ACROSS THE WESTERN WORLD, the Ten Commandments have become a source of both inspiration and controversy, whether in Supreme Court rulings, in film and literature, or as a religious icon gracing houses of worship of every Christian and Jewish denomination. But what do the commandments really stand for? According to polls, less than half of all Americans can even name more than four of them. Fewer still can name all ten, or have a clear idea of the ideals they were meant to promote. For most of us, agnostics and faithful alike, they have been relegated to the level of a symbol, and the teachings they contain are all but forgotten. In Western life today, the Ten Commandments are everywhere— except where we need them most.
In The Ten Commandments, David Hazony offers a powerful new look at our most venerable moral text. Combining a fresh reading of the Old Testament’s most riveting stories and ancient rabbinic legends with a fearless exploration of what ails society today, Hazony shows that the Ten Commandments are not just a set of obscure laws but encapsulate a deeply valuable approach to life—one that is as relevant now as it was when they first appeared more than two millennia ago.
The Ten Commandments begins with a daring claim: Although they have become a universally recognizable symbol of biblically based religion, they are not, strictly speaking, a religious text. Rather than making a statement about faith or mystical realms inaccessible to reason, they contain a coherent prescription for how to make a better world. At their core stands what Hazony calls the "spirit of redemption," which he describes as one of the two basic spiritual components of Western civilization. While the Greeks gave us the "spirit of reason," teaching that we should be free to explore and express our views, the spirit of redemption teaches that every individual can, and should, act to improve the world. This spirit reached us from ancient Israel, in the form of the Hebrew Bible, and has stood at the heart of the most important social movements in our history.
Going through the commandments one by one, Hazony shows how each represents a poignant declaration about honesty, the self, life, love, freedom, community, and inner peace. Each commandment, we discover, adds another piece to the puzzle of how the redemptive spirit may enter our lives and help us become more caring, world-changing individuals.
Part memoir, part scholarship, part manifesto for a vital approach to life, The Ten Commandments tackles some of the most painful human questions that stand at the heart of who we are as modern, thinking people—and offers answers that are sure to start a new discussion about the meaning of one of our most enduring, yet least understood, traditions.
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About the Author
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
So what happened was this - I have a few "facebook Rabbis" as friends, so since facebook knows my "preferences" - I sometimes get Hebrew related advertisements. Hey, who couldn't use a discount on Matza? Anyway, one day I get an advert in my upper right corner about this new book by David Hazony on the 10 Commandments. I think to myself, 'I like books, I like books on the Old Testament, and this guy David Hazony sounds like a "dope authority" on the subject. So why not pick it up? Hazony did his doctoral studies in Jewish Philosophy, he also translated Emuna Elon's novel "If You Awaken Love," which was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award in 2007. From 2004-2007, Hazony served as editor-in-chief of Azure, the quarterly journal of Jewish public thought published by the Shalem Center; and his writings have appeared in The New Republic, the Forward, Commentary, Moment, The Jewish Chronicle, Jewish Ideas Daily, The New York Sun, Policy Review, the Jerusalem Post, Azure, and others. He also blogs regularly at Contentions, the blog of Commentary Magazine. To start, I loved this book - fell in love with it right away. Hazony's voice is easy to read and his chapters break down easily as he takes each "commandment" a chapter at a time. Not only does he give you a clear understanding of each commandment, but he takes it a few more steps - how the Hebrews would have understood them in history, how they often are observed today and what the "deeper" thought is behind each one. "The 1o Commandments is neither an archaic remnant of a dead past nor an arbitrary set of laws handed down to a hundred generations of hungry supplicants and rebellious fools. The commandments represent rather, a whole attitude to life, one that recognizes both the weaknesses and the unfathomable potential of humanity - a worldview that has largely been forgotten, but has a great deal to offer everyone of us today." (page 2) As I read, I was quickly underlining whole sections knowing full well I was coming back. Hazony argues that out of all the scriptures the 10 commandments were understood by the Hebrews as the core not only of faith, but of moral wisdom as well. Simply put, it is the "most important text ever given to man." (page 17) This is a great book if you would like a little Hebrew scholarship in your life. Each chapter is filled with rabbinical quotes and history that you just can't get from Christian authors or your local church. For instance, did you know that "Mount Sinai was neither the highest nor the lowest mountain i n the region, but in fact a medium sized one, symbolizing the average person to whom the the 10 commandments were addressed." ~ Sota 5A I loved this book and know for certain I will go back to it time and time again for reference and inspiration.
This book is just amazing. Inspiring from beginning to end. Smarter than any other book of religious wisdom I've read in many years. Practical and spiritual and still just written by a normal guy who knows a hell of a lot. Bible and baseball and everything in between. My favorite was the fourth commandment -- Sabbath -- which he says is about discovering ourselves. This is a must read.