Ten Commandments
Moshe Ben-Chaim

Question: Do you have any other instances where intention vs action happens in the Torah. Thanks

Mesora: Intention can render sacrifices null, as the core function of sacrifice is approaching God.

Ibn Ezra explains our relationship to God is based more on our intellect and intent, than on action. Regarding man however, our relationship is more effectuated through action, and less on intellect. It is for this reason that in the Ten Commandments, the first five commands which deal with man's relationship to God are priortized commencing with thought, then speech and finaly with action. It is the exact reverse with the second set. In the second set of five commands, it commences with action, then progresses to speech, and finalizes with thought.

God Man
Know God Exists(T) Do Not Kill(A)
Do Not Commit Idolatry(T) Do Not Commit Adultery(A)
Don't Use God's name in Vain(S) Do No Kidnap(A)
Keep the Sabbath(A) Do Not Swear Falsely(S)
Honor Your Parents(A) Do Not Desire a Friend's Wife(T)

 (T)=Thought (S)=Speech (A)=Action)

The most crucial command in respect to who we relate to is what each set commences with. With God, our first command is mental recognition of Him, denial of idolatry. Then it moves to speech (swearing) and action, (keeping the Sabbath and honoring parents). With regard to our relationship to man, most important is action. Therefore, the first in this set of five is murder, adultery and kidnapping. Then speech (false witness) and thought (desiring another's property).

All of man's actions fall into one of these three categories; thought, speech or action. When say that man's relationship to God is mosty based on thought, I mean to say that man's relationship to God is a relationship to a spiritual Entity. The medium or relation then must be in this area of the spiritual, or thought. Man's relationship to man however is physical. Therefore, the worst crimes are those when bodily harm occurs. Murder is therefore listed in position one. What one thinks in regards to another is irrelevant regarding interrelating, provided that such harmful thoughts do not result in action.

The Ten Commandments teach us important concepts. They also teach us the level of importance regarding the category of action relative to our relationship to God and man.

Ibn Ezra who quotes Saadia Gaon (Exod. Just before 20:3) as stating that the Ten Commandments are the main categories for the rest of the Torah's commands. Perhaps this is why there was an entity of the Ten Commandments. As the people would later on need validation that all future commands were Divine, a proof was required that they did not stem from Moses' own thinking. That proof would be that the future commands fit into a framework given by God, - the framework of the Ten Commandments.

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