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Ten commandments hold something for everyone

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Shavuot begins this Sunday night, and the highlight of the festival – apart from cheesecake – is the reading of the ten commandments in synagogues on Monday morning.

The fourth commandment is about Shabbat. When we read the ten commandments from the book of Shemot-Exodus, we are told to “remember the Shabbat to sanctify it”. But when we read the same narrative in Devarim – Deuteronomy, we are told to “keep the Shabbat to sanctify it”.

So, what did G-d say? Did he command that we keep the Shabbat or that we remember it? The sages teach us that both are true. G-d spoke just once, but both words were heard. And as proof that such a thing is possible for G-d, they cite a verse from Tehilim – Psalms chapter 62: “G-d spoke one [thing], I heard two.”

It reminds me of the Yanny or Laurel auditory illusion that became a sensation in the beginning of 2018. The words were so distinct, it’s hard to imagine that the other person heard something different from what you were hearing. But it’s true!

It didn’t take long before YouTube commentators and audio mavens were explaining how it was possible, that playing the clip on different devices or even changing the frequency settings on a single device could convert Laurel to Yanny and back again.

This Shavuot, in synagogues all over the world, Jewish people will be reading from the Torah, chanting the very verses in the Torah where the ten commandments are recorded.

This is a national event, the moment when we go back to who we really are and what makes us Jewish. It’s something for every single Jew, man, woman, and child.

This is the time, once-a-year, when we relive that mind-bending experience at Sinai, when heaven kissed earth and people experienced the divine.

Chances are that you will just hear the Torah reader say, “remember the Shabbat” since that’s what it says in the text he will be reading from (in Hebrew of course). But maybe, just maybe, if you listen carefully with your soul, you will tap into that transcendent reality way beyond words, where the static of life fades away and there is but only one sound, the word of G d.

So, make sure you come to shul this Shavuot – no one is too old or too young. Listen to the ten commandments, and let your soul connect to its higher source. Then you can enjoy the physical side of the festival with all the dairy delicacies.

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