Some see them as cold, hard laws. Others think they must have been rules for another people who lived in another day. Yet others think they’re commandments to be followed in everyday life. Is there another perspective that might be suitable today for a diverse group of believers?
Whatever we might make of these words or commandments or rules, we know one thing for sure: they appear in Text that most people of God see as inspired by God. So, whichever camp we’re in, is there value for believers in trying to find meaning in these words?
It might take a full exploration of them to test out this hypothesis, but here’s the hypothesis: these words appear to contain Divine messages that are useful to living as God expects. In the form of commandments, they embody instructions or guidance on how we should live with our fellow human beings and other living creatures on the earth and how we are to live with God.
The Bible brings to us many principles and parables of extraordinary value. But it also goes into great detail about how we are to handle (or not handle) specific matters in our ordinary lives. And, since these words are ancient and have been captured by ancient people, they come to us often in another context than our own. So, it is especially difficult for us to see through the layers to a deeper meaning for ourselves.
But let’s make an effort to study, to find, and to see. As Tzvi Freeman has written, inspired by Rabbi Schneerson, “the words of Torah are but its clothing; the guidance within them is the body. And as with a body, within that guidance breathes a soul that gives life.”