After Moses and the Children of Israel escape from bondage, they are faced with a momentous challenge that forever shapes the worldview of Judaism. They must now create a society in which no Pharaoh might ever rise, a society in which every single human being is understood to be a child of God and therefore of inestimable value and inherent dignity. In this new society, it must become impossible to reduce another human being to a commodity, to a nameless object of another’s will or whim. A tall order indeed, and a noble one as well. It is our inheritance.
And so the escapees arrive at the Holy Mountain, the same place where Moses had initially encountered the power of Life Unfolding manifest in a burning bush. Life Unfolding speaks to the entire assembly, revealing their holy purpose now that they are free. This revelation is usually called the Ten Commandments, but in the Hebrew they are known as Aseret Hadibrot, the Ten Utterances. That is to say, what is being revealed to the Children of Israel is not a laundry list of rules, but rather the road map to creating a society in which life might unfold in such a way that every individual might live with dignity and basic fairness. The Ten Utterances are, as it were, a blueprint for a righteous human society.
I decided to render the Hebrew into my own English version. It is not an exact translation by any means, but captures my own reception, at this moment in my life, of the divine utterances of Mount Sinai. Perhaps the most important choice to point out is my decision to refer to the Nameless Power that speaks as Life Unfolding: a cosmic process, not a static entity. This frames the utterances as “truths” being discerned by the listeners, rather than as dictates that are fixed in time. So many readers have responded positively to my formulation that I am posting it here.
The Ten Utterances from Life Unfolding
I am Life Unfolding who brought you out of constriction and enslavement so that you might serve me and be in relationship to me. No one said this was going to be easy.
Place no gods of your own making in between you and Life Unfolding. Do not make an image or a fixed concept of Life Unfolding and attempt to serve only that fixed concept. Life Unfolding is infinite and ever-expanding and cannot be reduced to a static idea.
You are as good as your word. Beware: if you invoke Life Unfolding as a witness to the truth of your words, you will be held to account for them. Do not overestimate your own power to speak and fulfill.
Make one day out seven holy, a Sabbath, in which you relinquish illusions of control over Creation. Remember on this day that you are creature, not creator, and humbly and joyfully take your place in the chorus of Creation. On this day, you may not lord over any person or creature under your temporary authority. Rather, stand side by side with them in gratitude for Life Unfolding.
Honor your parents, for however imperfectly they fulfilled their task they have been the vessels and agents of My purpose, which was to bring you into the world as a new expression of Life Unfolding.
Do not murder, for every human life is a reflection of infinite possibility, and when you destroy a life you destroy a part of Me, Life Unfolding.
Do not commit adultery, for a marriage is a sacred covenant, and you gave your word. If you are to realize your potential as an agent and partner of Life Unfolding, you must strive to be as good as your word. No one said this was going to be easy.
Do not steal. Treat everyone – and everything – with fundamental respect.
Do not bear false witness against others. When you speak of them, remember that they are children of Life Unfolding and nothing less. Witness them in this light, so that your words may be compassionate and true. Choose your words with great care; they have the power to create and to destroy.
Do not covet. Rather, practice radical gratitude at all times for the gift of Life Unfolding of which you are the beneficiary. This is the key to true liberation. No one said this was going to be easy.