Shavuos 5763

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Jan 1, 2004
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Shavuos 5763

We tend to be very scrupulous about the minhagim of the shul. Interestingly, we have one minhag which is – at least according to the Rambam – actually heretical. Nor is this the minhag in the YIM alone; it is, in fact, the minhag in the vast majority of Ashkenazic congregations. I am referring to the minhag of rising when the aseres hadibros are read.

The Rambam was asked about this minhag and responded that in his opinion it smacks of heresy, since it implies that the ten commandments are somehow more important than the rest of the Torah, whereas it is a fundamental belief that the entire Torah was given by the ribono shel olam and, therefore, equally sacred. There is no difference, he writes, between the sanctity of the words אנכי ה' אלקיך and the sanctity of the words אחות לוטן תמנע.

Nonetheless the minhag persists and is practiced, as I said, in most Ashkenazic kehilos. Indeed, many אחרונים have ventured various defenses of this מנהג. What I propose to say this morning is also in the way of a defense of this מנהג against the Rambam’s sctrictures.

Every pasuk in Chumash has its trop. its trope marks, that show how it should be read in shul. The עשרת הדברות have two sets of trop, which are called טעם עליון and טעם תחתון. On Shavuos we use טעם עליון. מנהג ספרד is to use טעם עליון in פ' יתרו also. מנהג אשכנז was originally to reserve טעם עליון for שבועות, but later many communities adopted מנהג ספרדin this respect.

What is the reason for these two sets of trop?

Trop is not just cantillation; it is punctuation. The trop divides the pasuk into halves and quarters and eights and so on. The עשרת הדברות can be punctuated two ways; by pesukim, and by דברות. טעם עליון divides according to דברות; טעם תחתון divides according to pesukim.

Why the distinction – why on שבועות divide according to דברות rather than פסוקים?

What is more – כל פסוקא דלא פסקיה משה. There is a prohibition to read פסוקי התורה in a way that breaks up the פסוקים differently than in תורת משה. So how can we read טעם עליון? Indeed ר' חיים did not read טעם עליון for that reason. But that certainly is against מנהג כל ישראל.

We know that on Shavuos הקב"ה gave us the Torah – זמן מתן תורתנו . But along with the Torah he also gave us something else - the לוחות. That was a separate נתינה: ואתנה לך את לוחות האבן והתורה והמצוה.

What is significance of נתינת הלוחות?

Called לוחות הברית. גר"א explains that in a ברית the one who enters into a ברית gives something of his own to the other, to create a bond between them. That is the physical representation of the bond. The לוחות were מעשה אלקים, and given to כלל ישראל, as the physical representation of the bond that connected them.

The לוחות still exist – although גנוז. They belong to us; The נתינה of the לוחות was as permanent as the נתינה of התורה והמצוה. They are still ours, and they are the physical incarnation of the bond that connects הקב"ה

The עשרת הדברות are part of the text of the Torah – but they are also the text of the לוחות. Those are two different entities – לוחות האבן והתורה והמצוות. That’s why they have two sets of trop. As the text of a particular passage in פ' יתרו they are broken up into פסוקים; as the text of the לוחות הברית they are broken up into דברות.
When we read the עשרת הדברות on שבועות we are not only reading a passage in פרשת יתרו. We are reenacting the כניסה לברית. And therefore we read the לוחות הברית – which represent that ברית. And so we read טעם עליון.

So the rule that כל פסוקא דלא פסקיה משה כו' is not relevant. That rule applies when we read דברי תורה. But onשבועות we read – not דברי תורה, but, rather – the לוחות themselves.

Before the קריאה we recite אקדמות, which recites the greatness of הקב"ה – הדר מריה עלמא ושליט ביבשתא – and the greatness of כנסת ישראל – רבותא דישראל קראי בשמעתא. Why? Because we are about to reenact the ברית that unites them together.

And that is why we stand when we read the עשרת הדברות: Because we are reading – not the עשרת הדברות that are in the Torah, but – the עשרת הדברות that are in the לוחות, and are thereby reenacting the כניסה לברית. כניסה לברית has to be done standing – as the Torah says elsewhere: אתם נצבים היום ... לעברך בברית ה' אלקיך.


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Standing during aseres hadibros

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      Learning on the site is sponsored today by Barry and Marcia Wagner Levinson in honor of Eliron, Devorah, Chava Bracha, Moshe Chaim & Golda Chana Levinson and Aviyam, Rina, Nesanel Eliyahu & Chana Malka Levinson