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What's the Difference?

By: Rav Ari Shvat

Much has been written about explaining the differences found in the two sets of the Aseret HaDibrot in sefer Shmot and Dvarim. There are more than 30 differences, most of them very small, yet we who believe that every letter in the Torah is significant may have difficulty with the approach that says that the small dissimilarities are not important (Ibn Ezra). Some explain the major differences in that Dvarim simply gives more detail (Ramban, Ibn Ezra), but that doesn’t explain where Shmot gives more detail. Others explain some of the differences in that one is before the Golden Calf (Malbim) and the breaking of the tablets (Meshech Chochma), or the refusal of the gentiles to accept the Torah (Kli Yakar), and the other afterwards, or one is at the beginning of the 40 years in the desert, and the other right before entering Israel (R. Hirsch). None of these explain all of the differences, especially the small ones (even the additional “vavs” (e.g.: v’lo tignov).

In the short scope given here, we can’t go into detail but all of the differences can be explained with the surprising midrash (Mechilta) that says on the pasuk before Matan Torah: "Ko tomar l'beit Ya'akov v' taged l'vnei Yisrael"  (Shmot 19:3),  that Hashem spoke first, gently to the women (Beit Ya’akov), and than sternly to the men (Bnei Yisrael). We don’t find anywhere that God speaks separately to the different genders, so it’s logical to suggest that it’s referring to the two different accounts of the Ten Commandments.

In fact, all of the differences can be explained by the fact that the first set, in Parshat Yitro, seems more pleasant, and universal, as opposed to the second set in Va’Etchanan which is more nationalistic, forceful, mentioning more reward and punishment, and using the name “Elokim” (God’s name for Judgment) more. Every person has a masculine side and a feminine side, and Hashem addresses both, but the ideal is for us to do the mitzvot out of love and identification rather than out of fear and threats (“ladies first”!)

Throughout the world, statistically, women tend to be more religious and spiritual, more responsible and less violent, drunk, drug-addicted, etc., and more universal-minded (Yitro), than men. On the other hand, the account in Dvarim, which addresses more the worker, nationalist, desire, reward and punishment, infers that sometimes we all need that awe aspect, as well.

Sometimes we need to remember that it’s worth it to do the mitzvot simply because Hashem is the Judge.

With Brachot from Torah M’Tzion, u’LeHitra’ot baAretz!

Rav Ari Shvat




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