Wednesday, July 18, 2007


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Division & Structure of the Ten Commandments

This has been open to interpretation throughout history.

By Rabbi Ronald H. Isaacs

Excerpted with permission from Every Person's Guide to Shavuot (Jason Aronson, Inc).

The division of the commandments themselves is not at all certain. There are 13 sentences in the accepted Jewish version of the Ten Commandments (17 in the Christian), but it is difficult to ascertain with certainty from the text itself what comprises the first commandment, the second, and so forth. For while there are 13 mitzvot [commandments] to be found in the text, their allocation to the Ten Commandments can be done in a variety of ways. Thus there are different traditions. The prevailing Jewish tradition appears to be as follows:

First Commandment (Exodus 20:2): I am the Lord Your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

Second Commandment (Exodus 20:3-6): You shall have no other gods beside Me. You shall not make for yourself any graven image, nor any manner of likeness, of any thing that is heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them, nor serve them, for I, the Lord Your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.

Third Commandment (Exodus 20:7): You shall not take the name of the Lord Your God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that takes His name in vain.

Fourth Commandment (Exodus 20:8-11): Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath unto the Lord Your God, in it you shall not do any manner of work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your man-servant, nor your maid-servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger that is within your gates; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested on the seventh day. Wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and made it holy.

Fifth Commandment (Exodus 20:12): Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord God gives you.

Sixth Commandment (Exodus 20:13): You shall not murder.

Seventh Commandment (Exodus 20:13): You shall not commit adultery.

Eighth Commandment (Exodus 20:13): You shall not steal.

Ninth Commandment (Exodus 20:13): You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Tenth Commandment (Exodus 20:14):You shall not covet your neighbor's house, nor his wife, his man-servant, his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is your neighbor's.

Other Divisions

The above are the Jewish division of the Ten Commandments. However, such writers as [the ancient philosopher] Philo, as well as the Jewish Publication Society's translation of the Bible, the Greek Church Fathers, and most Protestant churches (except the Lutherans), consider the first of the Ten Commandments to be, "I am the Lord Your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me" (verses 2 and 3). That is to say, God's very existence, and God's relation to Israel in addition to the prohibition of worshipping other gods are seen as belonging together, while the prohibition of idolatry forms the second commandment.

Yet another division is used in the Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches. This follows the written text ofTorah scrolls and combines verses 2 through 6 into one commandment; that is, it includes the prohibitions ofidolatry in the first commandment. And further, it divides the last phrase (verse 14 in Jewish, verse 17 in Christian versions) into two parts:

Ninth Commandment: "You shall not covet your neighbor's house…"

Tenth Commandment: "You shall notcovet your neighbor's wife…"

The Structure of the Ten Commandments

A dual structure can be seen in the Ten Commandments. Commandments one through four deal with human relationships to God. Commandments six through 10 deal with humanity's relation to humanity. The fifth command, that of honoring one's parents, forms a sort of bridge between the two.

While the Bible itself provides no indication of how the "words" of the commandments were distributed on the actual stone tablets, it is generally assumed that they stood five on one tablet and five on the other. Some commentators (Mekhilta, Yitro 8) have seen a correlationbetween the five commandments opposite each other on each of the two tablets. So, for example, murder is an injury to God whose image man is, apostasy is equivalent to marital infidelity, stealing will lead to a false oath, the Sabbath violator attests falsely that God did not create the world in six days and rest on the seventh, and the person who covets his fellow person's wife will end by fathering a child who rejects his true parent and honors another.

Some commentators speculate that the commandments range in a descending order from Divine matters to human matters, and within each group from higher to lower values. In this scenario, duties to God come first, the obligation to worship God alone precedes that of treating His name with reverence, and both precede the symbolic piety of Sabbath rest. Respect for parental authority naturally follows respect for God. The purely ethical commandments are arranged in a hierarchal form: life, the family, right of possession, reliability of public statements. The last commandment, the ban in desires arising from jealousy, deals with what is most ethically sensitive, and protects against the infringing of the other ethical commandments.

The philosopher Abraham ben Chiyya, after placing the first commandment apart as comprising all the others, divided the other nine according to the commands of thought, speech, and action, and according to relations between human and God, human and his family, and human and human, reaching the following classification:

Relations between:

Man & God

Human & Family

Human & Human


Second Command:

"Thou shalt have no other God"--fear of God.

Fifth Command:

"Honor thy father and thy mother."

Tenth Command:

"Thou shalt not covet."


Third Command:

"Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain."

Sixth Command:

"Thou shalt not murder," especially one's family.

Ninth Command:

"Thou shalt not bear false witness."


Fourth Command:

"Remember the Sabbath Day."

Seventh Command:

"Thou shalt not commit adultery."

Eighth Command:

"Thou shalt not steal."

Rabbi Ronald H. Isaacs is the spiritual leader of Temple Sholom in Bridgewater, New Jersey. He has served as the publications committee chair of the Rabbinical Assembly and written more than 60 books.

Reprinted with permission of the publisher. Copyright 1998 Jason Aronson, Inc.

Posted on: Monday, July 16, 2007

3.5% raise too much for Bush

By Tom Philpott


Talk about lousy timing. With President Bush's popularity scraping bottom in opinion polls, with U.S. casualties rising in Iraq in a force surge that has stretched tours to 15 months, the Bush administration has said it "strongly opposes" key military pay and benefit gains tossed into the fiscal 2008 defense bill.

Initiatives the administration opposes include:

  • A military pay raise for next January of 3.5 percent versus 3 percent endorsed by the White House.
  • Lowering the age-60 start of reserve retirement annuities for reserve component members by the length of their future mobilizations.
  • Expanding eligibility for Combat-Related Special Compensation to service members forced by combat disabilities to retire short of 20 years.
  • Directing pharmaceutical manufacturers to provide the Department of Defense with same-price discounts for Tricare retail pharmacy network that are provided on medicines dispensed from base pharmacies.
  • The administration also grumbled that the Senate intends to block for another year Tricare fee increases for under-65 retirees and dependents.

    The objections appear in a "Statement of Administration Policy" from the White House's Office of Management and Budget delivered to Senate leaders as they opened floor debate on the defense authorization bill.

    A day later, Senate Republicans, at White House urging, blocked amendments that would have shortened Iraq tours for U.S. ground forces and slowed the frequency of war deployments.

    Here is more on provisions the White House opposes:

    Pay raise: Like the House, senators favor a 3.5 percent military pay raise for 2008 versus the administration's proposed 3 percent to match private sector wage growth as measured by the government's Employment Cost Index or ECI. The White House calls the extra half percentage point unnecessary and notes that basic pay has jumped by 33 percent since 2001. The added cost of the bigger raise, $2.2 billion through 2013, is money "that would otherwise be available to support our troops," said the OMB letter.

    Congress intends to approve the ninth consecutive military raise to be set at least .5 percent above private sector wage gains, continuing to close a perceived "pay gap" with civilians.

    Tricare increases: Dr. S. Ward Casscells, the assistant secretary of defense for health, has said he intends to work with Congress and service associations on more modest Tricare fee increases for under-65 retirees and their dependents than has been pushed so far by the administration. The OMB letter doesn't reflect that.

    Reserve retirement: The Senate bill would lower the start of reserve retirement at age 60 by three months for every 90 days a reservist or Guard member is recalled after the change is enacted. The administration says this will "only marginally" improve career retention.

    To comment, write or Military Update, P.O. Box 231111, Centreville, VA 20120-1111. Or visit


    Bush on the Constitution: 'It's just a damned piece of paper'
    Capitol Hill Blue
    Dec 9, 2005

    Last month, Republican Congressional leaders filed into the Oval Office to meet with President George W. Bush and talk about renewing the controversial USA Patriot Act.

    Several provisions of the act, passed in the shell shocked period immediately following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, caused enough anger that liberal groups like the American Civil Liberties Union had joined forces with prominent conservatives like Phyllis Schlafly and Bob Barr to oppose renewal.

    GOP leaders told Bush that his hardcore push to renew the more onerous provisions of the act could further alienate conservatives still mad at the President from his botched attempt to nominate White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

    “I don’t give a ###damn,” Bush retorted. “I’m the President and the Commander-in-Chief. Do it my way.”

    “Mr. President,” one aide in the meeting said. “There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution.”

    “Stop throwing the Constitution in my face,” Bush screamed back. "It’s just a damned piece of paper!”

    I’ve talked to three people present for the meeting that day and they all confirm that the President of the United States called the Constitution “a damned piece of paper.”

    And, to the Bush Administration, the Constitution of the United States is little more than toilet paper stained from all the s**t that this group of power-mad despots have dumped on the freedoms that “damned piece of paper” used to guarantee.

    Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, while still White House counsel, wrote that the “Constitution is an outdated document.”

    Put aside, for a moment, political affiliation or personal beliefs. It doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat, Republican or Independent. It doesn’t matter if you support the invasion or Iraq or not. Despite our differences, the Constitution has stood for two centuries as the defining document of our government, the final source to determine – in the end – if something is legal or right.

    Every federal official – including the President – who takes an oath of office swears to “uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States."

    Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia says he cringes when someone calls the Constitution a “living document.”

    “"Oh, how I hate the phrase we have—a 'living document,’” Scalia says. “We now have a Constitution that means whatever we want it to mean. The Constitution is not a living organism, for Pete's sake.”

    As a judge, Scalia says, “I don't have to prove that the Constitution is perfect; I just have to prove that it's better than anything else.”

    President Bush has proposed seven amendments to the Constitution over the last five years, including a controversial amendment to define marriage as a “union between a man and woman.” Members of Congress have proposed some 11,000 amendments over the last decade, ranging from repeal of the right to bear arms to a Constitutional ban on abortion.

    Scalia says the danger of tinkering with the Constitution comes from a loss of rights.

    “We can take away rights just as we can grant new ones,” Scalia warns. “Don't think that it's a one-way street.”

    And don’t buy the White House hype that the USA Patriot Act is a necessary tool to fight terrorism. It is a dangerous law that infringes on the rights of every American citizen and, as one brave aide told President Bush, something that undermines the Constitution of the United States.

    But why should Bush care? After all, the Constitution is just “a damned piece of paper.”

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    Drafted by Thomas Jefferson between June 11 and June 28, 1776, the Declaration of Independence is at once the nation's most cherished symbol of liberty and Jefferson's most enduring monument. Here, in exalted and unforgettable phrases, Jefferson expressed the convictions in the minds and hearts of the American people. The political philosophy of the Declaration was not new; its ideals of individual liberty had already been expressed by John Locke and the Continental philosophers. What Jefferson did was to summarize this philosophy in "self-evident truths" and set forth a list of grievances against the King in order to justify before the world the breaking of ties between the colonies and the mother country. We invite you to read a transcription of the complete text of the Declaration.

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    The article "The Declaration of Independence: A History," provides a detailed account of the Declaration, from its drafting through its preservation today at the National Archives.

    "The Stylistic Artistry of the Declaration of Independence" by Stephen Lucas. By closely examining its language, this perceptive article sheds light on the Declaration as a work of literature and of persuasion. From Prologue, Spring 1990.

    The Virginia Declaration of Rights strongly influenced Thomas Jefferson in writing the first part of the Declaration of Independence. It later provided the foundation for the Bill of Rights.

    Learn about Our National Treasure, interesting and informative facts about the Declaration and its history.

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    Learn more about the Writing and Publicizing of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution of the United States by visiting the Independence National Historical Park (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) web site.

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    Note: The above image of the Declaration is taken from the engraving made by printer William J. Stone in 1823 and is the most frequently reproduced version of the document. The original Declaration (pictured below), now exhibited in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom in Washington, DC, has faded badly—largely because of poor preservation techniques during the 19th century. Today, this priceless document is maintained under the most exacting archival conditions possible.

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