Rabbi Herschel Shachter
Rabbi Hershel Schachter

The Aseres Hadibros

In the second Bais Hamikdash, the practice was to recite the aseres hadibros each morning at the conclusion of shacharis. After the destruction of the second Bais Hamikdash, a suggestion was made that we introduce this practice all over the world as well. The idea was not accepted by the rabbonim lest the masses be misled into believing that there is something more important about these pesukim than the rest of the Torah. There is a widespread practice to draw a design of the two tablets on the paroches or on the aron kodesh. One of the great Hungarian gedolim of the last century wrote that he thinks that this must have been introduced by the Reform movement. Orthodox practice is that we don't place more significance to the aseres ha'dibros than to the rest of the Torah. There are shuls in existence today that were built centuries ago that have the design of the aseres hadibros on them. Obviously, historically, this point is not correct. The aron kodesh in a shul is supposed to be reminiscent of the aron ha'bris in the Bais Hamikdash which contained the aseres hadibros, so apparently drawing a design of the luchos on the paroches or on the aron hakodesh does not at all imply that we are giving more significance to this part of the Torah as opposed to other parts of the Torah.

Many have a practice however, to stand during the reading of the aseres hadibros in shul despite the fact that for the rest of kriyas haTorah they do not stand. The Rambam was opposed to this practice based on the above consideration. Others have defended this practice by pointing out that we have another minhag regarding the reading of the aseres hadibros: instead of reading posuk by posuk, we divide the reading of this section by dibros. A dibra that consists of several pesukim is read in shul as if it were one posuk; and those dibros that appear in one posuk are read as if each one of them were an individual posuk. We read the aseres hadibros in shul as if we are reenacting ma'amad Har Sinai and therefore we stand just as Bnei Yisroel stood at the foot of the mountain years ago.

There are several discrepancies between the version of the aseres hadibros in parshas Vaeschanan and the version in parshas Yisro. The Talmud, howver, is only concerned about the discrepancy between shamor and zachor regarding the observance of Shabbos. The Ramban in his commentary on the Torah points out that whenever the Torah quotes someone as having said something, it is not necessarily intended to be a verbatim quotation. The Torah is only interested in giving us a gist of what was said. As such, neither version of the aseres hadibros is necessarily what actually appeared on the aseres hadibros. But with respect to zachor and shamor, the Talmud feels that there is a major discrepancy. Zachor is a mitzvas aseh while shamor implies a mitzvas lo sa'aseh. These are not at all the same.

The Talmud explains that when Hakadosh Boruch Hu was proclaiming the aseres hadibros on Har Sinai, both the mitzvas aseh of zachor and the mitzvas lo sa'aseh of shamor were given simultaneously. The Talmud does not record any tradition which of the two texts actually appeared on the luchos.

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