinai. They are: the prohibition against idolatry, murder, adultery and other sexual crimes, blasphemy, theft, eating flesh torn from a living animal and the obligation to establish courts of justice.
The Rema in his work Toras HaOlah (3:38) offers a third explanation for the additional seven letters: They correspond to seven primary Rabbinical commandments: (1) Chanukah; (2) Purim; (3) Eiruv (the mechanisms that allows one to carry from one domain to another on Shabbos); (4) Washing the hands for bread; (5) Lighting Shabbos candles; (6) Hallel prayer during Holidays; (7) Reciting a blessing before performing a mitzvah or partaking of food.
The Crown of Judaism
The total number of letters 620 (613+7) is the numerical value of the word Keser-crown.
What is the connection of the 620 commandments to a crown?
The Alter Rebbe explains in his classic work, the Tanya, that when we study Torah we connect to the Divine source of wisdom. However, when we follow G-d’s commandments we connect to G-d’s will, which transcends His wisdom.
In a human being, the power of will controls all the other faculties. Will-power motivates us to engage our mind, our feelings and our behavior. Hence, the power of will, which transcends even our intellect, is likened to a crown which sits above the head.
Similarly, G-d’s commandments, the expression of His will, transcend even His wisdom., which explains how by observing the 613 Biblical commandments and the Seven Noahide commandments we connect to G-d’s crown.
The Rabbinical Commandments Expressions of Unity
The question can be raised, how can the rabbinical commandments be considered expressions of G-d’s will that connects us to His “Crown,” if they were mandated by the Sages?
The answer lies in a Biblical commandment (Deuteronomy 17:11) which instructs us to follow and not stray from the words of the Sages. Whatever they legislate we are duty-bound to observe because G-d commanded us to follow their dictates.
Hinted in the Last Seven Letters
One may suggest that these seven rabbinical commandments are alluded to in the seven last letters. Each letter is the initial of one of the seven rabbinical commandments:
The first letter aleph is the initial of the word ohr-light which alludes to Chanukah the Festival of Light.
The second letter shin is the initial of the word simcha, which alludes to the recitation of the Psalms of Praise known as Hallel which is only recited in times of great joy.
The third letter reish is the initial of the word rechitzah-washing which corresponds to the obligation to wash our hands before partaking of bread.
The fourth letter is a lamed, which represents the word lechem-bread, and alludes to the blessing we must recite when eating bread (and all other foods, which come under the rubric of bread). Alternatively, the lamed stands for the word levarech-to bless.
The fifth letter reish stands for reshuyos-domains and alludes to the Mitzvah of eiruv which facilitates carrying from one domain to the other on Shabbos.
The sixth letter is the letter ayin, which stands for Amalek, whose descendant Haman tried to annihilate the Jewish people. The Holiday of Purim marks his defeat and the abolition of his diabolical plan.
The seventh and final letter is a chof, the initial of the word kavod, which means honor. The primary reason for the commandment to light Shabbos candles is to honor the Shabbos.
The Last Two Words
How do the last two words of the Ten Commandments, which comprise these seven letters, relate to rabbinical commandments?
One may suggest the following explanation:
The last two words asher le’rei’acha can also be translated as “joy for your friend.”
Rashi in his commentary on the Talmud (Shabbos 31a) applies the word “friend” in the verse “You shall love your friend as yourself,” to G-d who is described metaphorically in Proverbs (27) as “your friend.”
Thus the final message of the Ten Commandments is that the way to bring joy to our Divine “Friend” is by observing, specifically, the rabbinical commandments.
This message is consistent with the words of our Sages who state that G-d says, “The words of the Sages are sweeter to Me than the words of the Torah.”
The rationale for this assertion is that while both Biblical and rabbinical commandments are expressions of G-d’s will, they are manifested in two distinct ways. Biblical commandments are explicit expressions of G-d’s will, whereas rabbinical commandments are our Sages’ anticipating what G-d’s unstated will is; what would He want from us. To G-d, compliance with these commandants means that we search to find ways to satisfy His will. It also demonstrates that we have become so close to G-d that we feel intuitively what He wants from us. To anticipate another person’s wishes is a sign that your friendship is at the highest point.
A story is told by the Chassidic Master R, Moshe Leib of Sasov which he related to illustrate the ultimate expression of Ahavas Yisroel-love for your fellow Jew.
A peasant was heard saying to his friend that he loves him. The friend replied, “do you know what pains me?’ To which the other said, “No.”
“Then how can you say that you love me when you don’t know what pains me.”
True attachment to G-d means that we can anticipate His will even when it was not expressly stated which is what characterizes rabbinical commandments
Thus, observance of these seven rabbinical commandments brings greater joy to G-d than compliance with their Biblical counterpart, overt expressions of His will.
Kavod Not Covid!
This degree of closeness with G-d is compromised in the period of exile. In the Messianic Age we will all experience this intimacy with G-d to the point that we won’t have to be commanded to fulfill His Mitzvos; we will feel intuit them because G-d’s Kavod-honor will be fully revealed.
Hence, the last letter of the Ten Commandments, the letter chof, aptly stands for kavod, the honor and glory of G-d that will envelop the world in the End Days; the ultimate Shabbos light that will shine perpetually.