Shavuos: Ten Commandments of Creation

The utterances of HaShem—the
Asarah Ma’amaros of creation and the Aseres HaDibros of
Sinai—are the foundations of the world. Their complementarity is revealed by
the names they are called: Ma’amar is more abstract, softer, dibur
more concrete, stronger. One would think the opposite, that you would need
a stronger thing to create the physical world; whereas to give the Torah,
which is abstract, ma’amar would be more appropriate. But the idea is
that the ma’amar represents potential; G-d creates the world in a state
of potential, and wants us to perfect it. Dibur represents the
realization of that potential.

The first ma’amar: “Bereisheis bara.” HaShem
created shamayim, which is identified with the Torah, the spiritual
part of creation. The aretz was created for Israel. The first dibra—Anochi
HaShem Elokecha
…”—the recognition of G-d’s existence, is the realization
of the potential contained in Torah and Yisrael.

Second: HaShem separated the light from darkness. Without
darkness, without yetzer hora, evil, there would be no choice involved
in recognizing HaShem, and no possibility for reward. The corresponding
concerns idolatry. There is a choice of serving other gods. G-d
created light and darkness, good and evil, and He commanded us to choose one
over the other.

Third: G-d separated the upper and lower waters, meaning
that He separated between the material and spiritual. Aside from good and bad,
He created holy and profane. Free will involves not only the choice between
good and evil, but on a higher level, between holy and profane. It’s not
sufficient to choose good; we have to sanctify it, as well. The corresponding
dibra: Don’t take the holy name and profane it.

Fourth: The creation of dry land, where human beings can
function and develop society. The corresponding dibur is Shabbos, which
teaches that the purpose of labor is not for the six days themselves, but for
a goal that lies beyond them, beyond the world of material striving. Olam
is likened to the dry land, a world of striving; olam haba is
the sea, a world of fulfillment.

Fifth: Each kind of vegetation is distinct and needs to be
preserved as such. Each one has its own purpose, known only to G-d, and should
not mix with those that are not of its own kind. Honoring parents means
appreciating your own kind, your own family. Like the vegetation, you have to
honor and be faithful to your own line, the biological source of your

Sixth: The sun, moon and stars. Their purpose is not
primarily to give light. HaShem could have made light in other ways. Rather,
they exist for calculating time; for days, seasons, festivals. A clock, not a
light. The corresponding dibra is murder, which is an act of cutting
short somebody’s time in this world.

Seventh: The sea is filled with fish and the air with
birds. Why is there a blessing of pru urvu given to fish and birds, but
not to animals? The gemora says several answers: because fish and birds need
the blessing, because otherwise hunters and fishermen, who catch them in great
quantities, would deplete their numbers. Animals, on the other hand, are not
so easily caught, and don’t need the brocho. I would like to suggest the
following: G-d didn’t create the world to remain desolate, but to be
populated. He wanted to fill every part of the world with life. Fish fill the
sea; birds fill the air. G-d wanted to fill the earth with people, not dogs
and cats. So, he gave the blessing of pru urvu to human beings, not
animals. (The animals exist on the earth, though, to serve us as beasts of
burden and for food.) The corresponding dibra is adultery. We have to
fill up the world, but in a way that is proper.

Eighth: Animal life. We have a physical body like the
animals. But for us the body is designed to serve the neshama, for
spiritual purpose. The corresponding dibra here is theft of persons,
kidnapping. G-d gave man a body to use in His service: Don’t steal somebody
else’s body and prevent him from using it to serve HaShem.

Ninth: Man is created in G-d’s image, which is truth. The
eternal neshama is the emes in man; whereas the body, which is
temporal, is sheker. The neshama expresses itself through
speech. The ninth dibur is bearing false witness; taking speech,
representing the neshama, and using it for sheker, which
destroys the tzelem Elokim, the truth of man’s being.

Tenth: It’s not good for man to be alone. Building families
and creating society is a group effort. The corresponding dibra: Don’t
covet. The only way that the group effort can succeed is if everybody does his
part without jealousy, without trying to duplicate somebody else’s part. Each
of us has to make his own unique contribution.

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