Command 8 Do Not Bear False Witness

Dr Laura and Her Rabbi on Not Bearing False Witness Against Your Neighbor

Dr Laura bemoans how the tangled web of the lies we weave is dragging us down, how “people expect politicians, lawyers, lobbyists, advocates, journalists, talk-show hosts, and anyone else in the public view will lie if it serves their purpose.” Even when the often-malicious gossip that they spread to millions of viewers has an element of truth, these celebrities can totally destroy someone’s reputation and even life. Indeed, our acceptance of this twisting of the truth leads to the “disappearance of common social courtesies to the prevalence of vulgar and vicious radio and television programming, from disrespect for traditional sexual and marital mores to the ever-growing cynicism about the potential of goodness to survive anywhere.”

Dr Laura bemoans how commonly people give false testimony to win their case in court. We think that if we suffer no immediate consequences, like lightning bolts, that nobody notices our lying, that it is quite okay. “Americans tend to assume that whatever deficiencies our system has, they largely are not a result of corruption, but rather due to judges and juries who are too soft, or racial prejudice, or insufficient concerns for the rights of victims.” “It is remarkable that we can be proud of our judicial system in spite” of how often we lie under oath.

Dr Laura tells us how horribly the lives of her listeners and others have been ruined by lies and slander. These damaging slanderers include the husband who lies about working late but is really out drinking and carousing with his buddies and maybe flirting with the women at the bar. They include the incredibly cruel lies told in custody battles, false reports of child abuse that harm both spouse and child. She tells how digging up possibly non-existent stories of childhood abuse decades in the past can destroy families. She also has stories of less destructive lies that enable to steal time and money from our employers or our neighbors. […]

Catholic Catechism

The Church Fathers’ Teachings on Do Not Bear False Witness, Blog 1

The Church Fathers focus on our love for our neighbor when contemplating this commandment. St Gregory Palamas in our English translation renders the commandment as, “You shall not accuse anyone falsely.” We are warned that if we accuse anyone falsely, we may “become like the devil, who falsely accused God to Eve and was cursed by God. Rather, we should conceal our neighbor’s offense, unless by so doing others may be injured; and in this way we will imitate not Ham, but Shem and Japeth, and so like them receive the blessing.” […]

Command 9&10 Do Not Envy

The Decalogue in the Torah, Blog 5, Coveting Tempts You To Harm Your Neighbor

Why does Rambam list these Mitzvoth thus? Is it because Exodus precedes Deuteronomy? This is not a good answer, for when studying Torah we should always favor the interpretation that draws us to Love Adonoy more intensely. Maybe Rambam is suggesting that coveting followed quickly by trying to buy your neighbor’s possessions is bad enough, but laying awake at night desiring and dreaming of your neighbor’s property is far worse. Coveting is perverse idolatry. Coveting counts here for coveting, the looking and the desiring, always precedes adultery. […]

Command 9&10 Do Not Envy

The Decalogue in the Torah, Blog 4, Coveting: The Sin That Leads To Many Other Sins

The Mitzvah against coveting appears in slightly different form in Exodus and Deuteronomy. In Exodus you are forbidden to covet your neighbor’s house, and you are forbidden to covet his wife. In Deuteronomy you are forbidden to covet your neighbor’s wife, and are forbidden to desire his house. In Deuteronomy you cannot covet his field, and in both versions you cannot covet or desire his slaves, his ox, his donkey, or anything else that is his neighbor. If the tablets were written today, your neighbor’s car would probably be on the list. Ramban suggests that coveting your neighbor’s wife is listed first in Deuteronomy because it is the greatest sin of all. Coveting your neighbor’s husband is just as much a sin. […]

Command 6 Do Not Adulter

The Decalogue in the Torah, Blog 3: Does the Torah Condone Divorce?

The attitude of the Torah towards divorce can be gleaned from the very words the Torah uses to describe G_d, blessed is He, whose Name is so holy usually it is rendered in the Torah as either Adonoy the merciful, or Elohim the just. Elohim may get angry, but Elohim rarely speaks to judge, it is always Adonoy the merciful who speaks. Elohim the just may visit justice to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Him, but Adonoy the merciful remembers those who Love him for thousands of generations. If Adonoy is so quick to be merciful to us, why should would not be as quick to be merciful to those whose lives we affect, particularly those close to us, our loved ones, our family? […]

Ten Commandments

The Decalogue in the Torah, Blog 2, How One Sin Can Lead to Many More, Up to a Perfect 10

The Decalogue is symmetrical. The commandments to Love G_d with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your possessions are mirrored in the commandments to love your neighbor as yourself. If you steal, murder, or adulter today, yesterday you coveted that which was not yours and could never properly be yours. Coveting is wanting. Coveting is looking. Looking, if not sinful, and it is sinful, is inviting sin to cross under our doorposts. […]

Ten Commandments

The Decalogue in the Torah, Blog 1, We are Invited to a Curious Bar Mitzvah

When the son of a close friend who was divorced invited me to his Bar Mitzvah I eagerly accepted. What a treat! Often those who are born into the faith do not realize what treasures they possess. We will watch as the great Torah scrolls were reverently, ceremoniously removed from the Ark and unrolled. We will then listen as the young man reads the ancient liturgy in English and also in G_d’s language, where the rhymes are more in thoughts than words, so by repetition the words are burned in your heart. We will pray the beautiful prayers in the prayer book. We will all participate in his initiation into the life of the Torah. […]

Catholic Catechism

Catholic Catechism, Thou Shalt Not Covet thy Neighbors Possessions, Blog 5

In the Beatitude, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall see God, St Gregory of Nyssa teaches us, “He who is given the riches of the soul in exchange for material wealth, who is poor for the sake of the spirit.” This commentary is referenced by the Catechism in Section 2546, which teaches us that “voluntary humility is poverty in spirit,” which guards us from soul-destroying envy. Section 2547 of the Catechism quotes St Augustine: Let the “proud seek after and love the kingdoms of the earth” while the poor in spirit possess the kingdom of heaven. Those who are poor in spirit guard their heart from the sin of envy and covetousness, and those who are poor live a life like that of Christ, the Christ whom St Paul reminds us became poor for our sakes. […]

Cappodocian Church Fathers

St Gregory of Nyssa, Beatitudes, Blog 3, Blessed are the Meek and Those Who Mourn

St Gregory of Nyssa teaches, “Blessed are those who are not easily turned towards the passionate movements of the soul, but who are steadied by reason.”  “To boast of riches or to be proud of one’s family, to have regard to fame and to think oneself above one’s neighbor, all these human honors destroy and shame the honor of the soul.  No righteous man would thus defile the purity of his soul.  When humility is well established, wrath will find no entrance into the soul.  If there is no wrath, our life will be in a settled state of peace.  This is true meekness.” […]