In the ancient world there were seven “wonders” among them the Great Pyramid at Giza, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria. Based on voting from around the world, there is a list of the “new” seven wonders including Machu Picchu in Peru, the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal in India, Petra in Jordan, and others. Tomorrow, we’ll all re-enact something very ancient – standing at Mount Sinai to receive the Aseret ha-Dibrot, the Ten Sayings. But I’ve often wondered what we would hear if we were standing there today. Would God introduce himself as the one who took us out of Egypt? Would that resonate with us in the same why that it did with the people who actually experienced the Exodus? Or would He refer to Himself as the One who created heaven and earth and all that is there? Would that serve to remind us that we only have one Earth and that we are the only ones who can take care of it? Perhaps that would spur humanity to be more environmentally conscious. Would He be more explicit about graven images and would that remind us that we all might worship “things,” none of which are God? “Honor your father and your mother” would probably still be one of the Ten. But how about thinking that it’s a two way street and that parents must also be sensitive to the needs and humanity of their children? We are far from a perfect world when each day’s news brings us stories of abuse, neglect, and even the death of children, too often at the hands of the very people who created that life.
Shabbat, the institution which immediately differentiated Israelites from their neighbors and free people from slaves, would certainly be part of any Ten. But would we be told to “observe” or “remember” the Sabbath Day- or something else entirely? Tomorrow seems like a very good day to contemplate how we feel about the Ten Sayings that we received at Sinai and to find contemporary meaning in them. I wish you the peace of Shabbat to do exactly that.