Did you hear the joke about Moses descending Mount Sinai? Carrying heavy stone tablets down the mountain was arduous, and balancing them was very difficult for him. When he reached the bottom he said to the awaiting crowd, “My fellow Hebrews. I have with me these three tablets with these fifteen…oops.” One of the stone tablets falls and breaks into hundreds of little pieces. Moses looks at the destroyed tablet, looks at the crowd, clears his throat and concludes: “I have with me these two tablets with these ten commandments.”
This joke has caused me to wonder that if there were indeed five more commandments, what they would be. Could you come up with an additional five commandments for living that would fit everyone, across time and cultures, which would be essential rules (not preferences) for living life?
Permit me to suggest the five that I think are worthy of consideration:
- Thou shall not commit hurt. This includes hurt we may cause to others knowingly or unknowingly, intentionally or not. It also includes being self-destructive, substance overuse of any kind, and all types of self-sabotaging, self- defeating behaviors.
- Thou shall keep thy close, important relationships sacred. Treating all close relationships in your life as if they were holy. Violate this commandment, and you will find yourself living in hell.
- Thou shall make the most of thy life. Using all of yourself: all your skills, talents, senses, gifts, brain, heart, soul, gut and spirit. Because life is priceless, it’s a sin to waste it. Don’t wait to die in order to get to heaven. Live in heaven now—while you’re alive. And while alive—live your life to its fullest.
- Thou shall live with a sense of gratitude, optimism and hope. Don’t just give thanks for the things you’re supposed to be grateful for. Have gratitude for everything that happens to you. Every day, ask yourself what will enrich your life, your spirit and your hope. Figure out how to let go of painful experiences—now or from the past—and to be at peace with yourself and others.
- Thou shall be a mensch. A “mensch” is Yiddish for a person who lives his/her life with honor and integrity. It does not mean you never make mistakes or that you’re never wrong. It means that you do everything you can, every day of your life to do the right thing—and to live upright, honestly and decently.
While I’m at it, I might be tempted to revise one or two of the original Ten Commandments as well. For example: It says to honor thy father and mother. Fair enough. Most of the time, that is a good rule to live by. But it says nothing about fathers and mothers honoring their children—and treating children with benevolence, appropriateness, fairness, kindness and love. That was an oversight.
Some time ago I read a Gallup poll that interviewed Americans on the Ten Commandments. Something like 92% of all Americans said they believed in the Ten Commandments, but only 9 % could name what they were. What is the moral of this story?