In my last article, Practising rituals help sustain us through hard times, I shared that at my front door is a large depiction of the Ten Commandments. For me, it is a constant reminder that even though we may not understand what is going on in the world, there is a Creator who is continually with us. It is also a reminder that everything we do in the physical world has a spiritual component: the first five commandments are about our relationship with G-d, and the second five are about our relationship with other people.
Whether you were taught the Ten Commandments in your childhood or learned them as an adult you may be surprised to learn that there are layers of meaning in each one. The ideas of mindfulness towards the way we treat others is grounded in these commandments and understanding some of those meanings may help you protect yourself and others in a positive way, just as our added layers of protection (masks, PPE, and physical-distancing) help protect us from contracting and spreading the virus. Here are some thoughts about the five commandments for our relationship with other people.
1. Do not murder. We know that intentionally killing another person is wrong. With our words and actions, we can raise a person up or kill their reputation, self-confidence, and ability to reach their full potential.
2. Do not commit adultery. If you think only of the physical world, then you might brush this off as old fashion, but coming between two souls who are married (legally or common-law) is a form of murder, which breaks the previous commandment.
3. Do not kidnap. Synonyms for kidnap include highjack, abduct, and capture. If we relate to others only for our personal gain, we kidnap their time, their affections, and their trust.
4. Do not bear false witness against your neighbour. We break this commandment every time we pass personal judgement on another without taking into account that we rarely have all the facts about their circumstances.
5. Do not covet your neighbour's possessions. Jealousy of other's possessions and accomplishments may come spontaneously when we see someone who has things that we wish we had, too. To keep this commandment, we need to be consciously happy for others, to love and respect them even when we are struggling ourselves.
Like many of you, I am struggling with the changes that keep me from seeing my family and friends. But I know that these restrictions are temporary and that they bring us opportunities to find ways to connect with and help others that we might never have considered before; to follow the commandments of how to treat each other with love and respect. Here is a lovely example from my dear friend Eve who is 91 years old. It demonstrates how we can care for others, even when we must stay apart.
In Eve's building, everyone has an emergency button in their bathroom. To make sure residents are okay, the security office asked them to push the button every morning. Some days more than 50 people have to be called because they forget to push the button.
Eve wanted to help keep people safe and secure, so she wrote an article for the building's quarterly magazine to help people with this new routine. She wrote that since the button is in the bathroom, that when people get up, they could remember the following three words: Pee, flush, push!
The security guards have thanked her and she's looking forward to learning if her words have helped.
I love this story because when we help another person, we bring holiness into everyday things. G-d wanted a place to inhabit in the lower worlds. We let G-d in by caring for others.
Fiona Prince, MA is a coach and teacher who provides fundamental communication and writing skills to help people succeed in their professional and academic lives. She worships at the Chabad Family Shul in Victoria where she volunteers teaching children and adults how to read Hebrew. Since March 2020. Fiona has been teaching Hebrew reading skills via Zoom. Contact her at email@example.com if you would like to learn with her.
You can read more articles on our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking. HERE